As AI grows more integrated with the creative tools we use on a daily basis it’s becoming harder to brush it off as a trend. While some are quick to think this is just a bubble and advancements will eventually stall; it’s dangerous to simply ignore AI’s impact on your creative workflow. As creative professionals it’s always a good idea to consider new tools and how they may help us or hurt us in the future so we can adapt and evolve with technology. Whether or not we have a place in this uncertain future will largely depend on the foundation we create for ourselves now.
What We Know
Creatives across the board have been sounding alarm bells. As we enter this ever-expanding gray area that is also dotted with legal fissures, artists are scrambling to establish ground rules and fight back against violations of their intellectual property rights. The core issue with AI generated content is its lack of creativity. Not just in its inability to produce an interesting end product but any novel content at all. This is especially blatant in the world of image generators which require existing images in order for it to learn. Artists have rightly pointed out that this process of “training” constitutes a form of theft. Their artwork is used by the AI without their consent to produce similar works in their style. You may question whether or not an artist can own their style but what about actors owning their own likeness? This issue extends to Hollywood and as we saw recently with the actors and writers strike, people are distrustful of how corporations will use this new technology. So far, the most vocal commentary on AI from the creative world has been predominantly negative but is there a silver lining?
Compressing The Workflow
Whether or not AI is just a tool or the instrument of our extinction is still in debate but as we ponder this massive philosophical question, there is still room to consider how it can benefit us today. Speaking from our own unique experience as designers we see AI as a tool that can compress the design workflow, providing a more seamless transition from what were separate tasks. This in part removes some of the friction that can occur during the conceptual phase where we may want to rapidly produce ideas as they come to us. As we offload the task of creation, we may simply become curators. Currently AI generated images and graphics still require a significant amount of human input to pass the sniff test but it still has its place in the early stages of the creative process where we value iteration over perfection.
What does the future of creative work look like? Since my crystal ball is currently in the shop, I’ll have to give you my best guess instead. This may require some uncomfortable introspection to uncover what it is that us designers actually offer to the world. I’ve always been told that designers are problem solvers but overtime I think that statement has evolved and this is where we diverge from AI. To get what you want from AI you need to ask it a precise question which is great for math homework but not so much for building an effective brand or a captivating website. Often times you don’t know what questions you even need to ask and that’s where a real designer comes in. You have a goal and reaching that goal is not always a straight shot from A to B. Without incorporating design thinking and research how will you know what you’re getting can produce the outcomes you want? 42 may be the answer to life’s ultimate question but what’s the question?
Artists and designers have always been vocal about new technologies that threaten their skill sets. While we have weathered the storm in the past, AI is definitely a whole new beast and should not be dismissed as just “the next photoshop”. To stay relevant, we need to be aware of and incorporate new tools in the field but also set proper ground rules to ensure that we are not written off. This may seem self-serving but ultimately it is the public that will be hurt as we pointed out earlier AI is a tool of repetition it can create only from what already exists and as it invades every facet of our media and culture, we may become inundated with a sea of redundant corporate slug. At the end of the day would you prefer to work with a machine or a partner that you can just have a conversation with?