If you pause for a moment and look around, it is safe to say that artificial intelligence (AI) is at work in some capacity in your immediate vicinity.
From the software that gives you personalized Amazon and Netflix recommendations, to software that drives cars and flies airplanes, to the smart-device that powers your voice-controlled personal assistant that is likely within three feet of you right now, AI is now ubiquitous.
Once thought to just be the work of science fiction, AI has ushered us into a new world that demands graphic designers consider new ways of thinking and working. The old methods that worked in the days of desktop publishing are numbered. That is why designers should carefully consider the effects and implications of this AI revolution on the field and what value they can bring to the table.
Despite all the fear of people being replaced by automation, humans experienced in creative domains will play a vital role in the future of creative work, not only determining what problems to work on and how, but also teaching, leading, guiding and evaluating AI systems and their outcomes. Graphic designers who understand what the field of AI is currently capable of and who understand their own changing roles should be willing to adapt and harness their creative skill sets in new ways to ride the wave into the next era of what it means to design.
In a world of smart machines powered by AI, what is the real value of a designer?Historically people have not considered computers as having the capacity for creativity because computers perform programmed, logical tasks. However, in the last decade, significant progress in AI has proven otherwise. With breakthroughs in machine learning, bringing all types of sectors, fields, and markets, including design, into the fourth industrial revolution, AI shows great promise.
No longer a fringe activity stowed away in computer science labs, AI can now draw, paint, compose music, edit videos, as well as design websites, logos, and advertisements. In the creative fields, AI now shows promise for handling many of the tedious, repetitive, and technical tasks that pull designers away from focusing on the bigger picture. As a result, AI is going to augment and enhance many of the steps in a designer’s process from ideating to making and testing their designs.
However, the question remains: in a world of smart machines powered by AI, what is the real value of a graphic designer? It will no longer be enough for graphic designers to just solve problems and create solutions by mastering form-making and content skills. Graphic designers must refocus their creativity by honing and developing better problem finding and problem framing processes and develop better human-centered, experience-driven, systems-thinking skills that can direct and augment AI.
Klaus Schwab, the founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, believes society is entering what he calls “the fourth industrial revolution,” which will fundamentally alter how we live and work. Schwab claims in his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution that every company in every industry will see dramatic effects from this coming wave of disruption. The takeaway is that it is hard to predict precisely when or how AI and automation will change things, but one thing for sure is that disruption is coming. In the market today, we are already seeing compelling signs of its significance.
This is the time for graphic designers to take a moment to pause and reflect on what value a designer has at their core.The goal of this website, CreativeFuture.co, is to increase awareness of the AI revolution by providing designers and creatives alike with an overview of where and how AI is currently used in the creative fields. Through this website I explore how designers might work in the future by analyzing the opportunities and challenges AI poses to the design field in the coming years.
I also use this website to propose suggestions for how to best adapt so that designers can better prepare for a future that I think looks radically different than from just a few years ago. I believe that this is the time for graphic designers to take a moment to pause and reflect on what value a designer has at their core, and then consider how to harness the smart AI tools that are now available to help bring even more creativity, care and value to the people they are designing for.
Designers who subscribe to the idea that design is embedded and rooted in all disciplines and sectors, and who see design as something continually evolving, should see this as an opportunity to ride the wave and not get swept away by it. Change can be hard, especially for those who have a long established history in the traditional ways of doing things, but history has shown that those who are open to change and who approach it with an optimistic outlook are the ones who stand to reap the most benefits.
It is imperative that the fourth industrial revolution is human-centered and human-focused
With all the excitement (looking at you Mark Zukerberg & Ray Kurzweil) and fear (looking at you Elon Musk & Stephen Hawking) related to AI and automation, it is imperative that the fourth industrial revolution is human-centered and human-focused. It should lead people down a positive and life-enhancing path, one which requires designers who are already well-experienced with the human-centered skill set to be part of shaping that future.
All the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 yearsMuch is being written about automation and how millions of jobs will soon disappear because of advances in AI. The most commonly cited study regarding AI’s and automation’s impact was issued by researchers at the University of Oxford. The study predicts that, in the next few decades, almost half of all U.S. jobs are in danger of being replaced by smart computers (Picchi).
Another study, from the McKinsey Global Institute, looked at over 2,000 work-related activities from 800 different occupations. Using statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, they developed models for making predictions about automation. From this research, McKinsey found that 45 percent of jobs have significant percentages of their activities that could be automated. The researchers predicted that by 2030, between 400 million to 800 million jobs worldwide could be automated.
Other studies from Forrester, Gartner, and the World Economic Forum corroborate the findings that automation is going to radically change how work is done today, although the number of jobs that will be created and destroyed and when this could all happen vary. These studies all predict that automation is going to wipe out large numbers of jobs that are logical, routine, repetitive, and predictable.
Yet, with all the fears about automation taking jobs, it is not surprising to find that those working in creative fields are puzzled as to what impact automation might have on their jobs. In 2017, Adobe conducted a study that surveyed 600 creative workers at agencies in the United States, and almost half of creative practitioners and senior level creatives had pessimistic prognoses about AI and foresaw automation taking over their job responsibilities in the next five to ten years.
Fearing AI’s unknown outcomes is why it is critical for designers to join the conversation, rethink, and redesign how they might use innovations in AI to bring about interesting, unique, engaging, novel, and creative results. AI affords designers with an immense opportunity to discover unrealized opportunities and possibilities in their creative workAI affords designers with an immense opportunity to no longer look to the past to see how AI might fit into the present day design mold, but to instead see the possibilities that can be explored when designers combine their strengths with the power of AI. Now, at the start of the revolution, designers can begin to consider new ways of working, new roles, jobs, and the ability to design experiences that go far beyond their history of communication, content and form-making.
Designers should care about the coming changes to the field of design because AI is going to radically change the way in which they work. As AI increases in its intelligence, capabilities and prevalence, designers will either get left behind or be ready to tackle the challenge. This is why designers should start by learning more about AI, what it is, and why its disruption is worth examining.
Learn more about what artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning is via my post A Graphic Designers Guide To Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning & Deep Learning.
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