Winkel Tripel Projections

Figure 1. A Winkel Tripel projection.

The Winkel Tripel projection was developed in 1921 by Oswald Winkel (1873 - 1953). Contrary to popular belief, Tripel is not somebody's name; it is a German term meaning a combination of three elements. Winkel choose the name Tripel because he had developed a compromise projection; it does not eliminate area, direction or distance distortions; rather, it tries to minimize the sum of all three.

Prior to 1998, the Winkel Tripel projection was not considered particularly exceptional. However, in 1998 the National Geographic Society announced that it was adopting the Winkel Tripel as its standard projection for maps of the entire world. As a result of this announcement, interest in the Winkel Tripel projection has skyrocketed over the last few years.

The Winkel Tripel is unusual in that it is created by averaging the X and Y coordinates from two other seldom-used projections: the Aitoff and the Equirectangular. The result is a projection that looks a lot like the Robinson (but remember that Winkel developed his projection about 42 years before Robinson developed his, so you can't accuse Winkel of plagiarism). However, the Winkel Tripel has a few unique qualities of its own. For example, lines of latitude in a Robinson projection are parallel straight lines, while in a Winkel Tripel they are slightly curved, nonparallel lines.