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Why Creative Designers Shouldn’t Fear The AI Revolution

It’s not going to swoop in and steal your job, okay?

Artificial Intelligence is making its way into our lives and businesses every single day, which means it's time to adapt.

With discussions of ChatGPT, Dall-E 2 and the rise of AI peppering the internet of late, it's raised a valuable question: If AI can produce an article, a graphic, or even a full research paper within just a matter of minutes, what is to say that it won't render the creative industries workforce obsolete? Whilst there is no simple, straightforward answer, and nobody can predict the future, there's a lot to be said about the power of human output.

According to IBIS World, there are currently more than 400,000 graphic designers employed worldwide. That figure has increased steadily since 2020 when the pandemic caused a global shift in the job market and the future of working changed completely. But in the last six months, discussions around the use of AI within the creative industries have spiralled about its possibilities, and people – specifically creatives – are naturally concerned.

However, they needn’t be. Without a doubt, AI is changing the way we make art and, in some cases, even consume it, but this new technology has its limitations. As with any new technological trend, industry leaders are keen to keep up, but it’s not time to hang up the Apple Pencil just yet.

Want to be let in on a little secret that your most-used services haven’t told you? You're already using AI and have been for some time. It's powered many of your favourite creative tools; Adobe openly declares that it uses a combination of AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning) and DL (deep learning) techniques within its popular product range, but I bet you’ve never stopped to wonder how it does so.

The way that artificial intelligence works is incredibly complex. Fundamentally, and in its simplest form, this technology operates by blending sophisticated, intelligent software with unique, personal imagination. Before the final product is delivered onto our screens – sometimes in a matter of seconds – there are several stages of algorithmic filing taking place that we as users never get to see.

AI trawls the web’s databases to find existing content of a similar subject, pulling relevant aspects to enhance or craft the final project. And there’s a keyword in that last sentence upholding the crux of this entire discussion: enhance. Creative design, whether that be through traditional art, graphic design, visual illustration, or any other format for that matter is a form that cannot be replaced. It relies on personal creativity, imagination, flare, and ultimately talent, to bring an idea to life in a way that resonates with an audience.

An AI tool such as Dall-E 2 cannot deliver a piece that is as authentic or meaningful as something from the human mind, however hard its algorithm tries.

What it can do, however, is simplify and enhance certain creative processes. Now instinctively, this may make you question yourself. How can I be considered a ‘creative’ if I’m using AI software to do the work for me? By viewing AI as a third-party to your work rather than a threat, the software can aid in delivering greater output in significantly less time. Creatives will be able to focus on what matters most, as machines handle the dull and monotonous tasks that currently consume working hours. And, as the industry finds its feet with the AI revolution and its role in visual art, far from being replaced, designers will find themselves of even greater value and in even greater demand.

In 2017, Nutella dipped its finger into the machine-learning world with its Nutella Unica campaign. With every jar came a new design, and no two products in the range were the same. Through unique programming, the AI-based algorithm developed more than seven million designs to go on each iconic jar. Each received its own unique code to verify its individuality, and with varying colour combinations, patterns and styles and prints, the brand was able to deliver a unique experience to every single one of its customers. It might (or might not) be a shock to hear that all seven million jars flew off the Italian shelves within just 30 days of their release, but this interesting experiment didn’t put Nutella’s core design team out of work. And that’s the important message. Not even seven million sales could outweigh the value of its in-house designers.

(Video about the campaign:

The Nutella Unica campaign is one in a long line of examples of AI’s use in modern design and branding, and there are many more out there if you want to discover them for yourself.

But let’s remember the core concern in this discussion: “Is my job secure with the AI revolution happening around me?”

AI boasts several incredible benefits for the workforce, which at present, are overlooked in fear of what the future holds. Streamlining processes, saving time, and alleviating monotonous tasks are just the tip of the iceberg. Even at the stage that artificial intelligence is now, it can help with that and more. Whether it’s copywriting, logo creation, ideation, or photo editing, there’s an open-source AI programme waiting to dig its teeth into the task at hand. But it’s important to note that AI will never be able to replicate the creativity and intuition that real creatives bring to the table. That is why your job is secure.

Ultimately, the ongoing AI revolution is not something that creatives should be concerned about. This powerful tool is still in its infancy and will require fine-tweaking for many months or even years to come before it stands somewhat close to the quality of real, human-generated work. And even after that, who knows? Perhaps the industry will have bucked the trend and realised the value of authentic creativity again. This revolution doesn’t have to pull the rug from right beneath your feet, as long as you don’t let it.

Words: Issy Aldridge