🤖Will AI Replace Designers? Here’s What Businesses Need to Know

Ever since the Luddite movement of the early 1800s, there have been many (often legitimate) concerns about technology taking over people’s jobs and livelihoods.

Though historically, manual and repetitive jobs have been most at risk, the rise of artificial intelligence is often touted as a real threat to jobs of all kinds – even those in creative fields like design and marketing.

But will computers realistically put designers out of work? What does the rise of artificial intelligence mean for those who outsource design work? Let’s delve deeper.

What is AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

Artificial Intelligence is a concept within computer science where machines are developed to emulate natural human intelligence, mimicking mental skills like problem solving, learning, and memory.

Some “entry level” examples of AI are already being used in homes and businesses, such as voice-operated smart speakers (such as Amazon Echo) and online chatbots (through services like Intercom). One hotly debated application of AI technology on the horizon is that of “self-driving” cars which make autonomous decisions based on traffic activity and road conditions.

What Can’t Artificial Intelligence Do?

Though there is a lot of trepidation surrounding machine intelligence, there are some rather significant things that machines can’t do independently – most notably surrounding any kind of creative work.

Artificial intelligence tools cannot be creative in the same way humans are. Random inspiration and “eureka!” moments are totally illogical from a computer science perspective. Human inventiveness can create something out of seemingly nothing but AI relies on set parameters and input in order to create anything. Machines also struggle to interpret art and design like a human can, nor can they offer constructive, meaningful criticism.

However AI’s main downfall in creative fields comes from its inherently mechanical nature. Even the most well-programmed machines can’t second-guess feelings or emotional responses. They can’t grasp societal or cultural nuances like a person can. They can’t make moral choices. Machines can’t even crack a good joke or deliver bad news with tact, humility, and reverence.

This makes AI useless at the very human tasks of establishing trust and making people feel heard. Both are essential characteristics for any marketer.

What is AI Good At?

Though machines fail at nuanced human interaction, they’re incredibly useful for logical and mechanical tasks. This presents all industries with the opportunity to offload the more repetitive, laborious, and mundane parts of their working day, giving more time to focus on high-level, cerebral tasks like creativity and strategy. Human workers may even be able to enjoy more downtime without affecting basic productivity.

But artificial intelligence can help us with more complex work too. Machines are excellent at juggling numerous variables to come to a totally logical decision, without fallible human errors or biases. They’re also great at behavioural pattern recognition, making them great for security applications and content distribution algorithms.

Perhaps the most applicable benefit to designers and marketers is that AI is great at creating logical variations based on set parameters and data.

What Does This Mean for Business as a Whole?

AI’s level-headed, unemotional input presents interesting prospects for businesses of all kinds. Having a machine available to weigh up the plain facts of a legal issue, financial decision, medical diagnosis, or security concern could change – even save – lives.

AI and machine learning are still very much in their infancy, but we’re already seeing positive statistics about the uptake of artificial intelligence. We know that AI adoption is on the rise, with Gartner reporting that 37% of organisations have implemented some kind of AI as of 2019 – a 270% increase over the previous 4 years. EverString and Heinz Marketing found that 59% of B2B marketers expect AI to help them identify prospects and that 71% are interested in using AI for marketing personalisation. A 2017 PwC study suggests that AI has the potential to contribute 15.7 trillion US Dollars to the global economy by 2030.

How Might AI Affect Creative Industries?

So what does the rise of artificial intelligence mean for designers and those who use their services? It’s impossible to make concrete predictions, but we know that jobs in all industries will change as AI becomes a part of daily life.

Because machines aren’t very good at creativity or empathy, it’s likely that humans will still rule the roost in creative industries; especially those that involve application of psychology, emotion, and empathy. This means that marketers are relatively safe.

However this doesn’t mean that design and marketing agencies won’t be a part of the AI revolution – far from it. Machines may become essential assistants and collaborators. Designers could task machines with easy-but-tiresome basics, such as sourcing images, implementing colour schemes across multiple documents, placing the copy, and making basic typography and layout decisions – jobs that many agencies would delegate to a junior creative. Machines are also good at producing variations within set parameters, so AI assistants may also be able to create a few embryonic ideas for the human designer to choose from.

Once the “automated creative” has done their work, the skilled human designer can come and put the literal human touches to the design – this may be as simple as a bit of “tidying up” if the AI is particularly good at its job. For simpler projects, this may eliminate the need for companies to outsource to designers at all; they could purchase the AI design software and carry out the whole process in-house. However this is all speculation – the best design AIs may be off-limits to non-designers, and more complex or nuanced work will probably still need input from a trained human eye.

This concept of getting a computer to do the groundwork so a human to come in and complete the project may become quite mainstream; not just for designers, but for copywriters, brand designers, social media managers, and more. In fact, those in fields like medicine, finance, and law may also find themselves working to a similar routine – setting AI to a task and then applying human judgement and critical thinking to the output.

This will likely reduce turnaround time in most cases – in turn increasing customer satisfaction and potential revenue. Letting artificial intelligence perform the “donkey work” will leave time for senior designers to come up with big picture ideas, ready to apply them to the design output by the AI.

However, this isn’t to say that managers don’t have a challenge ahead of them. Just as anyone has to learn how to manage people when taking on staff, managers of the future will need to develop an understanding of machine intelligence in order to “manage” their own AI software. Just as with human personnel, management will have to learn an artificially intelligent system’s foibles and work with (or sometimes around) any problem areas.

It’s likely that all companies will incorporate a balance of both human and mechanical talent. One of the most crucial tests will come when human creatives and AIs work together on long-term projects. How exactly will managers keep man and machine on the same page? Time will tell.

In Conclusion

AI technology will be incredibly useful across a range of industries. Where jobs are menial and repetitive, machines will excel; but where creative work is concerned, the relationship between companies and computerised intelligence will be more complicated.

It should go without saying that the soft skills of human empathy and interaction will never be squeezed into a rigid, unfeeling algorithm. A machine will never experience “life’s rich tapestry” like we humans can, so it will never be able to approach problems with any kind of emotion or morality.

In terms of the risks that artificial intelligence presents to jobs and the working world, as long as we are willing to change and gather new skills, we will absolutely be able to work harmoniously alongside AI tools. Machines will take tedious tasks off our hands so we can focus on the more worthwhile, cerebral work.

But say what you like about machine learning – it’s a wonderful tool, but it’ll never replace good old fashioned creativity and ingenuity.

Hopefully our take has left you feeling optimistic for the future. In the meantime, if you’re looking to collaborate with a reliable graphic design agency, look no further than OLCO Design. Our team have a wealth of experience in a range of industries; all of our design work is carried out in-house by skilled human designers (for now…). Want a free consultation? Get in touch with the team by emailing hello@olcodesign.com or calling us on 0330 223 1193.

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