Though designer Rafael Esquer has lived in New York City for 20 years, he’s still in awe of its bright lights and buzzing nightlife. As the founder of Alfalfa Studio, a branding and graphic design house based in Lower Manhattan, he creates pieces inspired by his enlightening experiences in the Big Apple. His latest project, a shimmering map entitled Iconic New York Illuminated, captures the magic of Manhattan after dark.
While Esquer was raised in Mexico, he studied in California before moving to New York City. Like many transplants, he was immediately mesmerized by the metropolis’ luminescence. “I was an undergraduate visiting from California, and arrived late in the evening,” he told Designboom. “Like most people, I found the city’s lights exhilarating, but they did even more for me: I felt enveloped and connected in their glow, instantly a part of the city. I knew right then that I would live here.” As a branding expert, Esquer decided to design a stand-out souvenir that—unlike New York's ho-hum selection of Lady Liberty headbands and cliché “I Heart NY” shirts—captured the electric energy of the city that never sleeps.
Iconic New York Illuminated offers a nighttime glimpse of New York City’s most populated borough. Set against a black background and featuring shimmering foils and 4 different metallic inks, the spectacular map is reminiscent of a Klimt masterpiece—though its hand-rendered graphics are undeniably contemporary. With its dense, minutely detailed design, Iconic New York Illuminated manages to point out an impressive amount of highlights, including: 28 buildings, 23 celebrities, 20 media outlets, 12 cultural institutions, 11 urban legends, 10 writers, 8 sports teams, 3 superheroes, and even 1 saint. In addition to its luminous landmarks, world-famous monuments, and tried-and-true tourist attractions, the poster highlights the bustling borough’s most beloved eccentricities, from pizza-rat in the East Village to a $10,000 Midtown martini garnished with diamonds.
Esquer first toyed with Manhattan mapmaking in 2013 when he created Iconic New York. While strikingly similar to Iconic New York Illuminated, the prototype featured fewer landmarks, more color, and a dazzling daytime view of the borough. You can pick up both magnificent maps through Alfalfa Studio’s online shop.
All images via Alfalfa Studio.