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The Problem With Our Maps



Maps shape our understanding of the world – and in an increasingly interconnected and global economy, this geographic knowledge is more important than ever.

The funny thing is, almost everyone actually has a skewed perception of the true size of countries thanks to a cartographic technique called the Mercator projection. Used just about everywhere, from textbooks to Google Maps, the Mercator projection map is the way most of humanity recognizes the position and size of Earth’s continents.

The Mercator Projection

The Mercator Projection Map

In 1569, the great cartographer, Gerardus Mercator, created a revolutionary new map based on a cylindrical projection. The new map was well-suited to nautical navigation since every line on the sphere is a constant course, or loxodrome. In modern times, this is particularly useful since the Earth can be depicted as seamless in online mapping applications.

That said, the true sizes of landmasses become increasingly distorted the further away from the equator they get. Mercator’s map inadvertently pumps up the sizes of Europe and North America. Visually speaking, Canada and Russia appear to take up approximately 25% of the Earth’s landmass, when in reality they occupy a mere 5%. When Antarctica is excluded (as it often is), Canada and Russia’s visual share of landmass jumps to about 40%!

Canada is the second largest country in the world, but not by much. Here is an “at scale” look at Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Canada, USA, Mexico Size Comparison Map

Africa, South Asia, and South America all appear much smaller in relation to countries further from the equator.

And from a North American perspective, countries such as Australia and Indonesia appear much smaller than they actually are. Comparing the landmasses on the same latitude as Canada helps put sizes into perspective.

Indonesia and Australia distorion

Greenland is the world’s largest island, but looking at its hyper-exaggerated depiction in the map below, you’d be forgiven for wondering why it isn’t a stand-alone continent. In reality, Greenland is about fourteen times smaller than Africa.

Greenland map distortion

Is Bigger Better?

Though Mercator’s map was never intended for use as the default wall map in schools around the world, it has shaped the worldviews of billions of people. Critics of the map – and similar projections – suggest that distortion reinforces a sense of colonialist superiority. As well, the amount of territory a country occupies is often correlated with power and access to natural resources, and map distortions can have the effect of inadvertently diminishing nations closer to the equator.

A prime example of this argument is the “True Size of Africa” graphic, which demonstrated to millions of people just how big the continent is.

true size of africa map graphic

Growing awareness of map distortion is translating into concrete change. Boston public schools, for example, recently switched to the Gall-Peters projection, which more accurately depicts the true size of landmasses.

Gall-Peters map

In our society we unconsciously equate size with importance and even power.

– Salvatore Natoli, Educational Affairs Director, AAG

The Road to Equal-Area Mapping

In 1805, mathematician and astronomer, Karl Mollweide, created a namesake projection that trades accuracy of angles and shape for accuracy of proportion. The Mollweide projection has inspired many other attempts at a user-friendly equal area map.

Mollweide Map Projection

John Paul Goode’s attempt, known as the Goode Homolosine Projection, took this concept a step further by adding interruptions at strategic locations to help reduce the distortion of continents. The resulting shape is sometimes referred to as an “orange peel map”.

Goode Homolosine Map Projection

Another evolution in cartography was the Dymaxion map, invented by Buckminster Fuller and patented in 1946. In this version, the continents are no longer in their familiar positions – however, there is more spacial fidelity than in previous projection methods. We’re able to see the true proportions of Africa, Northern Canada, Antarctica, and other distortion hot spots.

The Dymaxion map wasn’t created for purely practical purposes. Fuller believed that humans would be better equipped to address global challenges if they were given a way to visualize the Earth’s continents in a contiguous manner.

Dymaxion map

The AuthaGraph Map

Using a new map-making method called AuthaGraph, Japanese architect, Hajime Narukawa, may have created the most accurate map of the world yet. AuthaGraph divides the globe into 96 triangles, transfers them to a tetrahedron and unfolds into a rectangle.

The end result? Landmasses and seas are more accurately proportioned than in traditional projections.

Authagraph map

The biggest downfall of the AuthaGraph map is that longitude and latitude lines are no longer a tidy grid. As well, continents on the map are repositioned in a way that will be unfamiliar to a population that is already geographically challenged.

That said, depicting our round world on a flat surface will always come with some trade-offs. As demand grows for a true equal-area map, it will be exciting to see what the next generation of map projections have to offer.

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Ranked: The 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America

What’s America been craving? Here’s a look at the top 50 most popular fast food chains, ranked by U.S. sales in 2019.



The 50 Most Popular Fast Food Chains in America

Millions of Americans eat at fast food restaurants every day—and they now have more options at their disposal than ever before.

From burgers to pad thai, there’s a quick service restaurant that’ll satisfy almost any appetite. With all this choice, which fast food chains are the most popular among consumers?

Using data from QSR Magazine, today’s infographic ranks the top 50 largest fast food chains in the U.S. by sales in 2019, providing insight into the types of foods Americans have been craving.

Fast Food Chains Ranked, by Revenue

In 2019, the 50 largest fast food chains in the U.S. generated over $200 billion in revenue. How do these quick service giants stack up against each other?

RankCompanyCategoryU.S. Sales, Billions (2019)
4Taco BellGlobal$11.00
5Burger KingBurger$10.30
10Panera BreadSandwich$5.93
12Pizza HutPizza$5.38
14Sonic Drive-InBurger$4.69
16Little CaesarsPizza$3.85
17Panda ExpressGlobal$3.80
18Dairy QueenSnack$3.76
19Popeyes Louisiana KitchenChicken$3.75
20Jack in the BoxBurger$3.51
21Papa John'sPizza$2.66
23Jimmy John'sSandwich$2.11
27Five GuysBurger$1.66
28Raising Cane'sChicken$1.47
30Carl's Jr.Burger$1.39
31Jersey Mike'sSandwich$1.34
33In-N-Out BurgerBurger$1.00
34Steak 'n ShakeBurger$0.93
35El Pollo LocoChicken$0.89
38Firehouse SubsSandwich$0.86
39Del TacoGlobal$0.85
40Tim HortonsSandwich$0.84
42Papa Murphy'sPizza$0.75
43McAlister's DeliSandwich$0.72
44Jason's DeliSandwich$0.71
45Church's ChickenChicken$0.70
46Shake ShackBurger$0.63
47Marco's PizzaPizza$0.63
49Tropical Smoothie CaféSnack$0.58
50Auntie Anne'sSnack$0.56

Unsurprisingly, McDonald’s comes in at number one with over $40 billion in sales. Despite a scandal involving its former CEO, McDonald’s still managed to significantly outsell its peers—the company made almost double that of the second-largest fast food chain, Starbucks.

But don’t worry, Starbucks did just fine for itself. With $21 billion in sales, the Seattle-based coffee chain saw a 5% increase compared to its numbers in 2018.

Top Selling Fast Food Categories

Based on the ranking, it’s clear that Americans still love their McDonald’s. But are burgers, in general, the most popular fast food item?

In short—yes. Burgers are king. Here’s a look at how burgers, pizza, chicken, and other food categories measure up:

Burger joints remain the most popular fast food option among consumers—14 of the 50 chains on the list are classified as burger restaurants, with $80 billion in collective sales.

Snacks come in at second place, with a total of $36 billion in revenue. Boasting a broad variety of foods from iced coffee to donuts and ice cream, six of the restaurants on the list are included in this category. Starbucks is the most popular, followed by Dunkin’ and Dairy Queen respectively.

While the chicken and sandwich categories both have nine restaurants included in the ranking, chicken restaurants outsold sandwiches by almost $1 billion. This is largely due to Chick-fil-A, which makes up more than a third of all chicken restaurant sales included in the ranking.

COVID Closures

It’s important to note that these numbers reflect the fast food industry before the devastating impacts of COVID-19. The global pandemic has forced many fast food restaurants to adapt, and it’s also triggered a number of restaurant shutdowns.

For instance, McDonald’s is set to permanently close 200 of its 14,000 U.S. locations, and Dunkin’ will be closing 450 restaurants by the end of 2020. Starbucks has also announced it’s planning to permanently shut down up to 400 locations by mid-2021.

With online sales more important than ever, the chains with a strong digital presence may be in a better position to weather the storm. Chains with physical distancing options, such as drive-throughs, could also recover quicker.

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Visualizing the Range of EVs on Major Highway Routes

We visualize how far popular EV models will take you on real-world routes between major cities, and which are the most cost effective.



The Range of EVs on Major Highway Routes

Between growing concerns around climate change, new commuting behaviors due to COVID-19, and imminent policy changes, the global transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is well under way.

By the year 2040, sales of electric vehicles are projected to account for 58% of new car sales, up from just 2.7% currently.

But switching from a gasoline car to an electric one is not seamless. With charging and range capacities to consider, and the supporting infrastructure still being slowly rolled out in many parts of the world, understanding the realities of EV transportation is vital.

Above, we highlight 2020 all-electric vehicle range on well-recognized routes, from California’s I-5 in the U.S. to the A2 autobahn in Germany. The data on estimated ranges and costs are drawn from the U.S. EPA as well as directly from manufacturer websites.

The EV Breakdown: Tesla is King of Range

For many consumers, the most important aspect of an electric vehicle is how far they can travel on a single charge.

Whether it’s for long commutes or out-of-city trips, vehicles must meet a minimum threshold to be considered practical for many households. As the table below shows, Tesla’s well-known EVs are far-and-away the best option for long range drivers.

VehicleRange (miles)Range (km)MSRPCost per mile
Tesla Model S Long Range Plus402647$74,990$186.54
Tesla Model X Long Range Plus351565$79,990$227.89
Tesla Model S Performance348560$94,990$272.96
Tesla Model 3 Long Range322518$46,990$145.93
Tesla Model Y Long Range316509$49,990$158.20
Tesla Model X Performance305491$99,990$327.84
Tesla Model 3 LR Performance299481$54,990$183.91
Tesla Model Y Performance291468$59,990$206.15
Polestar 2275443$59,900$217.82
Chevrolet Bolt EV259417$36,620$141.39
Hyundai Kona Electric258415$37,190$144.15
Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus250402$37,990$151.96
Kia Niro EV239385$39,090$163.56
Jaguar I-PACE234377$69,850$298.50
Nissan LEAF e+ S226364$38,200$169.03
Audi e-tron Sportback218351$69,100$316.97
Nissan LEAF e+ SV/SL215346$39,750$184.88
Audi e-tron204328$65,900$323.04
Porsche Taycan 4S Perf Battery Plus203327$112,990$556.60
Porsche Taycan Turbo201323$153,510$763.73
Porsche Taycan Turbo S192309$187,610$977.14
Hyundai IONIQ Electric170274$33,045$194.38
BMW i3153246$44,450$290.52
Nissan LEAF149240$31,600$212.08
MINI Cooper SE110177$29,900$271.82
Fiat 500e84135$33,460$398.33

In an industry where innovation and efficiency are vital, Tesla’s first-mover advantage is evident. From the more affordable Model 3 to the more luxurious Model S, the top eight EVs with the longest ranges are all Tesla vehicles.

At 402 miles (647 km), the range of the number one vehicle (the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus) got 127 miles more per charge than the top non-Tesla vehicle, the Polestar 2—an EV made by Volvo’s standalone performance brand.

Closer Competition in Cost

Though Tesla leads on overall range and battery capacity, accounting for the price of each vehicle shows that cost-efficiency is far more competitive among brands.

By dividing the retail price by the maximum range of each vehicle, we can paint a clearer picture of efficiency. Leading the pack is the Chevrolet Bolt, which had a cost of $141.39/mile of range in 2020 while still placing in the top 10 for range with 259 miles (417 km).

Just behind in second place was the Hyundai Kona electric at $144.15/mile of range, followed by the Tesla Model 3—the most efficient of the automaker’s current lineup. Rounding out the top 10 are the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S, but the difference from number one to number ten was minimal, at just over $45/mile.

Top 10 All-Electric Vehicles by Cost Efficiency
VehicleCost per mile
Chevrolet Bolt EV$141.39
Hyundai Kona Electric$144.15
Tesla Model 3 Long Range$145.93
Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus$151.96
Tesla Model Y Long Range$158.20
Kia Niro EV$163.56
Nissan LEAF e+ S$169.03
Tesla Model 3 LR Performance$183.91
Nissan LEAF e+ SV/SL$184.88
Tesla Model S Long Range Plus$186.54

Higher Ranges and Lower Costs on the Horizon

The most important thing to consider, however, is that the EV industry is entering a critical stage.

On one hand, the push for electrification and innovation in EVs has driven battery capacity higher and costs significantly lower. As batteries account for the bulk of weight, cost, and performance in EVs, those dividends will pay out in longer ranges and greater efficiencies with newer models.

Equally important is the strengthening global push for electric vehicle adoption. In countries like Norway, EVs are already among the best selling cars on the market, while adoption rates in China and the U.S. are steadily climbing. This is also being impacted by policy decisions, such as California’s recent announcement that it would be banning the sale of gasoline cars by 2035.

Meanwhile, the only thing outpacing the growing network of Tesla superchargers is the company’s rising stock price. Not content to sit on the sidelines, competing automakers are rapidly trying to catch up. Nissan’s LEAF is just behind the Tesla Model 3 as the world’s second-best-selling EV, and Audi recently rolled out a supercharger network that can charge its cars from 0% to 80% at a faster rate than Tesla.

As the tidal wave of electric vehicle demand and adoption continues to pick up steam, consumers can expect increasing innovation to drive up ranges, decrease costs, and open up options.

Correction: A previous version of this graphic showed a European route that was the incorrect distance.

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