Projection of Robinson: Characteristics, Advantages and Utilities and Disadvantages

The Robinson projection is a cartographic projection created by the Canadian Arthur Robinson, in which the entire globe is shown in a flat form. From classical Greece, that of Aristotle and Plato, it was necessary to graphically reconstruct the geographical spaces to assimilate them with a single glance.

That graphic form was the maps and the plans worked at scale. They became allies of the builders and farmers, politicians and the military, travelers and merchants, and supported the priests and their philosophical approaches. However, when considering a representation of the world closest to reality there were problems.

Projection of Robinson

It was thus that in the 20th century, at the beginning of the 60s, the university professor Arthur H. Robinson generated a solution. He proposed a model of projection to bring the globe to two dimensions, the closest thing to reality. That technique was known as Robinson's projection.


  • 1 Cartographic background
  • 2 Arthur Robinson
  • 3 Characteristics of the Robinson projection
  • 4 Advantages and utilities
  • 5 Disadvantages
  • 6 References

Cartographic background

A map is a construct that not only describes a reality, but also constructs and creates it. It is worth mentioning that the maps are the result of observations of human beings; there is represented either the real world or the reality intervened by the people.

Cartography is a science and a technique: a science that studies maps and geographic charts, a technique that allows you to make such maps.

This science part of the landscape as a cultural concept, a human development, and works on two types of landscapes: the natural or original, which is seen with the naked eye; and the cultural landscape, created by dialectical action between the people and the territory where they live.

Initially the maps were very imaginative and speculative, they were drawn with great difficulty. One of the first projections was Mercator, a character from the early sixteenth century. Based on the stories of sailors and travelers, merchants and warriors, Mercator was making maps of continents and even the world.

However, there was a problem: it was very difficult to represent something round, the Earth, on a two-dimensional, flat surface.

Arthur Robinson

In 1961 the company Rand McNally, in Chicago, was characterized by its vocation in the printing of maps. This company commissioned a university professor to develop a formula to make maps as accurate as possible.

It was Dr. Arthur Robinson (1915-2004). Born in Montreal, Canada, to American parents, he trained at the University of Miami and earned a Doctorate in Geography in 1947.

During the Second World War he worked in the Strategic Services Cartographic Division of EE. UU He wrote a book entitled Elements of cartography , which is still a reference text in all universities.

He presided over the International Cartographic Association and received two very important decorations: that of the American Geographical Society and that of the British Cartographic Society.

Robinson suggested that maps are instruments to read, analyze and interpret. They allow to extend the field of vision to see the spatial relationships of both large areas and particular details.

Characteristics of the Robinson projection

To produce a map there are several steps: gather the data, select the most prominent, classify the information, simplify it and turn it into symbols.

Robinson began with an artistic approach; his first intention was to achieve a plastic and aesthetic balance. He visualized the shapes and sizes of the masses looking for their best appearance. Worked with various variables to get the optimal point with less distortion. Finally, he established the mathematical formula.

The expert chose grade 38 north and 38 south as middle parallels. These points encompass the temperate zone of the planet. There is most of the solid masses on Earth and lives the majority of the planet's inhabitants.

Advantages and utilities

With the Robinson technique the maps achieved a better balance between size and shape for the high latitude zones. Russia and Canada appear true to size, but Greenland is distorted.

The directions are the most reliable along all the parallels and in the part of the central meridian. The distances are constant throughout the Equator, the central zone of the planet. In addition, great harmony is achieved and allows a rather attractive flat view.

For that reason, and because it achieves great harmony, the company Randy McNally for a long time turned Robinson's Projection into its standard. Also, the National Geographic Society used Robinson's method to develop its maps for almost a decade.

Both National Geographic maps and those developed by Randy McNally are world references. Currently this work is preserved and collected in many libraries, public and private, from different parts of the world.


The biggest problem is that converting a spherical reality to a flat sphere entails generating a deformation of the masses that are closer to the ends.

For example, in the Robinson Greenland projection it seems the size of South America. However, this territory is actually a little bit bigger than Mexico. Only Brazil is four times larger territorially than that huge frozen Danish island.

The resulting map of this technique is pseudocylinderic; It is not consistent or equidistant. Extend the poles in extended lines instead of ending in points, since all the meridians are obtained in the same point in each of the poles. Finally, the distortion of both poles is total.

Perhaps for this reason, in 1998 another projection (the Winkel-Tripel) replaced that of Robinson as the new standard for the elaboration of the world map.


  1. Azócar Fernández, Pablo (2012). An epistemological look. Of the cartographic representation of the landscape. Journal of History and Geography No. 27 / 2012. Retrieved from:
  2. Fallas, J. (2003). Cartographic and datum projections What are they and what do they do? TeleSig-National University. Costa Rica. Retrieved from:
  3. Fernández, P. A. (2017). Cartographic trends during the scientific period of the discipline: Analysis and systematization of their representations. From the world to the map. University of Chile and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Retrieved from:
  4. New York Times (2004). Arthur H. Robinson, the geographer who reinterpreted the world map. Print edition of Tuesday, November 16. Retrieved from:
  5. Robinson, Arthur H., Randall D. Sale, Joel Morrison, Phillip C. Muehrcke (1987) Elements of Cartography. Editorial Omega. Retrieved from:

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