AI in design: what does the future hold? Featuring thoughts from Seky Kwon, Grafik and Vernacular
Following our previous discussion with creatives Sekyeong Kwon, Vernacular’s Andrea A. Trabucco-Campos and Martín Azambuja, and Nick de Jardine of Grafik, we return to the topic of AI with our eyes set on the future. As mentioned in part one, many mundane and repetitive tasks are being automated by AI, now taking only seconds. For us, this is great – hopefully clearing up more time for creative exploration or relaxation. But what are the next steps? What kind of tasks do we expect AI to take over next? And how do designers feel about the future impact of AI?
When it comes to the short-term, Vernacular are optimistic but realistic. “Today’s AI is a tool, and albeit a powerful one, it is limited, and our roles as designers are far from obsolete,” they say. “AI necessitates a point of origin, a thought, an idea. It necessitates an editor, a curator, someone who can guide it. It necessitates an endpoint, too – a use for the output, a reason for its imagery. At the moment, it needs us more than we need it.”
AI is best considered another spanner in the creative toolbox.
It’s a thought shared by Grafik’s Nick de Jardine. The New Zealand-based designer and developer points out that, as of July 2023, both text-based large language models and image-based stable diffusion are heavily reliant on human authorship. To achieve a successful outcome, a creative eye and adept understanding of the medium – whether that be ideation, design, copy, or art direction – and subject matter are key. “In this context,” de Jardine adds, “AI is best considered another spanner in the creative toolbox – a powerful one, but one that does not eliminate the need for human creativity and expertise. It's not the AI you should worry about, it's the people who know how to use it effectively that will be taking your job.”
I’m personally feeling positive and excited about these new tools.
Eventually, and inevitably, these tools will become smarter and smarter – “that's how AI develops,” London-based product designer Sekyeon (Seky) Kwon says. “I’m personally feeling positive and excited about these new tools,” and, echoing de Jardine, suggests that some people might feel threatened by these developments.
When we consider the impact of AI in the long term, it’s a much broader picture. “Predicting the long-term effects of AI on the graphic design industry is a steep task,” de Jardine notes. For him, AI should be approached as a tool to enhance creative work, rather than aim to replace human creativity. “As AI evolves,” he continues, “it’s quite possible that it may become a more integral part of the creative process. But even in such a scenario, the human connection – our instinct, sense, feeling, and love – will remain irreplaceable.”
Because of this evolving AI skillset, Vernacular speculate that the industry itself will become much more democratic. “It will be much more accessible for anyone to be able to generate pieces of what we now consider graphic design,” Trabucco-Campos and Azambuja explain. Because of this, they propose that the glass ceiling of industry standards will rise, and foster a more multidisciplinary approach. “This is already something that can be observed in young designers with interest in different areas of design,” they add. In tandem with this, they theorise that a designer’s ‘crafting’ skills will become even more highly prized and respected. “In particular with books,” they note, “which is where our Vernacular project unites us as graphic designers, we understand that they will take on more and more value.”
Where should human intervention happen in the creative process?
Kwon believes that, whilst some jobs will be lost to AI, the creative industry will hopefully be safer than others as long as we stay critical. “It is important for the creative industry to start the conversation about what AI should not do and what the boundaries are,” she tells us. “How much permission can we give AI to make decisions and where should human intervention happen in the creative process?”
Likewise, the topics of authorship and copyright are already beginning to spark conversations, with notable cases of artists and designers having their styles seamlessly replicated and sold. Kwon emphasises that this needs to be discussed by policymakers. “AI outcomes come from the current society that we have created,” she continues. “So I think remaining accountable for what we create and consume as a creative industry – whilst demanding governments and authorities to set rules on AI to protect us – can change how it impacts the industry positively or negatively,” she concludes.