Want to get a written message out to everyone? Just redefine your country’s borders to make cartographers do your bidding!


Many national and provincial borders are defined in highly arbitrary fashions that have no underlying geographical rationale: these often appear as straight lines on a map, frequently passing through uninhabitable wastelands.

Fig. 1: Some borders have a basis in a geographical feature (e.g. a river, a mountain range), while others are defined solely based on text in some legal document (e.g. “a straight line from X to Y”).

For this proposal, we’ll discuss borders that satisfy these criteria:

  • Border region is uninhabited.
  • Border region has no strategic value.
  • Border region has no resource-extraction potential.


For hundreds of years, countries have had a perfect opportunity to define a border in such a way as to write whatever text they desire (Figure 2)—yet somehow this has never been implemented in practice!

Fig. 2: Let’s imagine that one country was a big fan of their national sports team, the Wildcats, and wanted to make sure that every other country was subjected to their team’s inspirational cheer. If the country changed its actual borders to write out this text, then the text would appear in every map, atlas, and globe, across the world!

Although large-scale geology-based drawings do exist, like the Nazca Lines in Peru, these have the property of actually existing in physical reality, and not just being abstract map borders.

Fig. 3: Here, we see how this border-drawing situation might appear on a cell phone map. The promotional phrase “Go Wildcats” would be inescapable to anyone within a hundred miles of the border!

This kind of border-writing is the ultimate billboard—visible to everyone, everywhere, night and day.


Almost any straight border that runs through a desert (e.g. Figure 4) would be a great “blank canvas” for border writing.

Fig. 4: Most countries have some borders that would be suitable for writing. Here are some candidate areas on the US–Mexico border. (Map from OpenStreetMap.)

PROS: By selling “border text” to the highest bidder, governments could reduce the tax bills for their own citizenry. Or, they could antagonize their foes by changing internal borders (e.g., two provinces within one country) to spell out taunting messages!

CONS: Inevitably, as soon as one nation cedes a tiny bit of land to spell, for example “USA #1!,” a valuable mineral deposit will be found on that ceded land. This might cause international conflict.