Since 1957, winners of Japan's annual Good Design Award have represented the pinnacle of Japanese design to the world. Past GDA honorees have included powered wheelchairs, industrial robots, and even Nike's Flyknit Racer - all the more reason why this year's Good Design Grand Award winner wowed both judges and designers alike.
"Authagraph," the 2016 Good Design Grand Award honoree, is a world map. The map, plotted by Tokyo architect Hajime Narukawa, is an innovative portrayal of Earth's geography designed to correct misconceptions caused by the Mercator Projection, what most envision when they think of the "map of the world." First plotted in 1569 by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, the Euro-centric "Mercator Map" dramatically distorts the size of both Greenland and Antarctica, with no rational reason behind the deceptions other than Mercator's apparent wants to put Europe at the center of the globe.
Narukawa's "AuthaGraph" replots the size and location of continents according to a process that represents parts of a sphere as equally-sized regions of a tetrahedron. The inside of the finished tetrahedron is then cut out, allowed the shape to flatten into a rectangle with aspect ratio root(3):4. The final result: a rectangular world map that accommodates for both landmass size and the curvature of the Earth in an accurate way.
While "Authagraph" is unfamiliar at first, the image it presents has deep ramifications for how we manage our increasingly-imperiled planet. If humans had spent the past 450 years looking at properly-sized Africa, Asia, and Antarctica, one can only imagine the effect on our policies.