London-Based Illustrator Creates Highly-Detailed Commissioned Maps Of Cities All Over The World

Jenni Sparks, an illustrator based in London makes hand-drawn maps of various cities all over the world. However, the map illustration is unlike ordinary maps either: the combines humorous details and local knowledge about the place to best show its very own personality and unique culture.

Early career

Sparks first got into professional cartography when show for Evermade in 2012. It was used to boost tourism, and was even enlarged to cover the floor of London Gatwich Airport. The huge mural is still seen to this day welcoming local and international tourists alike.

The Process

Jenni Sparks uses an eclectic method of combining documentaries, internet research, and books to get a clear picture of the place. Illustrating the area itself isn’t enough—once she has an idea in mind of how she would implement her plan, she would then visit the landmarks herself and experience its own vibe and atmosphere. Each park, street, and establishment is hand-drawn in great detail to breathe life into the map. Each map takes months to finish, complete with the details of the streets, representations of its establishments, and creative presentation of its culture.

Symbols

Different areas with different cultures are also represented creatively in her maps. Williamsburg, New York, for example, is popularly known as hipster haven. Sparks shows this in her map by drawing thick-rimmed glasses, a handlebar moustache, and coffee mugs—things people often associate with hipsters. Another good example is the spray cans, pints of German beer, and music notes in Berlin.

Major streets and avenues are often drawn in their own distinct colours as well, looking like colourful snakes making their way across black-lined buildings, labels, and symbols. It adds a pop of colour to an otherwise stark black-and-white map. Most parks are also coloured green with patches of trees indicating vegetation, and of course, blue, for bodies of water of different types and sizes.

The overall appearance is an intricately made map that anyone would take time to look at—every inch has a story, showing people what’s in that place. It adds a sense of wonder and experience to the map, more than showing people how to get around.