Artificial Intelligence & Graphic Design

When the topic of AI first started coming to the forefront of conversation, especially AI-generated art, human artists and graphic designers everywhere started sweating a little. We jumped to the worst conclusion immediately: what happens when AI takes our jobs? When will human graphic designers and artists become obsolete in a world fixated on perfection and speed? The truth is: we don’t know if that will ever become a reality, but we do have steps we can take, as designers, and as a society, to help avoid impending obsolescence.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: AI is freaking cool! There’s no doubt about it. The first time we tried ChatGPT and MidJourney, it absolutely blew our minds. We could quickly type in a prompt, and moments later, the AI service would pump out a passably effective result. It was the closest thing to magic we’ve experienced in years. It’s fast, efficient, and incredibly helpful in a pinch. 

AI is capable of generating some truly stunning images, like this lakeside cabin, which was created using Midjourney.

As controversial as it may sound, our company takes advantage of text-based generative AI to help us with a variety of tasks, including rephrasing emails, cleaning up proposals and even helping us write social media captions. Hell, we even used it as an extra pair of (artificial) “eyes” for this post. We’ve also used generative art AI to help assemble realistic images that would have otherwise taken hours of photo searching and Photoshopping to pull off. Sometimes it even helps the impossible to become a reality! We recently completed a project using AI that would have required an expensive photo shoot with professional lighting, location scouting and model casting. Alternatively, a small studio like ours would have had to composite individual (hard-to-find) stock photos that had the same perspective in an attempt to make it look realistic. With AI, all it takes is one prompt. So, while most designers are perfectly capable of doing each of these tasks themselves, AI saves time and resources, especially for individual entrepreneurs and small businesses, entities whose time and resources are quite limited.

So we know AI is cool. But how does it work? Artificial intelligence typically refers to a non-human entity that can effectively “think” like a human, simulating human intelligence. But AI as we know it today isn’t actually artificial intelligence. In fact, there’s not really any intelligence involved. Instead, these services are actually language models that simulate intelligible human speech by analyzing snippets of sentences and phrases, and their meaning, and outputting responses by compiling more snippets. In essence, services like ChatGPT look at your words in context, analyze their meaning, and produce a response based on that analysis. But it happens so quickly that we imagine a little android spitting out a near-instantaneous response to a question or prompt, as if it’s a hyper-intelligent humanoid. It helps that the responses also have a hint of humanity to them.

If AI is so efficient, then what’s keeping it from completely replacing us? In our opinion, there are a few answers to that question:

  1. They’re still ironing out the kinks with AI
    AI (as we know it) is relatively new, and while it’s pretty good so far, it still has a lot of room to grow. Language-based AI, for example, still has trouble sounding completely human at times, and doesn’t always accurately capture the tone we’re going for. We also find it to be a little hyperbolic most of the time, with an unnecessary level of enthusiasm infused in its writing. And when it comes to Art-based AI, we’ve all witnessed the extra limbs and awkward features of human characters. So, needless to say, there is certainly room for improvement there, too.
  2. AI simply isn’t human, and never will be
    While generative AI can do a mean impression of human behavior, it’s still not human, and it’s safe to say it never will be. Part of that has to do with the fact that humans aren’t just one-note creatures; we have emotions, thoughts, histories and empathy. We understand one another and are capable of creating work that hits on an emotional level, not just an intellectual level. We also have years of social context and understanding that frames our decisions. And we’re strategic about how we approach solutions to problems. These are all things that AI can certainly attempt to emulate, but won’t be able to replace entirely.
  3. Some people aren’t keen on AI
    There are at least a couple of generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen X, that still aren’t quite warmed up to the idea of AI-generated content. As with every phase of technology, many people will reject the advances of generative AI, and will still be looking for human interaction and human-generated solutions for years to come. They may be seeking the aforementioned human empathy and strategy, or perhaps they just won’t want a computer generating (and potentially tracking) business-related solutions.

Artificial intelligence isn’t truly intelligent, and it still makes mistakes. Like this AI-generated pirate photo, where instead of eating cake, the pirate is jamming some sort of stick into their teeth, and their right index finger is covered in some mysterious fabric gunk.

Regardless of how people feel about AI, its development is not showing any signs of slowing down. According to a study conducted by IBM, “35% of companies reported using AI in their business, and an additional 42% reported they are exploring AI.” So, how can we live harmoniously alongside AI without it taking our jobs? Well, first and foremost, it is essential that AI be used to aid in our creative efforts, not replace them. 

Take, for example, the use cases listed earlier that we employ: although we use language-based AI to help us craft emails, assemble proposals and write social media captions, we still have to direct the AI on what to write about, and even then, we still review and revise its work to make sure it’s consistent with our tone, and that it’s effectively capturing our message. When we’re generating AI imagery, we’re only doing so when other resources prove fruitless, and even then, we still add design elements, and may need to do some light Photoshopping ourselves.

Additionally, it is our belief that the teams responsible for generative AI programs understand the ethical implications of what they’re creating. We believe there should be limitations built into these systems to leave space for human creativity and imagination. It is also the responsibility of hiring organizations to properly weigh the benefits of human input and creativity over AI generated work before opting to go the non-human route.

The future of AI may seem intimidating and a little scary, but we believe there’s a way to work intelligently with AI. And according to a report by the World Economic Forum, there are signs that indicate AI may actually help to create more jobs than it replaces. So rather than fearing the future, let’s look forward to a world where human creativity and AI efficiency can work together to do awesome things.

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