Map projections were created to display the 3D earth in a 2D space by distorting reality in order to preserve area, direction, distances or shape. The wonderful alternative projections below won't help you navigate an ocean, they just look awesome.
Anyone who has ever attempted to adjust a map projection in a digital mapping program knows they're basically large algorithms designed to distort the points and vectors used to represent the earth in order to make the shapes you see on a computer screen or map.
Tweak it the right way and you present data in a way people will understand. Make a mistake and you'll wind up with something like the images shown above. The Albers Equal Area Conic Projections never looked sexier.
These were carefully distorted by Andy Woodruff at Cartogrammar who has more skill than us. Usually, our accidental projections look more like this.