Question of the Week

"AI Isn't going to take your job, but someone using AI will", so how are designers using it?

As Hollywood launches a multi-union strike against AI, we can't deny its potential in the creative industries. We ask designers how they are embracing AI

By Dani Gibson

By now, you may be feeling the weight of AI fatigue as it pervades countless conversations – and rightfully so, whether it's the awe-inspiring advancements or the pressing need to address ethical and moral concerns.

It may reshape our world, but human talent and creativity remain indispensable in unlocking the full benefits of AI. Yet as it becomes more prevalent in the creative industry, a crucial mindset shift is required – viewing AI as a complementary tool rather than a threat.

So how can design professionals adapt and embrace the transformative impact of creative AI? Naturally we asked agency design experts for their perspective.

Mark Elwood, ECD, Leo Burnett

Although I initially entered the industry as a designer, I gradually moved further into the advertising side of things. However, I've noticed a growing embrace of technology, particularly in programs like Midjourney. It's fantastic what can be achieved with it. For example, we recently worked on a project for Victorian Plumbing, creating an image of King Charles on an old Edwardian-style toilet seat in their signature blue. With the help of technology, we were able to accomplish this in minutes, eliminating the need for hours of manual image retouching. It's incredible how designers eagerly incorporate any tools that enhance their efficiency, creativity, and aesthetics. However, we have yet to witness the full potential of integrating typographic and design skills into the Midjourney process and leveraging the emerging plugins in programs like Photoshop. Some of these new plugins are truly remarkable. I believe the advertising industry has yet to fully explore its capabilities.

Moreover, if we look at the talented designers who have already made successful crossovers I'm confident that there are more exciting developments to come through Midjourney. Designers need to experiment and combine various tools and techniques to unlock the true magic. There's no reason to fear this transformation; instead, it presents a brilliant opportunity for innovation.

Your prompt is like picking a typeface and manipulating it by outlining, slanting, changing, and moving it around. It's about exploring colours, problem-solving, and discovering something that could potentially become an art form in its own right. I believe there will come a point where it becomes a clear and significant aspect of campaigns. People will use tools like the GPT model to easily describe specific scenarios, such as a child waking up next to a McDonald's alarm clock in a dimly lit room in the morning. Previously, such scenarios would have to be drawn. The advertising side of brands is also utilising these tools, albeit in different ways from designers. It's an incredibly exciting time.

Jordan Blood, head of design, Girl&Bear

I first discovered Midjourney via Nando Costa. The man is an AI genius and has created some of the most beautiful renders I’ve seen from the platform. And ever since, I’ve been encouraging my designers (and anyone who’ll listen !) to have a play. Much like stock libraries gave us icons and graphic assets to use under time pressure, I believe AI will do the same and more. Coincidentally, VCCP launched Faith recently, an AI creative agency which will work with clients throughout our global offices.

Dan Beckett, head of art, The&Partnership

We know AI is great at laborious tasks. Agency design departments are adapting to different formats, languages and so on. AI is great at prototyping and quickly visualising ideas in different styles. AI is also great at adapting/versioning to different media formats and languages. Designers should welcome AI for this alone as it will allow them to spend more time on more creative tasks.

Skills like prompt engineering will require patience and practice to master, but will reward those who put in the time and effort – they will be rewarded with infinitely better results. As the saying already goes “AI isn’t going to take your job, but someone using AI will.”

Another challenge for designers (and art directors) could be working out how to maintain a brand’s distinctive image in AI generated work.

Stephanie McArdle, head of Design, Droga5 London

I find AI truly exciting, but it's crucial for designers to remain curious about AI and explore its potential applications. They should experiment with it and determine how it can be beneficial as a tool. AI offers a new way of creating visuals, which often leads to exciting discoveries and fresh perspectives. However, I've also noticed a lot of imitation and replication within the AI space, where people simply recreate what has been done before. I would love to see AI used in a genuinely innovative and original manner. Nevertheless, it's important to remember that AI is just a tool. Reflecting on the early 2000s when the internet was a thrilling frontier, with programs like Max and Adobe democratising design, we should recognise that these shiny new tools cannot replace the fundamental principles of graphic design that have developed over decades and centuries. It's essential for designers to have a solid foundation in the basics and principles of design, as no new tool can substitute for that knowledge. In the early 2000s, there was a lot of work being created mostly to showcase what the programs were capable of, but it often lacked an interesting perspective.

Ted Smith, head of design, BMB

How can individuals who work in design fields adapt and embrace the changes brought about by creative AI? What skills or mindset shifts do you think are crucial?

It feels very early to be giving advice on this, but we have to be open to using AI as a different way of creating rather than something to compete against; in order to adapt to the changes it will inevitably bring.

There is no doubt creative AI will have an effect on the industry, and with so much conversation around it at the moment, it’s easy to fall into doom thinking. But ultimately, managing to look at it in a positive light will allow those in design fields to be receptive, not rejective, to learning its capabilities and therefore how to make the most of it.

It will create a new playing field, but like any tool, it will still take talent to harness it effectively and innovatively, whether that’s to help with the process or elevate the final work.

To be more accepting of it, those in design fields should remember it remains a tool that needs input to create output. Design principles, thinking and skills won’t become obsolete, just applied in a different way.

The ‘two heads are better than one’ adage comes to mind. We just have to get used to the prospect of one of those heads being artificial.


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