The Lies Maps Tell


There is no such thing as an “accurate” map. Cartographic lies are necessary to adequately convey information and make a map readable; for example, on a map of rivers in a large area, the rivers are going to appear larger in width on paper than they are in real life, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see them. Most cartographers operate for good; they want you, the map reader, to understand what they’re trying to show you in an unbiased way.

But what about the cartographers for evil? Cartographers who subtly expand national borders on official maps; cartographers who decide to normalize data differently to prove a thesis correct; cartographers who use colors that intentionally confuse. This type of mapmaking is everywhere, and it’s hard to spot — unless you know what you’re looking for.

We all use maps every day, and we blindly assume that they are authoritative. This talk seeks to point out some common lies that are told with maps and to help you notice those lies in the future. Let’s be spatial skeptics and fight evil cartographers! Let’s take back the map!

Lyzi Diamond


Lyzi Diamond makes maps and organizes spatial data. She believes that diversity in the dissemination of information is the best way to build an informed populace, which in turn can drive conversation, innovation, engagement, and change. Lyzi is a 2014 Code for America fellow, a University of Oregon geography graduate, and an avid college football fan.