Most maps of the world are deficient, because projection involves compromise. Either the land area proportions are incorrect, or the oceans are skewed, or it’s great at the equator but distorted at the poles.
For centuries humans have been jostling with the challenge of creating a faithful flat-surface projection of our spherical planet, and the latest addition to these efforts is like nothing we’ve seen before.
The AuthaGraph World Map looks a bit odd at first, especially if you’re used to the ubiquitous and flawed Mercator-type map, seen everywhere from classroom posters to Google Maps. Australia is actually bigger than Greenland and Antarctica wasn’t even discovered when that map was invented.
But this new version of the world is potentially the most proportional map we’ve ever had.
AuthaGraph is a design company led by Japanese architect Hajime Narukawa, who is also an associate professor at the Keio University Graduate School of Media and Governance.
Narukawa’s world map project was inspired by a desire to faithfully represent not just the land, but the polar regions and oceans of the world as well, especially in light of global environmental problems.
“Our interest has been mainly on land since it has been our living environment,” states the project website. “The AuthaGraphic world map aims to provide a new view point to perceive the world by equally showing these interests spread over the globe.”
“This rectangular world map [..] is made by equally dividing a spherical surface into 96 triangles, transferring it to a tetrahedron while maintaining areas proportions and unfolding it to be a rectangle.”
What’s especially cool about the map is the ability for it to be tiled in any direction without visible seams (known as tessellation), allowing for the creation of a triangular, rectangular or parallelogram outline of a world map with different regions in the centre.
The design of this map projection is so impressive, it has just received the prestigious Grand Good Design award in Japan, beating five other candidates hand-picked from a total of 1,229 winners.
Now all it needs are more pieces to make it an officially accepted projection. “The map needs a further step to increase a number of subdivision for improving its accuracy to be officially called an area-equal map,” states the award description.
Narukawa’s invention has actually been around for a few years, and is even available for purchase, but the design award might finally propel it to international fame, which it rightfully deserves.