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You’ve heard of artificial intelligence, but how about artificial creativity? With state of the art AI now capable of producing custom designs, it’s time to explore the evolution of creative AI and what it means for the future of Graphic Design.
The possibilities of AI have recently progressed at an astonishing rate, fuelling a heated design debate that’s become hard to ignore.
While the majority of the public has been wowed by AI’s latest advances, some are fretting over the long-term prospects of their profession, fearing tech’s capabilities might soon make some roles redundant.
Anxiety about AI’s impact has historically been less prominent in creative fields, where designers have been reassured by the assumption that “creativity can never be automated”.
The situation for design professionals has now become more complicated, with AI demonstrating the capacity to quickly and cheaply churn out high quality design collateral.
Traditionally, AI was used by companies to carry out mundane, repetitive tasks. Now, it’s responsible for ‘dreaming up’ bright new ideas and pushing the boundaries of visual creativity.
How has AI reached its position as a state of the art ‘creator’? Moreover, what do the newfound possibilities of AI mean for the future of Graphic Design?
As you probably already know, the concept of AI is nothing new. AI was first introduced in 1956 when Marvin Minsky started programming computer algorithms to function like the human brain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Another milestone was reached in 1959, when IBM coder Arthur Samuel coined the phrase ‘machine learning’ while reporting that his latest computer program could “learn to play a better game of checkers than that of the person who wrote the program”.
Using an early iteration of neural networking, Samuel’s algorithms were able to classify data and make choices about what to do with further data based on past experiences (which sounds an awful lot like thinking!).
However, before anyone would dare claim AI could ‘think creatively’, significant progress needed to be made with machine learning’s ability to make informed design choices.
British painter and University of California professor Harold Cohen began creating AI artworks in 1973. Cohen produced his digital art using an AI program called AARON, which was also powered by neural networking algorithms.
By the 1980s, Cohen’s AI art was of a high enough standard to be entered into the Venice Biennale where his pieces hung beside the works of modern greats like David Hockney and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In art and design circles, Cohen’s work featuring at an international art festival caused controversy, and traditionalists even disputed if the artworks could truly be considered Cohen’s. Was it his art, or a computer’s? The situation only became more complex when Cohen clarified how AI assisted him in his creative process.
Harold Cohen, exhibiting his AI artworks at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1979.
AARON generated Cohen’s artworks by processing the images the artist input into its database. The program’s neural networks scanned the characteristics of the images and classified them according to certain visual properties.
AARON’s AI then combined different components of the images in its database to form new images, based on a set of instructions which were written in code by Cohen. Ultimately, this process is similar to an artist or designer producing work in response to a brief.
In the decades since Cohen started producing AI art with AARON, how neural networking is used for design purposes has remained fundamentally unchanged. What has changed is the sophistication of the designs AI is able to produce.
While Cohen’s artworks were essentially amalgams of pre-existing images, modern AI combines neural networks with integrated design tools to create completely new images. It takes influence from other visual examples, just as any human designer does, but its final output is a true original.
So, AI can now produce unique, customised graphic designs in less time than it takes to pick up a pencil and pad. All this begs the question, where do professional designers go from here?
While many people are celebrating AI’s newfound design uses, others are meeting them with fierce resistance, claiming tech should assist human productivity and not replace it. This kind of response is nothing new, with suspicions about the negative implications of tech innovations being a historical norm.
When photography was first developed at the end of the 19th century, many feared it would replace the much loved traditions of landscape and portrait art. However, older artforms have survived the advent of photography, cinema, television and, more recently, spreadable media.
Understandably, among those closely following creative AI advances are Graphic Designers. Many in the profession believe AI will make it easy for companies to produce visual content, leading to reduced demand for their services and slimmer employment opportunities.
However, it’s difficult to envisage an industry in which employers, clients and other stakeholders don’t want to have conversations with human beings in order to ensure their design ideas are properly realised. With this in mind, it seems likely the demand for Graphic Designers will remain strong even with the evolution of AI.
Graphic Design industry leaders are optimistic about AI’s possibilities, which they believe will complement the roles of professional creatives, rather than replacing them.
The CEO of design firm Coudal Partners Jim Coudal claims “the idea is about bringing in more human elements. Designers can use their time to make important creative choices and fine-tune the aesthetics, while using machine-based processes for any lower-thought tasks”.
As Coudal suggests, designers who want to strategically benefit from AI will treat it as a functional tool that can automate parts of the job they find tedious or unnecessarily time consuming.
For those who fully embrace AI, it will be viewed as a creative copilot, allowed to produce large parts of a design so an artistic vision can quickly take flight.
Decisions concerning which parts of a design to automate and whether or not to use AI produced elements in the final design will all be made by a trained professional, meaning projects will always be steered by a human Graphic Designer.
For anyone aiming to flourish in design industries, rather than resisting AI, finding ways to incorporate it into their creative process will be the key to success and longevity.
If enough designers adopt this mindset, the fusion of AI and Graphic Design could become the perfect illustration of how tech innovations can positively enhance human creativity, without ever threatening to replace it.
At Academy Xi, we offer flexible study options in Graphic Design that will suit your lifestyle and training needs, providing you with the perfect foundation for your future as a Graphic Designer.
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If you have any questions, our experienced team is here to discuss your training options. Speak to a course advisor and take the first steps in your Graphic Design journey.