Nearly every industry you can think of has seen the benefits of automation. We live in an age where many physically demanding, dangerous or downright dull tasks can now be done at speed and often with fewer mistakes by a machine.
Experimenting with the concept has always been a big part of our ethos at Moving Brands, going back to when I helped found the company nearly 20 years ago. We have constantly used new technologies, media and materials to further our work – and we see machine learning and artificial intelligence (along with virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality) as part of the new toolbox.
But discuss it in relation to design and you will likely face a wall of resistance, with many designers holding onto the notion that creativity can only be done by a human, that machines can’t make the leap into the creative process, and that the creativity of humans is beyond being mechanized. But even in healthcare, another profession on the cusp of becoming more automated and with people’s lives at stake, it has been largely welcomed, with many seeing it as a way to increase efficiency and improve patient outcomes.
Are creativity and artistic flair such magical concepts that they exist outside of algorithms? Could it be that the characteristics we associate with the act of designing and creativity are not easily translated into computer languages? Qualities like cultural awareness, knowing how to evoke an emotion, aesthetic awareness, linking design to strategy or understanding the nuances of shape and color are difficult to instill in other humans (or at least their interest in such things), let alone machines.
Artificial intuition is the closest we’ve come to giving computers consciousness, though it is still vastly different from our own thought patterns. Machines are capable of processing huge quantities of data, yet they appear to make heavy work of grasping feelings like humor, wit or sadness.
So the resistance to let machines “create” is understandable. Still, there is no escaping the fact that many design processes are time-consuming and repetitive. It is better to eliminate these as much as possible and concentrate on generating new ideas and fresh ways of thinking.
Doubts about automation often come down to the fact that it could kill off jobs as we have seen in sectors like manufacturing and retail. Would AI and machine learning pose a threat to the livelihood of the nearly quarter of a million graphic designers currently working in the U.S.? Or will it change our definition of what a designer is?
The more optimistic voices in the industry, myself included, see it as a way of fueling creativity rather than simply rendering skills redundant. We see it as a future where designers have more time to be creative and less time performing the repetitive and time-consuming tasks of design by harnessing and using AI and VR to come up with exciting and immersive creativity to enhance brands, products and services.
In order to survive in this world of new realities, designers need to embrace as many new techniques and ideas as possible. Any designers who do not will most likely find themselves superseded by design automation and AI put to task on design.