As technology continues to evolve, so too does the world of design. With the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), and more specifically generative AI, designers are now able to create new and innovative designs in ways that were once unimaginable. However, with this being said, this also means that designers now have the ability to think about their creative processes in new ways. Rather than have a hands-on approach with every aspect of the design process, AI allows designers to act more as art directors, employing a slightly different set of skills as AI becomes a larger part of all of our day-to-day lives.
First and foremost, AI is not just about automating design processes – it's about creating interactive opportunities that allow designers to bring complex ideas to life in entirely new ways. For example, the Happy music video by Pharrel Williams was shot over 24 hours so that no matter when you view the video, it would be synced to your local time. This was a huge project that took an enormous amount of time and energy to complete. If someone in London logged on at the exact same time as someone else in New York, they’d see completely different footage that corresponds to their specific time of day. Use cases like these highlight how generative AI makes design both more accessible and more interactive, with minimal effort. Imagine if any website you went to showed different assets that constantly refresh and reflect the time of day where the user is. We can take things even further in terms of personalization and use AI-generated assets that reflect the country or the exact city of the user. While this may once have seemed like a wild idea, it’s relatively easy to make it reality with today’s technology.
First and foremost, AI is not just about automating design processes – it's about creating interactive opportunities that allow designers to bring complex ideas to life in entirely new ways.
Generative AI is already having a drastic impact on the end results of design projects by making it easier to bring ideas to fruition, it also changes the process designers go through while creating. Instead of focusing on designing every single pixel, AI tools allow creators to change their thinking and focus more on the end behavior of their product/design. Interactive products and designs powered by AI can have complex, dynamic behaviors that react to different users in different ways. Designers will have to set the boundaries for the AI to create within those set parameters, which may produce results that designers themselves may not have thought of. In some cases, this may mean that the end users see results that the designers themselves haven’t even seen. In a way, this makes designers become more like art directors. This means that designers will need to employ their theoretical knowledge of design and describe in exact terminology what they want the end result to be. Things like lighting conditions, color palettes, composition will have to be thoroughly and accurately described to ensure the outcome is as close as possible to what’s been envisioned. While designers always have these concepts in mind, it will now have to be in a more active and thought out manner.
Of course, it’s important to note that just because designers can use generative AI to create their final result, doesn’t mean that they have to. Designers can always use AI to generate a starting point and go from there or simply use the generation as inspiration and create something hands-on from scratch.
This in and of itself will also have a major impact on the overall aesthetics we see in the world of design. While the development of new trends can be attributed to any number of influences, one reason we see trends pop up is the result of designers learning how to overcome a technical problem or adapting a new way of working, resulting in something new. These breakthrough moments took place over time and weren’t instantaneous. Generative AI flips this and makes it feasible for news trends to essentially appear out of thin air. In essence, this positions generative AI as the catalyst to design trends, speeding up how things already work.
Designers can always use AI to generate a starting point and go from there or simply use the generation as inspiration and create something hands-on from scratch.
While these are the foreseeable near-term results of integrating generative AI into the world of design, the further into the future we get, the more outlandish and sci-fi the AI influence may get. For example, work is already being done with machine-brain interfaces that are supercharged by AI, which could allow us to generate images using only brain waves. Perhaps one day, we may even be able to combine the power of AI with our very own dreams, to quite literally bring our dreams to life. In theory, this opens up a new way to create, one where we don’t use classic tools such as paper and a pencil, or even the mouse and keyboard.
This positions generative AI as the catalyst to design trends, speeding up how things already work.
However as with any new technology, there will always be downsides and an adjustment period. AI allows designers to quickly pick and choose what most aligns with what they had envisioned, speeding up the design process so much that they miss out on mistakes that could have greatly impacted the end result. Mistakes are an essential part of creativity, and often open up minds and thought processes, leading to something new. The challenge is how to improve and maintain error while still benefiting from AI's variability.
Another controversial side to AI is the widespread commercial use of AI models trained on the works of other artists and designers without their permission. While this is still considered a legal gray area, many are claiming that these AI models enable those who use them to capitalize on the work of human artists without compensation or proper attribution. This issue raises important questions about the ethical and legal boundaries surrounding the use of AI in the creative realm. We can expect that as the use of AI becomes more prevalent, we’ll hear much more on this topic.
Clearly, AI has the potential to transform the world of design in ways that we are only just beginning to understand. While AI is currently a tool that allows designers to work faster and more efficiently, it is also changing the very nature of the creative process itself. Designers now have the option of embracing this change and developing new skills to take advantage of the opportunities that AI presents. With the power of generative AI, designers have the ability to explore exciting new opportunities and take their design to the next level. Ultimately, as designers, we shouldn’t come from a place of fear when dealing with AI, but rather think about using it as a catalyst to unlock entirely new ways of thinking and creating.