Some Cool Map Projections and What You Might Use Them For

What is a map projection? Oh boy, get ready to learn! Map projections are the ways humans attempt to portray the curved earth's surface on a flat piece of paper or computer screen. Because the surface of the earth isn't flat, there is inevitably distortion in whatever way a cartographer (map maker) chooses to show the planet. Unfortunately, you just have to deal with it and choose the projection with least amount of distortion for your purposes when you create a map.

There are many map projection types, and they all have special uses for which they are best suited. There's the Mercator projection, which most likely hung in your elementary school classroom. It shows North and South America on one side, and Africa, Europe, and Asia on the other, and then Australia is off to the side, and the whole bottom is just Antarctica in a white stripe. There's the Albers projection, which is great for showing area, but boy do the shapes of all the countries look weird. There's also the Gall-Peters projection, which any geography buff or geographer will tell you ruffled everyone's feathers in the '80s.

If you make your own map or make a map online, you will probably be just fine. Plus, what are you mapping, anyway? Did you know any person's cell phone will show them how to get to your house? Technology! However, even in this modern age, it is good to be aware different map projections so that you know what you are looking at. And also so you know that Greenland really isn't that big. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Read on to learn more about the best map projection, how to make a map, and maybe even map making in general. Maybe you will impress a potential new romantic partner at a party with this information. You are most welcome!

  • AuthaGraph World Map

    Good for: Winning prestigious Japanese design awards, minimizing size distortion, and "faithfully [representing] all oceans [and] continents, including the neglected Antarctica.”

    Bad for: Hardly anything, what a good map.

  • Mercator Projection

    Mercator Projection
    Photo: flickr / CC0

    Good for: When you are sailing a ship or are in elementary school.

    Bad for: Understanding how big Greenland and Antarctica are.

  • Gall-Peters Projection

    Gall-Peters Projection
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    Good for: More accurately displaying the sizes of countries.

    Bad for: Keeping everyone calm in the 1980s.

  • Albers Projection

    Albers Projection
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    Good for: Limiting distortion between the standard parallels.

    Bad for: Minimizing distortion of shape and scale. Looking anything like a globe at all.

  • Robinson Projection

    Robinson Projection
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    Good for: Showing the entire world all at once.

    Bad for: Not stretching and distorting the poles to infinity.

  • Cassini Projection

    Cassini Projection
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    Good for: Preserving distances perpendicular to the central meridian.

    Bad for: Learning the shapes of Central and South American countries.