Generative AI is redefining the very essence of creativity. It has already demonstrated an astonishing ability to produce creative output, whether it’s writing music, generating realistic images or crafting eloquent prose. And now, generative AI is starting to enter the world of design as well.
Evolution in the design industry is not new. The introduction of digital software such as Photoshop and other tools were watershed moments for the design industry. But the arrival of AI is portending a profound change to design unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Jobs which were once considered safe, are now being disrupted by the AI revolution. Designers must now learn how to embrace this new technology to stay relevant or risk obsolescence.
The Impact of AI
There’s nothing else that has received more buzz in recent years than AI, specifically generative AI. Any person, designer or not, can now create images with a simple prompt. So what role do designers have in an era when AI empowers people to create work with minimal digital skills?
The most dreaded consequence of AI technology is an unavoidable one: The loss of jobs. But one has to ask what kinds of jobs are being lost. The first kind of work that will be obviated is production design work. This kind of labor is repetitive and usually requires very little creative imagination. As an example, this includes things like resizing banner ads into multiple sizes, creating responsive designs or translating an iOS app into an Android one. Similarly, front-end development will likely start to become dominated by AI as well, because the skills of writing HTML and CSS can easily be adapted for machine learning.
However, the reduction of this type of labor is a welcome one, because it will allow designers to focus their attention on the creative and intellectually difficult work. Production work will be increasingly handled by AI itself. Designers will then serve more as curators than actual pixel pushers. A key hallmark of a designer is being able to solve a business problem by synthesizing a variety of input and generating a solution, which they refine and perfect. The aid of AI will allow designers to do more of this kind of work and more quickly. In effect, AI will act as an accelerant to the evolution of UI and design in the industry.
AI as a Collaborative Partner
Generative AI won’t replace human creativity, at least not right away; instead, it will enhance and extend the designer’s ability to manifest their vision. What this workflow resembles at the moment is having a designer leverage a constellation of different AI tools. They may use one for copy, another one for research and another for visuals. The designer is still the main driver and architect unifying the output of these various tools.
One way that designers are already using generative AI is with design exploration. AI can quickly generate a multitude of design concepts based on specific parameters and constraints. Tools like Midjourney, Dall-E and the like, allow designers to explore a multitude of visuals in a single day. It offers designers a treasure trove of ideas to explore, sparking creativity and innovation.
Content Strategy and Copywriting
Similarly, a designer can ask AI to write UX copy for their designs. In the past, this collaboration happened with a copywriter or content strategist, but increasingly, AI is going to become the principal collaborator in this area. Tools like Relume already leverage AI to automatically generate the copy for a website based on a single prompt.
As a designer starts their discovery process, they can leverage AI to provide a list of competitors, pull up relevant market research and other related information needed to get up to speed on a specific domain. In fact, AI can even write a usability test and draft a moderation script for conducting user research as well.
The Future of AI
Peering past the current state of the technology, the future role of AI promises something truly revolutionary. As capabilities of AI grow and improve, it will not only assist with generating ideas and exploring styles, but also optimizing design at an unprecedented speed and scale. The current state is having a designer stitch together different tools, but it’s not hard to imagine a future where the tools do this automatically, and even go one step further and use data to improve upon the design.
In the future, AI will be able to use A/B testing to automatically iterate on designs and use the best performing variant to build upon. Currently, this work takes multiple people: a data scientist, designer, product manager, etc. However, AI can be built that works towards meeting specific KPIs and autogenerating variants to test.
AI can create personalized design solutions by analyzing user preferences, making it possible to tailor products and user experiences to individual tastes.
AI excels at recognizing patterns and trends, which is invaluable in market analysis and understanding consumer behavior. It can leverage these insights and couple it with design trends to inform its visual output.
AI will be able to take sketches and translate these back-of-napkin drawings into higher fidelity design compositions, reducing the manual effort required in the drafting process.
The Future of Design Professions
While AI can generate designs at an astonishing pace, it lacks the intrinsic understanding of human emotion, culture and context that designers bring to the table. Therefore, the role of designer will never go away completely, but rather it will evolve. While certain routine and repetitive design tasks will become automated, new opportunities will arise:
Design curation: Design professionals will increasingly become curators and creative directors, responsible for guiding AI tools to generate designs that align with specific brand guidelines, cultural contexts and emotional intents.
Ethical consultant: As ethical considerations in AI remain prominent, the designer will need to ensure that AI-generated content is fair, unbiased and respectful of user privacy.
AI training: Designers will be responsible for helping to guide the visual dataset that AI will be trained on. This might be similar to the work that designers do when they create mood boards. They will help classify designs and imagery that feed into the training model.
AI prompting: Designers will need to learn how to give the right input to their AI collaborator in order to ensure the desired output. This is akin to being able to write a well-crafted creative brief. Knowing what information to provide and what constraints to define are going to be critical skill sets for designers in the future.
The Harmonious Future of Design
As we peer into the future of design with generative AI, it’s clear that the creative landscape will never be the same. The fusion of human intuition and AI-driven innovation holds the promise of groundbreaking design solutions. While ethical concerns loom, they also pave the way for a more conscious, responsible and inclusive approach to design.
The key lies in embracing AI as a creative partner, not a replacement, and in harnessing its power to elevate the practice of design. The future of design is not a battle between humans and machines, but a harmonious coexistence where AI empowers us to reach new heights of creativity, innovation and artistic expression. Designers who embark on this journey with an open mind and a commitment to ethical, human-centered design will find themselves at the forefront of this exciting evolution, shaping the future of creativity itself.