Hand-drawn maps of New York

Illustrator Jenni Sparks has released a very beautiful hand-drawn map of NYC:

Hi everyone, so here is the Hand Drawn Map of New York that I've been working on for what seems like FOREVER! It was once again commissioned by the lovely Evermade.com and was just as hard as the Map of London, if not harder... Anyway, I'll let the images speak for themselves as I have lost the ability to think about anything other than buildings. I hope you like it, New York is a super cool city, and if you wanna buy one you can pick one up HERE.

The image above is just a section -- go see the whole thing:

Hand Drawn Map of New York (via Kottke)


  1. I hate to be “that guy” (who lives in Brooklyn) but this isn’t a map of NYC, it’s a map of the whitest areas of Manhattan and a little part of two of the other four boroughs. Queens is the largest, Brooklyn is the most populated, Bronx is the most diverse (and almost as populated as Manhattan) and Staten Island…well, it’s the most Jersey. Manhattan is just a part of New York, and a decreasingly important one at that. This kind of skewed view of New York is what happens when you offshore your mapmaking to a Brit.

    1.  That’s very important to point out, because it’s impossible for anyone to find a perfectly accurate (and rather boring) map of NYC, say, on the world wide web. Also, it’s totally not at all a so-hipster-that-you-pretend-you’re-the-antithesis-of-hipster thing to call someone out on their alleged whiteness. (Of course, Koreatown and Chinatown are hardly the “whitest” parts of Manhattan, but let’s not quibble over details.) Oh, and I absolutely believe you when you pretend that you hate to be “that guy.”

    2. Maps generally reflect the stance and attitude of the mapmaker. If you  asked a group of schoolchildren to draw maps of New York, they would probably draw nothing but ice cream shops and Toys R Us locations

    3. 1) Virtually anyone that buys this will be a tourist that has visited, and enjoyed, but never lived in NYC.

      2) These are the parts of NYC that most of the above will visit.

      This kind of skewed view of New York is what happens when you offshore your mapmaking to a Brit.

      This kind of skewed view of NYC is no different to how the vast majority of world see: Sydney as a bridge, the Opera House and beches; London as where the Queen lives, a bunch of impressive and old squares, and the tube; Paris as the eiffel tower, beautiful old boulevards, and Hausmann era architecture. 

      People don’t usually visit world cities to explore their suburbia.

      1. Maybe the reason that people don’t visit places is because they don’t appear on tourist’s maps, eh?

        Maps interact with a space in an important way – they aren’t just passive tools but active ones that define a world view. Not to include Harlem, for instance, is to ignore a culturally significant part of New York. Not to include the Chinatowns of Brooklyn or Queens (both of which are larger than the Manhattan Chinatown) reduces New York to it’s historical borders, and doesn’t reflect that New York is a living, evolving city. So many other parts of New York are left off this map that I could go on for pages. It’s fine to create a map that doesn’t include everything, and it’s fine to focus on the town center, touristy areas, and places most commonly referenced in media. Just don’t call it a map of New York.

        1. You’re digging into chicken and egg territory. The maps reflect what tourists generally want to do, because thats what makes sense for tourism promoters to concentrate on. Tourism promoters then influence what people see. If you were discussing an actual tourist map, as in one that was handed out to tourists then I might think you’ve somewhat got a point, although I don’t see the motives as political as you seem to.

          In the instance of Jenni’s piece I think its simply a rational way to bound the work. There’s a heck of a lot of hand drawn detail in there, if she’d drawn the entirety of the Five Burroughs it probably never would have been finished.

    4. Seen Jenni’s map of London?  That focuses on the central, touristy area too, and rightly so.  ‘Comprehensiveness’ isn’t part of the brief in these things, and nor is an obligation to precisely reflect the city’s social diversity.  And the nationality of the artist isn’t even remotely relevant.

    5.  It hurt your feelings not to be included in the map, but you wasted no time dissing Staten Island, and no, I’m not from there. But you are arguing against an elitist depiction of NYC with your own elitist depiction, so I think you’ve canceled yourself out.

      1. I was trying to be funny, but your point is a good one and it re-emphasizes my main argument which is that people should be aware that SI is a part of New York’s diversity (more political than racial). Heck, did you know even tourists can take a ferry there for free? Reading this map, I certainly wouldn’t…

  2. “what happens when you offshore your mapmaking to a Brit”

    Right, so you understand that this is an illustration commissioned by a print shop, not a technical map of new york, yes?  And that it’s evident to a 3 year old that this is a snapshot of NY, not a complete map of all parts? And, it having been drawn by an English illustrator would have nothing whatsoever to do with the original terms of the commission?

  3. Guys, it’s still a map that doesn’t even include two of the five boroughs. And yes, it absolutely is a map of the whitest parts of the city. The fact that Chinatown is located in a sea of white people is incidental. The fact that the map cuts off right at Harlem is tragic, whether it was the artist that made the decision or not.

        1. A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

          (Being an ignorant Brit I might expect to see political, demographic, geographic, etc. in the title of any map before imposing my expectations on it.)

  4. I love maps like this and can get lost in them for hours. Not lost in that I don’t know where I am, nor lost in that I can’t find my way around, but lost in that the “real world” outside the map’s borders no longer exists. I can spread the map out in front of me, turn on good lighting and just roam the streets for hours.

  5. I think she did an awesome job, and even as a born and bred Manhattanite I will at some point purchase one, but what about uptown? I hope she adds to it some day and covers everybit of this great city, though at th esame time I realize that in terms of awesomeness density, the part of Manhattan she covered can’t be beat.

  6. First off, I think the illustration is fabulous. Well done, Jenni!

    But being an illustration, it’s constrained by two things: how much can be squeezed onto a certain size of paper, and ii) how much can be drawn for the price commissioned. I.e., these are production issues, not political. 

    So, on the production issues: this piece is available in two print sizes, the largest being A1 (33.1 x 23.4 inches / 84.1cm x 59.4 cm). Into this space, Jenni has drawn – I don’t know, I didn’t count them all – perhaps 1,000 buildings (if anyone has a better estimation, please let me know). To include “the missing bits” (as pointed out here and – more bitterly – on her blog) might see that number increase by around 300-400%. It’s just not possible to fit that sort of building density into a print of this nature and size; the resulting picture would only be visible under a magnifying glass. And I doubt if Jenni could have spent the time to do it. As she says on her blog: this already took her “forever”. It’s like asking for 3-4 times more Wally’s on each page of a “Where’s Wally” book. It’s just not going to happen. 

    On the politics of “maps”: I visit New York City on business sometimes (I even once had a meeting in the Bronx Zoo – best meeting venue ever), and once had to stay in Tarrytown because all the hotels in the “city” were booked up for fashion week. I get that the city is bigger than what’s on Jenni’s map. So, I think, do most people. It’s just that the piece drawn is the most dense. In those few square miles are contained an amazing number of viewable things. 

    I live in Hong Kong. If you’ve ever picked up a HK Tourist Board map you’ll see a similar thing: it covers the northern side of Hong Kong Island (Central) and the southern tip of Kowloon (Tsim Sha Tsui). I’ve yet to Fanling, Sheung Shui, or Sham Shui Po on a popular English-language map of Hong Kong for tourists. And yet people still find their way to out-of-the-way places. 

    An illustrator has done an amazing thing. Instead of being blinded by what she hasn’t included, be dazzled by what she has.

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