The Artist and Technology Behind 36 AI Portraits

How to generate three dozen portraits for the Most Influential 2022 in about a week? Meet, the app that saved this CoinDesk feature from visual ennui.

AccessTimeIconDec 5, 2022 at 2:28 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 28, 2023 at 2:28 p.m. UTC

Will Ess produced 36 portraits of CoinDesk's Most Influential 2022 in about one week. He accomplished this feat with the help of, a platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to transform photographs into stylish portraits with mood, color and even some (artificial) intention. takes about 20 to 30 minutes to “understand” what a person looks like by analyzing a photo. In most cases, AI will help create about 100 versions of each portrait. From that starting point, Ess explored different artistic styles and vibes to ensure the final image matched the story and the person on the list.

"[We use] a variety of styles with the idea toward making each profile picture fit the profile,” said Adam B. Levine, CEO of 330AI, the company that launched “So if it's like a darker story then we want a darker direction; if it's a story that's about something great happening, then we went there.” In addition to running 330AI, Levine was previously the managing editor of CoinDesk podcasts and still hosts CoinDesk’s Markets Daily Crypto Roundup podcast.

AI is a fast-changing technology, especially for image generators. Back in July, artists used to produce images in five minutes. Then in August, with the introduction to the market of an optimized deep-learning text-to-image technology called stable diffusion, the amount of time it took to create an image dropped to about five seconds and the quality of the image had a two-times to four-times improvement.

“Just keeping up with the changes in technology is the hardest part of my job because every week it seems like there's something new that we need to consider and that just doesn't stop," said Ess. "Artists and people with a good understanding of art history can really get the most out of it," he added.

For Ess and Levine, utilizing AI is more than producing images. "On a fundamental level, this is about the reinvention of the creative process," Levine said.

A serial entrepreneur, Levine has big plans for AI. He is in the process of merging 330AI with Blockade Games, a Web3 game company. Levine aims to bring the time- and effort-saving advantages of AI into the world of game creation, reducing many complicated and time-consuming executions so that people can instead focus on ideas.


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Xinyi Luo

Xinyi Luo is CoinDesk Layer 2's features and opinion intern. She does not currently hold any cryptocurrencies.