Which map projections do we use and why?

At The Future Mapping Company we thought long and hard about the best projections for our maps and here’s our guide to some of the projections we use and why.


The Robinson Projection - Our Classic World Map

Robinson used evenly spaced, curving meridians limiting distortion at the poles and allowing for a relatively realistic representation of the whole earth in one flat image. He admitted that he started with his imagination in 'a kind of artistic approach'. He 'visualized the best looking shapes and sizes' rather than starting with mathematical equations.

The result is a highly appealing image of the world, with less evident distortion than both the Peters and Mercator projections. This is why we use this projection for our 'Classic' maps as we feel that this projection gives an unbiased balance between shape and size to the countries and continents. We particularly enjoy the shapely curves of the meridian lines.

robinson projection

The Sinu-Mollweide Projection - Our Wide Angle Map

In contrast, our Sinu-Mollweide map is a totally fresh perspective, and is reminiscent of the variety and creativity present in ancient maps of the world. After all, why have Greenwich in the middle and America on the left at all? The oldest known map made in Britain, the Medieval Mappa mundi, has East at the top.

The Sinu-Mollweide projection fuses the Sinusoidal projection , which was first used in the 16th Century, with Karl Brandan Mollweide's map of 1805 and challenges our assumption of how the flattened globe should look. Still an equal area projection that maintains fidelity of area, we call it our Wide Angle Map as we feel it gives a really special bird’s eye view of the globe – the countries nestling together remind us of the prehistoric land mass Pangea. We printed this little known projection to celebrate our fifth anniversary and it is now a popular part of our main collection.

sinu-mollweide projection

The Gall Peters & Hobo Dyer Projections - Our Future Map

The Gall Peters and the Hobo Dyer projections are both equal area projection maps, the former being the more well known. Arno Peters developed his projection, presenting it in 1973 as a ‘new invention’ although it was subsequently proved to be identical to the Gall Projection (created by Scottish clergyman James Gall in 1855), hence why it is now mostly called the Gall–Peters projection.

Both projections are cylindrical, and preserve area rather than scale or bearing which means the landmasses appear the size that they actually are.

Peters was not a cartographer but he was a fantastic marketeer and his presentation of the map, whilst stirring up a lot of controversy, did bring valid issues of social justice into the world of cartography. He was the most vocal critic of the effect of the Mercator map as an educational tool when it so clearly distorted poorer Southern countries. As we discussed in Part 1 ‘every map has an agenda’.

The Hobo Dyer projection is much more modern, from 2002. It is also an equal area projection but with less obvious distortion in the middle of the map - see the Indicatrix below for comparison.

Interestingly, when the Hobo Dyer projection was first created, it came printed on two sides - one side had north at the ‘top’ and the other had south at the top to challenge perceptions of which side should be ‘up’ and ‘down’.

We founded The Future Mapping Company with this projection, chosen for its modernist good looks and the challenging questions it poses about how we view the world.

equal-area projection

The Winkel Tripel Projection - Our World Geology Map

The Winkel Tripel projection is a modified azmiuthal projection. This is, in essence, a globe that is projected onto a flat surface giving it curved lines of latitude and curved meridians. The projection, by Oswald Winkel in1921 was developed with the goal of minimizing the three kinds of distortion: area, direction and distance. Thus it became the Tripel Projection (German for triple).

The projection is neither equal-area nor conformal, its main feature is that all of the parallels are curved except for the straight poles and equator. This gives a lovely spherical feeling to this two dimensional map. It was first used in 1955 in The Times Atlas of the World, Mid-Century Edition produced by John Bartholomew & Sons.

Since 1998 The National Geographic has adopted the Winkel Tripel projection as their standard, replacing the Robinson projection which for a long time was the projection of choose for map lovers worldwide.

Now that you understand everything there is to know about map projections, have a look at this funny cartoon to find out what your favourite says about you and let us know on Twitter #mymapprojection

winkel-tripel projection