February Cover Story: Picturing AI Law

Photo Illustration: Jason E. Kaplan and Joan McGuire

Art director Joan McGuire describes her inspiration for illustrating this month’s cover story.

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The convergence of artificial intelligence with law…what does that look like?

I was faced with illustrating this concept for the cover story of February issue, which explores how artificial intelligence and machine learning is transforming the legal profession.

In practice, sadly, it looks like computer screens full of text. *Snore.* I’d need two major images — one for the front and one for inside lede. If these images were going to have any oomph at all, I’d have to come up with something.

A Google image search is my go-to method for learning what the common visual cues are for a given concept. Here are some of the things that popped up:

whitecollar robots

According to Google, clearly the “White-Collar Robot” is the quintessential way to depict the combining of tech with a profession.

I particularly enjoyed this mash-up of Gregory Peck (as lawyer Atticus Finch in 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird) with RoboCop:


Of course, we could always photograph someone and then turn their eyes red, but that “Terminator” treatment was too chilling. We didn’t want our AI lawyer to come across as a relentless murder machine:


Ultimately, I kept coming back to my favorite robot:

Gunslinger Westworld bar

That’s Yul Brynner in 1973’s Westworld. (Did you know that this was the first feature film to use computer graphics? It’s true! Geek out here.)

Sure, the Robot Gunslinger was an inexorable foe, but he had a human face, and it was the shape of that face, offset to reveal the circuitry inside, which I felt we could replicate.

westworld inspo

We just needed to find a suitable model, preferably a person comfortable in a white-collared button-down shirt.

Happily I knew just the person. Jonathan Shapiro, who works in fraud management, is my sister’s partner. He dresses the part every day, and more important, he was totally game to be rendered into an android in Photoshop. He came in after work for a photo shoot with OB staff photographer, Jason E. Kaplan.


I found the robot guts to put inside Jonathan’s head on Shutterstock:

RobotHeads array
My original intention was to photoshop Jonathan’s eyes onto the robot head, removing them from the “mask” of his face. Then, when the mask was offset, the viewer could see through the eye holes.

The resulting image lacked impact, I felt. However, it led to the idea of just showing robot eyes, which we all agreed was stunning. That image was used on an inside page.


In the end, I was delighted that just showing a tiny slice of the robot circuitry was very effective. I’m glad to say that Jonathan, too, was psyched about his transformation.

0220 CoverAI Law

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