Maps vs Globes: Key Differences

When navigating and understanding our world, both globes and maps are turned out to boost our understanding of what’s beyond our here and now. But are the two the same?

While both geographical tools show images of Earth, there is a difference between globe and map representations. From the various uses of maps and globes to the similarities between globe and map images, we are breaking down what you need to know about each to finally understand the difference between the two.

What Is a Map?

globes vs maps When comparing maps and globes, we must first understand what each is. Beginning with maps, this geographical tool depicts specific geographical locations as pictures and general outlines. With this tool, you can gather a perspective of an area. Coming in both static and dynamic forms, maps are primarily utilized to show geography, as well as represent fictional worlds, too.

Typically, maps consist of distance, direction, and symbols. A scale is created for maps to better grasp the distance between the spaces depicted. Additionally, symbols of North, East, South, and West are used to orient yourself on the map.

What Types of Maps Are There?

There are two main types of maps: reference and thematic maps. Our Replogle wall maps come in both styles, which have different perks and depictions for your needs. Let’s break it down.

  • Reference Maps: Reference maps are used to represent physical attributes, geographical borders, and other elements like roads, cities, and specific places. There are a few types of reference maps, too. First are political maps, which show boundaries around states, continents, and political sectors, which are commonly used in classrooms. Physical maps, on the other hand, show geography represented by colors and shaded areas. Lastly, topographic maps depict the outline of Earth.
  • Thematic Maps: Thematic maps are maps used to show a specific theme. These come as weather maps, resource maps, or income maps, to name a few. Weather maps will show the forecast, including temperature, rains and storms, wind flow, and precipitation. Income maps, on the other hand, show the income of a region, usually based on the median household income. Lastly, a resource map shows the reserves of natural resources, typically focused on gas and mineral-rich companies.

What Is a Globe?

To further understand globes vs maps, let’s define what a globe is.

Unlike a map, a globe is a three-dimensional spherical depiction of Earth. Additionally, globes can be used to represent other planets or celestial bodies, too. The term “terrestrial globe” refers to a globe of Earth, while any other celestial being is called a “celestial globe”.

Typically, a globe of Earth depicts just two colors – brown and blue. As expected, blue represents oceans and other bodies of water, while brown signifies land.

What Different Types of Globes Exist?

how are maps and globes different Navigating the question of when would you use a globe depends on the type of globe you are looking at. With many different types of globes, we are breaking down the differences between each to further understand the options available today.

  • Spinning Globes: One of the classic globe representations is spinning globes. These spin to see different parts of Earth, easily spinning to jump from one point to the next. These can come as standing or floor globes, both available at Replogle.
  • Historical Globes: Some of the more beautiful globes available today are historical globes, which were used in centuries past or are designed to look that way.
  • Handmade Globes: Often mass-produced today, these globes are made and painted to depict Earth.
  • Inflatable Globes: For a globe that can blow up as needed, inflatable globes can come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Illuminated Globes: Growing in popularity, these globes feature an internal light to illuminate Earth.
  • Art Globes: These typically feature a more abstract take on Earth.
  • Relief Globes: These are globes with raised areas to depict things like mountain ranges.
  • Custom Globes: Have a specific vision in mind for a globe? Custom globes are commonplace today to get just what you want.

This is just a glimpse of the globes available today. With many depictions created, there is a globe to suit every preference and design aesthetic.

What Are the Key Differences Between Maps and Globes?

When it comes to answering the question of how are maps and globes different, there are quite a few differentiating factors for each. To better understand what is the difference between globe and map depictions of earth, here are the key differences:

  • Maps show a geographical area on paper, while a globe represents the world on a sphere that rotates on an axis.
  • Maps are two-dimensional while globes are three-dimensional.
  • Maps tend to be more informative than globes since they incorporate more detail.
  • Globes are more heavy-set models of earth that are not designed to be portable. Maps, on the other hand, can be great on the go.
  • Globes are heavier.
  • Maps can be used to navigate through a place, which globes are not useful for.
  • On globes, longitude and latitude are shown as circles and semicircles. On maps, they are vertical lines.

Despite all the ways in which globes and maps are different, there are some similarities. So, how are maps and globes alike? Both geographical tools use symbols and colors to help depict the area they are showing. Additionally, they both provide image representations of Earth or other spaces, serving as a point of information and reference. So, while the form in which they depict these spaces or the way in which they are used may vary, maps and globes both serve an important purpose in understanding our geography.


From answering why we need maps and globes, to the difference between globe and map representations, and all that we can use them for, there are many reasons to explore both of these geographical tools. But why is a globe better than a map or vice versa? Now that’s entirely up to your preference.

In terms of decor and a statement piece in your home, globes serve as a beautiful addition to any space. To explore a range of different globe designs, shop for globes from Replogle today. But if you still have questions, you can contact us!

Posted by Rick Winegard