Don't fear the machines: is AI really the death of design?
Could artificial intelligence save us from soulless creativity? Ed Bolton of Frog challenges the notion that the rise of the machines means the death of design.
Is artificial intelligence just more ammunition for designers? / Image courtesy of Frog, generated with Midjourney
We thought our creative jobs were safe. We thought automation would come for the truck drivers, the accountants, and the factory workers first. We thought the machines would never be able to create like we could. Then Dall-E 2 came out. Stable Diffusion followed. Midjourney art is everywhere.
The more we looked, the more creative artificial intelligence (AI) was automating our work. Media copy at the push of a button, 2000-word essays written in seconds. Training videos fronted by metahumans, instantly translated into multiple languages; unique, bespoke illustrations, photographs and sketches all generated from the 'mind' of a machine.
From photography to contemporary art, machines have disrupted the creative industries for many years. Creative AI will sadly have an impact on many creatives’ careers (especially illustrators’), but we shouldn’t fear the machines. This isn’t Skynet sending Terminators to take over humanity.
While we need more robust discussions about moral implications, there is an air of inevitability to creative AI which is really exciting. Far from the death of creativity, we are entering a new age – and it’s happening right before our eyes.
Why don’t we automate the whole process?
My dad is a comic book artist. He used to cut hundreds of pictures from magazines and glue them into scrapbooks for reference. When he needed to illustrate a tiger leaping or an eagle flying, he would have inspiration ready to go. This was unique to him. No one else has these scrapbooks because he would spend every Sunday curating them.
Today, our sources of inspiration are mostly the same: the same mood boards taken from Pinterest; the same images served to all of us by the same algorithms; the same graphics from the same design blogs; the same product designs. We mine the internet for inspiration, and through the democratization of information that the internet has so brilliantly enabled, we see the same sources. It has led to a decade of blandness and a lack of oomph in the creative process.
Let's automate the entire process. Get the machines to do it for us. This will give us more time to focus on big creative ideas and enable us to take a step back from our digitally overwhelmed lives and think how we can put more emotion back into creativity. Ironically, the machines could make us more human again.
The age of limitless inspiration
Creative AI can give us a unique perspective each time we ask it to. Each brand of text-to-image AI is based on different data sets.
Dall-E 2 for example is based on millions of Shutterstock images; different data sets will give us different results. The words (prompts) you use are essential to getting great results. Prompt engineers are honing their craft to use creative AI as a creative tool. To paraphrase digital artist Mario Klingemann, it’s like magic, but you need to know the right words for the spell.
You get inspired with each new bespoke image based on your unique prompts. Product designers are creating unique mood boards to inspire them to create new products. Artists are putting different stylistic spins on their work. Designers are creating new mood boards that have never been seen before.
Creativity needs more soul
Creative AI will usher in a new era of creativity, working hand-in-hand with humans. But there is one thing it will never have: a soul.
Creativity is an amazing process. Ideas pulled from the depths of our imagination, collaborated and pushed around and formed into something interesting, inspiring and intellectual. A machine will never be able to do these things as it is based on the information we have collated and fed into it. Maybe one day it will evolve to be more cognizant, but not today.
With the extra time we have earned by automating tasks, creatives can focus on injecting more emotion into what we create to make it more powerful. This may be the death of design as we know it, but don’t fear the machines. It marks an exciting new age of limitless inspiration.
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frog is a leading global creative consultancy, part of Capgemini Invent. Partnering with passionate leaders and visionary entrepreneurs, we apply creativity, strategy, design and data to re-invent businesses, drive growth and orchestrate customer centric transformation.Find out more