Interest in Artificial Intelligence is growing rapidly across every industry. With the announcement of the UK’s new National AI Strategy, that aims to make the UK a global AI superpower and responsible for driving economic growth and innovative business transformation, organisations are exploring ways that AI can be implemented and leveraged to improve operational efficiency, reduce waste, increase revenue, and drive scalability. A consistent theme in the application of AI throughout different industries comes in the form of augmenting and automating the ways in which organisations design their products.
Every industry has some element of design to it. Design is responsible for shaping the product, services, physical and virtual environments we interact with every day. Japan’s skyscrapers are designed to save lives and mitigate damage by moving with the ground in the event of an earthquake. Formula 1 engines are designed to be as effective and lightweight as possible. Even Pepsi’s logo came about through a rigorous $1 million design process!
Great design can make our lives easier through seamless experiences and creating positive emotions, while poor design can create confusion, stress and inefficiency. The process of designing has always been a role fulfilled entirely by humans. But technologies such as AI are challenging the once-certain role that humans play in design, which begs the question:
Will AI Make Human Designers Redundant?
With every new technology, the familiar concern comes to mind – what will this mean for humans? Will it make us obsolete? While AI has the potential to shake up the familiar role of human designers, these tools are ultimately made to augment and optimise the workplace, not remove humans from it. By adopting AI into the design process, as seen in many other areas that technology has previously transformed, we will likely see a shift in the role of humans in the design process and the types of tasks we need to perform. Here are some of the ways AI will change the future role for humans in design:
- Keeping a Focus on Creativity:
Creativity is a fundamental part of design. From the tallest buildings to the smallest mechanisms of our devices, everything in the man-made world was guided by a human with the creative capacity to envision it. While this aspect is important, realising a creative vision is far more complicated than the ideation stage. Particularly in areas such as construction, engineering and manufacturing, designers need to ensure their ideas work in practice, are structurally sound, safe, compliant with industry standards. These regulatory aspects, while essential and vital, take visionaries away from the creative process, instead using their time to manage important yet administrative aspects of the design process.
AI can automate the less creative, regulatory aspects of the design process, liberating designers’ time and energy to focus on what they’re uniquely skilled to do. New AI tools are constantly being developed across industries that manage the monotonous tasks involved in creative design. One example is DAISY AI, the AI-powered platform that automates the design of timber floors for construction projects. Daisy helps to reduce costs and material wastage, improve sustainability of the construction industry, and makes it easier for construction companies to work with timber. By using AI to generate and validate the structural requirements, human designers can focus on the aesthetic aspect of architecture while simultaneously ensuring their designs are structurally feasible quickly and easily. By using tools like DAISY, designers can utilise their time for creative endeavours while ensuring their work is sound with industry regulations.
In the future, AI will enable designs to be closer to the heart of the design process. AI and designers will work in partnership to ensure their ideas and visions are viable quickly, effectively, and to a high standard.
- Bridging the Gap Between Vision and Execution:
Execution is the greatest obstacle in bringing a creative vision to reality. Not every person with an idea has the skills required to execute their vision: it’s one thing to imagine the perfect logo for your brand, it’s another to have the skills in graphic design to bring it to life, or even be able to express to someone with those skills what you’re trying to achieve. Because of this, designers are left with the difficult task of interpreting client’s creative ideas and attempting to translate them into a concept. This process is iterative and involves creating multiple drafts for similar ideas, which is repetitive, monotonous, time consuming and resource intensive.
AI can help to remove the monotony of drafting concepts and help designers translate ideas into concepts quickly and easily. Tools like Wombo Dream, an AI-art generation tool, allows designers to communicate their clients' needs into a written ‘prompt’ which is then translated into a visual representation. Designers can use these translated graphics as a basis for the client’s vision, altering design plans based on feedback of preferences. These tools can help designers better understand the client needs, avoid misunderstanding, and execute projects faster.
- Better Understanding User Preferences for Creative Decisions:
Every design choice is made with an intention in mind based on some understanding of a purpose and the user. In some instances, design may have a more aesthetic purpose, while in other times the imperative will be practical and functional. Often, it’s a combination of these two design philosophies but it’s not always clear how to balance both variables in the creative process. For example, a website layout can look nice, but if users find the design difficult to interact with or a confusing user journey results in a negative user experience, it ultimately fails to serve its purpose. Designers are tasked with devising the most effective way to balance these two requirements to best meet the needs of their clients.
AI can augment this process by providing designers with informed insights of user journeys and preferences, which can aid them in making design choices. Continuing with the website example, by utilising data on user preferences, AI tools can help designers better understand the best creative decisions to channel into design. For example, by collecting data on session duration, bounce rate, and other aspects of an organisation’s website, an AI tool can identify patterns within the data to offer insights into what design choices are working well or causing friction points on-site. These data-driven insights would then allow designers to make informed choices as to which features may be effective for user retention on-site, and what changes can be made to improve user experience. By using these data-driven insights on user’s preferences, designers can make informed decisions on design choices that benefit both users and the business.
What are the limits of this technology?
While AI can augment designers in the workplace, there are limits to the tasks that AI can automate within the role, meaning that humans will remain a necessary part of the process. As with any tool, someone must wield and guide it: design tools rely on a human’s creative input and these tools become ineffective and lack utility without a human intent to guide their use. Wombo dream can generate impressive graphic concepts, but still requires a human to ‘guide’ the tool with preferences of what to create. There are also limits as to what aspects of design can be reflected within data, especially when it comes to aesthetic preferences. Just because a design is functional and works, does not mean that it contains the visual appeal that a client or user's desire. Because of this, the ability for humans to interpret, contextualise, modify, and apply AI solutions for their real-world applications becomes an integral step in the process between starting point and end-product. As such, the scope of tasks that AI can fulfil within the design role is incomplete, leaving an essential role for humans to fulfil within design in the future.
By adopting AI into the design process, designers will see a drastic shift in the way their role operates. These tools will undoubtedly disrupt and change the way the role looks, but this change is ultimately for the benefit of humans, not detriment. Using new and innovative tools, both designers and organisations will be able to unlock the benefits of speed, efficiency, productivity, and profitability in their design process. Non-AI tools such as graphic tablets, or even photoshop programmes, have had similarly positive impacts through augmenting humans’ ability to bring creative visions to life. In the same way, a future of Artificial intelligence in design is one that is streamlined, effective, and high-quality, while ultimately still centred around the human designer.
Written by Joseph Myler