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- [map projections] A graphical representation of the spatial distortion at a particular map location. The indicatrix is the figure that results when a circle on the earth's surface is plotted to the corresponding point on a map. The shape, size, and orientation of an indicatrix at any given point depend on the map projection used. In conformal (shape-preserving) projections, the indicatrix is a circle; in nonconformal projections, it is an ellipse at most locations. As a visual aid, indicatrices convey a general impression of distortion; as mathematical tools, they can be used to quantify distortion of scale and angle precisely. Tissot's indicatrix was devised by French cartographer Nicolas Auguste Tissot (1824–1907).