What the World Map Should Actually Look Like

Hate to break it to you, but your atlas is wrong. Now, this doesn’t mean you should just throw it in the bin: We’ve never actually succeeded in designing a perfect world map that is 100% accurate. It’s always been a challenge to depict the globe as a flat 2D image. One world map, however, seems to come pretty close to the ideal. The new AuthaGraph World Map by Hajime Narukawa recently won the 2016 Good Design Grand Award in Japan.

World map design by Hajime Narukawa
Keio University Graduate School of Media and Governance Narukawa Laboratory (CC BY-ND 2.1 JP)

That doesn’t mean the AuthaGraph World Map solves all problems, since it doesn’t fully incorporate the cardinal directions (north, east, south, and west). Nevertheless, the map is travelling all over the internet and sparking new discussions about the inaccuracy of the Eurocentric Mercator projection. This is the design from 1569 that is still commonly used in Western countries. It’s the same map you still see on Google Maps and in classrooms today. What better time to expose a few misconceptions and talk about what the world map should actually look like?

What should the world map actually look like?

7 World Map Illusions: What the World Map Should Actually Look Like

  1. Greenland is much smaller than it appears to be on Western maps. Although they appear to be the same size on traditional maps, Greenland can actually fit inside the continent Africa about 14 times.
  2. On the Mercator projection, Antarctica looks pretty enormous. In reality, Antarctica is actually one of the smallest continents.
  3. Africa is much larger than it looks. When you compare landmasses, the continent easily covers both Europe and the United States (combined).
  4. The United Kingdom is much smaller than depicted on traditional maps. It either looks bigger or equal in size compared to Madagascar, New Zealand or Japan, but it is actually smaller than all of these countries. In fact, Europe as a whole is smaller than it would seem on common world maps.
  5. India is much larger than it appears to be on most maps. It’s actually 3 times the size of all Scandinavian countries combined.
  6. Canada looks much larger than the United States than it actually is. It is only about 1.2 times the size of the US.
  7. The world map doesn’t necessarily need to put the north on top. We think it’s normal that South America and Australia are at the bottom of the map. However, the map could easily be turned upside down, starting with the southern hemisphere at the top. The universe doesn’t seem to have a fixed order of “top” or “bottom”.

If you want to know more about world map illusions, you can compare and see the real sizes of all countries on this handy website: The True Size Of… Did any of those facts surprise you or did you know most of them already? Would you want to switch out the old map for AuthaGraph map? Let us know about your thoughts in the comment section!

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