As I have discussed here before, most maps of the world are spatially wrong, due to the inherent difficulty of projecting a spherical planet into two dimensional form. Some landmasses end up looking far larger than they are (notably Greenland and Antarctica) while others appear much smaller (such as Africa and Australia).
While there is no shortage of alternative projections, many of which aim to rectify the inaccuracies of the more popular Mercator model* (I’m partial to Gall-Peters myself), I’m not sure any have been as elegant and precise as the “AuthaGraph World Map”, created by Japanese graduate design student Hajime Narukawa. It recently won Japan’s prestigious Good Design Award out of over 1,000 different entries.
It may look rather bizarre and disjointed at first glance — after all, we’re all used to the aforementioned Mercator layout — but this angular projection does a better job of capturing the relative geographic sizes of the world’s land masses, oceans, and nations, as its official award outline explains:
This original mapping method can transfer a spherical surface to a rectangular surface such as a map of the world while maintaining correctly proportions in areas. AuthaGraph faithfully represents all oceans, continents including the neglected Antarctica. These fit within a rectangular frame with no interruptions. The map can be tessellated without visible seams. Thus the AuthaGraphic world map provides an advanced precise perspective of our planet.
Hajime’s solution to the problems of other maps was to divide up a global model of the world into 96 equally sized regions, then transfer them to a tetrahedron before laying them out in their final form. This method helped maintain the correct surface areas and proportions of the world.
Indeed, the AuthaGraph is sold as an assembly kit, allowing you to put it into different shapes without affecting its accuracy (as pictured above). The clever map is even used in some Japanese textbooks.
While the map is not totally accurate — again, it is impossible for the reason stated at the beginning — it is probably as close as anyone can get. And needless to say, as a lover of maps of all kinds, I really want one. (Right on time for Christmas!)
*To be fair to Mercator, its primary purpose was to facilitate nautical navigation, which it does very well, so accuracy of landmasses was a secondary concern