We Finally Figured Out Who Makes wikiHow’s Bizarre Art
Getting to the bottom of one of the internet’s most ridiculously drawn mysteries
Founded in 2005, wikiHow.com appears to be a typical volunteer-authored wiki site that offers step-by-step guides on how to do just about anything, from how to tie your shoes to how to reverse a curse. But there’s a conspicuous difference between wikiHow and your average wiki: the site’s infamous, pallid, anime-adjacent illustrations.
Check out the eerily humanlike cat in “How to Teach Your Cat to Do Tricks,” the swelling airline employee explaining “How to Visit Antarctica on a Budget,” or whatever the hell is going on in “How to Stop Laughing at Inappropriate Times.” The site’s illustrations sometimes look like a file of clip art got shoved into a blender and then was indiscriminately pasted back together. Click the site’s random article button a few times, and you’ll likely find some head-scratching depictions of human interaction. Or, let me just draw your attention to this. Or this. Or THESE.
wikiHow’s anarchic aesthetic has attracted a cult following, inspiring a popular Reddit board, a lightly viral guessing game website, a currently dormant Twitter account, a frequently updated Twitter account, a surprisingly active Tumblr profile, and more than a few blogs. Still, beyond a trickle of unverifiable social chatter on Reddit, Quora, and Twitter, nobody seems to have been able to definitively answer the question “Who the heck makes this stuff?”
Peculiarly, you won’t find an artist credit under a typical wikiHow image. wikiHow’s volunteer authors use a bot called “Wikivisual” to submit requests for images to illustrate their “how-to” posts, which are then handled by what wikiHow describes only as the “Wikivisual team.” Most wikiHow graphics have a Creative Commons license that is marked only as “uploaded by Wikivisual.” The bot boasts more than 3 million “contributions” to the site, which had published 212,368 articles and 4,417,238 “images and other files” as…