08 Feb 2017   webgap

Off the charts

If we’re honest, there’s always been a bit of a disconnect between physical reality and the way it’s represented on maps. Most world maps are based on the Mercator projection, which dates back to the sixteenth century – slightly before we had GPS to check our bearings.

The Mercator was a map with an agenda – it had to convey not-so-subtle messages about power, as well as help sailors find their way. The visual design, created by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, became the standard map projection for nautical purposes because of its ability to represent lines of constant course. An enlarged Europe sits dead-centre as it was – to Europeans at least – the centre of the universe at the time. Polar regions tended to be squished out of shape or cut off. Most famously of all, Greenland, which was relatively well known, is shown as being the same size as Africa, which was still regarded as a mysterious realm of mythical beasts. In reality, Africa is over fifteen times as large as Greenland.

Criticism of Mercator-based maps led to the Peters Projection, in which every continent and country had the correct surface area, but appeared distended as though our planet was made of rubber and was being mischievously stretched by unknown forces.

Does any of this matter since we all use Google Maps anyway? This isn’t just a question of an incorrect graphic design. The relative sizes and positions of countries on world maps says a lot about how they’re seen and could affect how they’re treated. Take Antarctica for example. With it being almost out of sight, politicians were less concerned about climate change and it seems nothing was felt when unseen ice began to melt. Similarly, minimising Africa made it easier for western politicians to overlook both the problems – and the potential – of our continent.

Now, however, all this could change with Narukawa’s Authagraph. For probably the first time, everything is included. Who knew that the Pacific Ocean was quite so vast? Africa is now in the top left-hand corner, with Europe no more or no less prominent. Looking at an Authagraph, you may find yourself involuntarily tilting your head as you try to make sense of its unique visual design.

But it’s not the Authagraph that’s wrong – it’s every other map you grew up with. Seeing an Authagraph for the first time is a bit like returning home to find that your house is now at the other end of the garden and is in fact, a bungalow.

The cleverness of the design kicks in when you consider that Authagraph maps tessellate exactly and (being Japanese) can be folded up to make an origami sphere or tetrahedron, which may just help you get your bearings.
A more accurate world map – especially one that’s been so cleverly designed – really demonstrates who our neighbours are and why we should care more about them. This new map puts current global issues such as the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean into sharp relief – there’s nowhere to hide and we can no longer shuffle inconvenient places off to one side.

View Narukawa’s Authagraph

15 Feb 2017   webgap

Can Businesses Design For Success?

Strictly defined, design has always been about how a product looks and feels, whether it’s a Coke bottle, an iPad or a BMW i8. Designers tend to be secluded in hidden corners of businesses or they’re outsourced entirely. Does this lead to design success?A sea change is underway, with more companies understanding that design is not just an aesthetic event but something which can be fundamental to the success of a business. Especially so when applied universally to business processes. Entrepreneurs are starting to think in terms of design-led businesses and in turn, are creating them.In many ...

22 Feb 2017   webgap

Editorial design in a crisis

We’re all drowning in media and information but what seems to be lacking is perspective and filters. If we get our news and views from mainstream media (especially TV), what are we missing out on? Three things: objectivity, perspective and those ‘a-ha’ moments that happen when editorial design impacts your life in a meaningful way.Editorial design can be described as a combination of typography, layout design and compositions. This forms part of graphic design as a whole but focuses mainly on design for publications such as newspapers, magazines and books.Small publishing houses have car ...

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