Maps Distort How We See the World

30 Maps to Rethink the World

Tomas Pueyo
5 min readAug 18, 2023

Maps twist our perception of the world.

Countries closer to the equator — which happen to be poorer— seem smaller than they are.

Proportions of apparent size and real size (animated), Jakub Nowosad. Source.

This is because the world is a 3D sphere, but maps are 2D projections on a plane. That means distortion!

Here is a static version showing the equator, to compare more easily and see how much the projection differs from​​ reality as you move away from it:

We should be wary of flattening balls!

Depending on your reference, Chad appears bigger or smaller than expected.

So we develop a poor intuition for comparative region sizes.

The biggest loser is Africa, which is humongous:

Here’s another take on it, to drive the point home.



Tomas Pueyo

2 MSc in Engineering. Stanford MBA. Ex-Consultant. Creator of applications with >20M users. Currently leading a billion-dollar business @ Course Hero