This is a special guest post by Tina Phan.

This is a writing experiment between two designers; Yifei Chen and Tina Phan. The two designers agreed on one topic that pertains to the design discipline and wanted to challenge each other’s perspective. This dialog for using artificial intelligence in the design realm serves to inspire collaboration and discussion of our future as designers. This is about showing different perspectives that might not have been considered.

While Yifei and Tina agree that the point of their essay is not to take sides on whether AI will or will not replace designers, they have different stances on how they approach artificial intelligence in the design realm.

Tina Phan’s arguments are below and you can read Yifei Chen’s arguments here.

Tina Phan’s arguments:


Credit to Nathalie Foss

Based on the ongoing research and progress, the future for designers is artificial intelligence. There have been advances in artificial intelligence that have algorithm-driven design websites such as The Grid in which the system generates web design templates to tailor the best design decisions for clients’ needs. The system is far from perfect and the websites generated have received negative criticism.

Rather than approaching the concept of whether artificial intelligence can replace designers, there are actually opportunities for designers to join on the ride. Artificial intelligence is not meant to replace designer’s core values but to enhance them. Why not challenge this stigma against AI? What are the possibilities with AI technology in the design realm?



Core Values

“The designers are still the masters; the AI just scales their efforts,” states Dan Tocchini, the founder of The Grid. Artificial Intelligence enhances the designer’s training and abilities to work on new platforms and frontiers. The process of designing for this system requires an intensive review of the fundamentals of design and designing the system that tells the computer to follow such principles.

It’s hard for us to imagine artificial intelligence can replace lived experience we bring to the projectArtificial Intelligence isn’t the competitor; it is the collaborator. Chen’s argues that “the one thing that is crucial to design is personality” which is the sole factor that makes a design project successful. “It’s hard for us to imagine artificial intelligence can replace lived experience we bring to the project,” she states. Since artificial intelligence doesn’t have complex personality as humans, therefore it cannot generate great design.

However, design isn’t just inexplicable magic; from the way designers generate composition to execute decisions, the success of design is based on certain patterns and algorithms such as the rule of three, the golden ratio, etc. There are reasons and logic as to why designers design the way they do. Personal taste, which is based on an individual’s personality and instinct, can determine the style of the design, but the success of beautiful and meaningful design can be achieved through algorithms, patterns, and principles which artificial intelligence can help facilitate.

Flipboard’s Pages, a news and social media platform, organizes its stories in beautifully crafted layouts that resemble print magazine pages. The pages seems as though designers and editors carefully arranged content and photos personally for the individual consumer, but design layout process was computed by a layout engine system named Duplo which crafts design layouts that are best optimized for storytelling based on considerations of page flow, the grid system, and content composition.

It also utilizes the branch and bound algorithm to discard the layouts that do not yield the optimal fit. Utilizing Duplo and similar artificial intelligence technology in the design process allows the designer to be the curator and the collaboration yields better design results.

AI is a metaphor for form

Designers are taught that form follows functions; that the design revolves around the concept. The idea, concept, and design thinking should always come first; they drive the purpose and story of the project. However, the form challenges designer in the ways we interact. Chen’s argument is that the idea needs to be solid is true in some ways but not entirely.

Using artificial intelligence as the form to communicate the idea, designers can come up with better solutions to communicate the ideas.A designer can yield a brilliant idea but when he or she fails to present the idea to others, then your idea is worthless. Using artificial intelligence as the form to communicate the idea, designers can come up with better solutions to communicate the ideas. The form, existing in forms of interaction design, demands that designers think more creatively and critically to present their concept. At Spotify, a large part of their success with the Discover Weekly playlist feature which was elegantly crafted by interaction designers and engineers who understood the parameters of artificial intelligence and utilized it to its potential to communicate intimacy and personal understanding of the users’ needs and anticipations.

The intent might have been to enhance the music listening experience but Spotify’s big picture aimed at a much more meaningful approach at a global scale. The form that drove the package into execution couldn’t have been possible without the use of artificial intelligence, of algorithms, and of deep learning to facilitate this experience.

The Rule Makers

Designers are the true rule-makers so artificial intelligence must be the rule-making system. In setting up the rules, designers must question why such rules are needed and in retrospect, building and teaching a machine or system design principles makes us better designers. Chen’s argument that “only designers can define what design is” implies that humans are the only masters in which they alone can define the frameworks of design.

If designers fail to grasp and communicate the basic principles of design, then how could they successfully tell a machine or program to execute like them?If designers fail to grasp and communicate the basic principles of design, then how could they successfully tell a machine or program to execute like them? Leigh Taylor took upon himself as an experiment to design a system that would in turn designs for other people. In order to program computers to think like designers, Taylor had to relearn the basic fundamentals of design and translate those design intentions as algorithms. By researching, investigating, and analyzing the reasons behind these principles, designers are able to understand their design methodologies better

Designers are able to grasp a thorough knowledge of the design disciplines and along with artificial intelligence, they can approach problems through different perspectives of frameworks. This method of learning (or relearning) augments how designers view their own philosophies.

Will Artificial Intelligence Remove Designers from the Design Process?

Design process in the future

Augmentation is not the same as automation. Technology relieves us in the repetitive production process so that we are able to generate ideas and participate in the design thinking process. Our jobs will change and this is an opportunity to adapt, to change, to be human. This isn’t a competition but opportunity to grow.

Can you imagine what that future would be like? Humans could have a new working system and unimaginable design jobs in the future. How we frame ourselves within relationship to machines matter so if fear is the foundation, then the perspective revolves around territory and the tension for control. But the potential in machines are limitless to how we not only use them as tools. They enable designers to interact differently. They allow contribution to the collective human intelligence.


If anything, this essay serves to encourage designers as amateurs, as students, as professionals, as practitioners to embrace change and to be open to possibilities to artificial intelligence.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know by sharing your thoughts down below in the comments.

Tina Phan’s post originally appeared on Towards Data Science. You can learn more about Tina and her work by visiting her website here.

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Posted by Dirk Dallas

Dirk Dallas holds an M.F.A in Graphic Design and Visual Experience from Savannah College of Art and Design. In addition to being a designer, he is also a writer, speaker, educator & the founder of CreativeFuture & From Where I Drone. See what he is up to over on Twitter via @dirka.

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