2022: A year in art on The Verge

As 2022 comes to a close, the art team at The Verge has looked back on the past year to highlight some of our most memorable and favorite art. Throughout the year, we created a diverse array of original art, including melting ice sculptures, interactive comics, a photo shoot featuring baked goods, art for special issues such as our Homeland series, and many striking images for our reviews.

Illustration: An artist sits in a dark, cluttered office, working on an illustration. Behind the office is a stylized sky.

“How to replace the sky” comic

Illustration by Matt Huynh

The Verge’s first interactive comic (of many more to come!) allows users to experience the comic cinematographically. “How to replace the sky” by Matt Huynh is a look at what art-making means in a world where our tools are always changing and, with them, our expectations and ambitions must be recalibrated and assessed. Drawn with traditional media — bamboo brushes dipped in black walnut ink painstakingly made by the artist — the warmth of the human hand comes through every line, even as the project is engaged with from behind the cold glass of a mobile phone or tablet. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

A once-in-a-lifetime bird

Art by Danica Novgorodoff

Birding might be thought of as a traditionally offline activity, but an app that helps bird-watchers track the birds they see also helps scientists monitor the migration patterns of vulnerable species. We wanted to emphasize this physical meets digital world mashup with art that was both: delicate watercolor birds by artist Danica Novgorodoff set against clean digital shapes. The graceful quality of the birds is mimicked with a subtle parallax effect. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

Homeland

One of the most ambitious editorial and design packages The Verge has ever undertaken, Homeland is a series about how government surveillance, bureaucracy, and technology have rewired American lives. Spend some time with the art from each of the stories; I love how varied they are while still working together as a cohesive whole. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

Ethernet cables tangled together in the shape of the continental United States.

What’s wrong with US broadband?

Illustrations by Erik Carter

The Verge and Consumer Reports surveyed readers to see how much Americans are paying for internet access, including equipment fees and overage charges. Russell Brandom analyzed the results and highlighted the poor state of broadband in the country. As a fan of Carter’s work, I thought he was the perfect choice to illustrate this article, which illustrates the absurdity of the ongoing issues with broadband in the US. The headline effectively captures the confusion and frustration surrounding broadband internet in the US. William Joel, senior creative director

Design: AI-generated text sits in a ‘90s-style file window with a desktop background of more odd text.
Animation: “Hamburgers are the food of gods” flickering in and out many times, the repeated text forming the vague shape of a hamburger.
Animation: Incoherent text about Alice, with letters intermittently rotating in the z-axis.

The great fiction of AI

Illustrations by Andreion de Castro

For this feature about bot-assisted writing, we created a design that demonstrates how the technology works: pull quotes and headlines regenerate with the click of a button, mirroring how writers who use the bot software can send their words through algorithms that modify the mood, length, and style of their work. We created a functioning desktop interface within the article, allowing for further interaction and some hidden Easter eggs by our cheeky engineer Graham MacAree. Our biggest challenge was making this “invisible” technology visible, and this approach allowed us to create a design that educated readers while keeping them entertained. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

The Verge holiday gift guides

Where do I even begin with this one? Our holiday gift guide shoot was so much fun: we shot 12 distinct holiday dessert scenes, integrating products recommended in the guides. Our major goal was to ensure that the products feel “at home” in their environments so that both the technology and the desserts were presented with equal polish. Gorgeous photos by Joel Goldberg, food styling by Jesse Szewczyk, and prop styling by Maeve Sheridan. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

The bottom half of Elon Musk’s face sucking in dollar bills as if it were a vacuum.

Elon Musk’s giant payday on trial

Illustration by Jason Allen Lee

I laugh every time I look at this animation by Jason Allen Lee: the magazine cutout sheen on Elon Musk’s cheeks; the marionette lines around his mouth, and the vacuum-like speed with which he’s gobbling money while he chatters away. We publish a lot of stories about Musk, and this is probably my favorite approach yet. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

The Apple Watch Ultra under water with the Depth app pulled up

Apple Watch reviews (Series 8, Ultra, and SE)

When a trio of Apple Watches dropped around the same time, I thought up three distinct shoots for each one based on their main purpose and generally how to make them look cool. The Verge’s queen of wearables, Victoria Song, was up for a pool shoot and general walking around for the Ultra and Series 8 Apple Watches. Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor

Illustration: black-and-white Nokia phones on a field of musical notes.

How Nokia ringtones became the first viral earworms

Illustration by Margaret Kimball

The ringtones of early Nokia phones have become ubiquitous nostalgia fare, so for this feature about audio internet archivists, we built a custom-skinned audio player to allow users to listen within a throwback visual scheme and used CSS to animate the illustrated phone screens in their classic neon green. Margaret Kimball’s bold, crisp linework was the perfect accompaniment for the story. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

Searching for Susy Thunder

This was one of the first big features that Kristen [Radtke] and I worked on together, and we knew that it would be a collage of sorts. Kristen did a lot of prop styling — we got a lot of random objects online (including vintage platforms from Etsy and a huge box of old matchbooks without any matches in them). We saw these objects as stand-in ephemera from Susy Thunder’s life and had a lot of fun photographing the objects individually in the studio with varying amounts of glitter. Kristen then pieced the images together and creative director William Joel built the post, and the final product was a really fun collaboration. We are still coming across that glitter. Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor

The many escapes of Justin Sun

For this story about how crypto grifter Justin Sun continues to evade legal consequences, we created scenes in which Sun was escaping from absurd scenarios: dropping into a bunker, rowing to a deserted island, and traversing a zip line. Illustrator Alex Castro drew 3D renderings of Sun, which we then 3D printed, painted, and staged in-studio (and almost got the fire department called on us when we got overzealous with the smoke machine). Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

Video: A vividly-colored illustration of a man in sunglasses and a facemask flanked by two plastic flamingos. In the sky behind him, surgical masks rain down.
alt text

The hustler at the end of the world

Illustrations by Emily López

We knew we wanted to create something delightfully unhinged for this feature about a PPE hoarder who tried to infiltrate the black market at the start of the pandemic (and made almost no money in the process). We worked with artist Emily López to create animations that emphasized the absurdity of his quest, while playing with some Florida kitsch. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

Doctor-donor fertility fraud

Illustrations by John Ed De Vera

I’ve admired John Ed De Vera’s delicate yet bold paper art for a long time and jumped at the chance to work with him for this story about how a woman discovered her biological father was her mother’s insemination doctor. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

Video: An ice sculpture of a Facebook ‘like’ icon melting.

Zuck turns up the heat

When our news editor came to the art team about a Meta scoop that Mark Zuckerberg was about to lay off a huge portion of his staff, we had three days before publication. We wanted to elevate the kind of reporting that, due to time constraints, is usually accompanied at similar publications by stock and wire photos. So we worked with Okamoto Studio Custom Ice to create three ice sculptures, which we then melted on camera. The photos, shot by our senior photo editor Amelia Holowaty Krales, reflect the fragility and absurdity of giant tech companies run by volatile personalities (and we shot it in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave). Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

The year of the NFT

Illustrations by Mengxin Li

For this package about NFTs, Mengxin Li brilliantly created illustrations that made the nebulous, confusing world of NFTs tangible. At The Verge, we’re often publishing stories about topics for which there is no physical object or space to depict, and Li’s work here is a prime example of visual metaphors working at their finest. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

Continuous glucose monitor startups still have to prove their worth

I wanted a simple uncluttered look for the portraits of Nicole [Wetsman] and John that we took in the studio for Nicole’s story about glucose monitors. Using these images in black and white makes the viewer concentrate on faces and details, and I think this enhances the story with their matching poses. Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor

Aerial video of an Amazon warehouse across the street from a neighborhood of homes.

The warehouse next door

Damon Casarez photographed the thoughtful portraits and beautiful landscapes for Justine Calma’s important story about how enormous Amazon warehouses are changing the landscape of a rural community in California. These intimate images coupled with Wes Reel’s bird’s-eye drone footage offered a full view to complement the report. Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor

A trip to the GaryVee convention

Photography by Simone Lueck

Simone Lueck followed Mia Sato on her quest to report on VeeCon, GaryVee’s convention where “everyone is part of crypto’s 1 percent.” Lueck’s fun, colorful images perfectly conveyed the energy and personality of the event. Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor

A small rectangular bin filled with compost

Inside one of the world’s first human composting facilities

Photography by Meron Menghistab, illustrations by Samar Haddad

I have admired photographer Meron Menghistab’s work for a while and was glad when he was able to work on this interesting look at one of the few human composting facilities by Eleanor Cummins. Menghistab’s lovely portraits and interior images worked beautifully with the illustrations and explainer by Samar Haddad, design by Kristen Radtke, and build by Graham MacAree. Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor

A statue bust of Elon Musk with bird droppings on its forehead over a blue background.

The Twitter deal is all downside risk for Elon Musk

With the sudden proliferation of Elon Musk-related articles, many of which reuse the same Getty images, I wanted to create something somewhat unique to take a break from those images, which we’ve all seen a lot of recently. William Joel, senior creative director

An old beat-up sign in the shape of the BuzzFeed logo icon in a desert setting surrounded by several smaller beat-up yellow signs that say “cute,” “lol,” “wtf,” and “omg” on them.
3D versions of the Twitter bird icon, the Reddit alien icon, and the Tumble “T” logo that are covered in circle stickers with the phrases, “lol,” “win,” “omg,” and “wtf” written on them.
3D versions of the Twitter bird icon, the Reddit alien icon, and the Tumble “T” logo next to a few small crumbled yellow stickers strewn on the ground.

The unbearable lightness of BuzzFeed

Illustrations by Daniel Jurman

Daniel Jurman’s work is clever and quirky, which made it a perfect fit for a story about BuzzFeed’s rise and eventual decline. For the lead art, both Jurman and I were drawn to the comparison with the Las Vegas strip. We thought it was fitting because both the strip and the BuzzFeed homepage are characterized by their busy and loud appearance, with flashy buttons and stickers similar to the signs on the strip. Both now feel dated and frozen in time. William Joel, senior creative director

Mark Zuckerberg’s augmented reality

Illustration by Alex Castro

Alex Castro’s illustration of a lonely and sad Zuckerberg attempting to view the world through Meta-shaped lenses perfectly captures the current state of the metaverse. William Joel, senior creative director

The road to instant groceries is paved with broken bones

Illustration by Alex Castro

This looping art from Alex Castro is one of my favorites from this year. Not only is it incredible because it so well conveys the stress these delivery drivers are experiencing but also because it was Castro trying something outside his typical approach. The simplicity and comic-esk style mixed with the weaving down a street quickly while an alert right in the driver's face evokes the stress one might experience while trying to complete a task in Grand Theft Auto. William Joel, senior creative director

Video: A cartoon flower rocks and sways to a beat, using the fruiting bodies of mushrooms as cymbals.

Musicians are hooking up synthesizers to plants for new sonic possibilities

Illustration by Sean Dong

I’ve been an admirer of Sean Dong’s funny and strange animations for a long time, so I jumped at the chance to work with him on this story about making music from plants. I could watch this one on repeat for days. Kristen Radtke, associate creative director

Video: A stylised U.S. Supreme Court building surrounded by emojis zooming in and out.

How America turned against the First Amendment

Illustrations by Shira Inbar

There is a line right in the first paragraph that says, “Both sides of the political aisle are attacking long-accepted principles of speech law, frequently in ways that are both logically incoherent and deeply concerning.” Based on that, I felt we needed something that felt “internet-y,” busy and loud, but also something that wouldn’t be a strain on a reader’s eyes. Fortunately, Shira Inbar is incredible at all of those and was able to create art that speaks to just how in trouble the First Amendment is but also the absurdity of it all. William Joel, senior creative director

Two images of the Mona Lisa, each in a different art style: one classical and the other more modern and abstract with vibrant colors.
Two images of Keith Haring’s “Skateboarders,” each in a different art style.
Two images of the “Marilyn Diptych,” each in a different art style.

The scary truth about AI copyright is nobody knows what will happen next

Illustrations by Max-o-matic

For this story, I wanted something that felt similar but distinct from AI-generated art. This needed to be more intentional and different enough that it made sense it was saying something about AI-generated imagery. Max’s style felt spot-on for this story that outlines just how messy and complex AI copyright is. The lede does a brilliant job mixing everything together, and the spots are just amazing. William Joel, senior creative director

Using the Quest 2 with hand tracking.

Meta Quest Pro review: get me out of here

For the review of the Meta Quest Pro, I wanted to create an eerie, sparse scene about working at a computer since one of the ideas of the device is that you can use it to do work in and take meetings. I used three different lights with gels, and this metal hairpin table happened to be in the studio and worked perfectly with the minimalist setting I wanted to create. Adi Robertson’s gestures (she was just scrolling!) were graceful and perfectly completed the image. Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor