Most current and emerging technologies can’t actually be seen. That’s why the art department here at MIT Technology Review often depicts them with illustrations.
Take deep learning: what on Earth does that look like? Not only is it a complex concept to grasp (for me at least), but there isn't yet a common visual vocabulary for it—no symbolic shorthand, the way an apple and mortarboard can represent education or a money bag and top hat conjures the banking industry.
Thankfully, we work with a world-class group of illustrators who help us bear the conceptual load. Their imagination and hard work are what makes our jobs as art directors possible. (Not to mention it's also what makes our magazine and site look good.)
These are our favorite illustrations from 2016. Each of these pieces strike me as being a small miracle in itself. Now finished, in retrospect, each seems self-evident. But all were tricky to pull off. How would you draw, say, the Internet of things or gene editing?