Editor’s Note: Artificial intelligence continues to both excite and frighten people in the Insights industry, sometimes at the same time. At the same time, Design also has become more critical for the insights industry, as we focus on better storytelling. The mix of AI and Design is an interesting topic, and Sophie Grieve-Williams writes passionately about the benefits that AI can bring designers, and why some of the fears may be misplaced.
Now is a fantastic time to be part of a design team; we have so much technology at our fingertips that afford us a significant amount of creative freedom. But, just as design has progressed from the printing press to the computer screen, our profession is due for an update, similar to the one that the market research industry is also currently experiencing. Thoughts on this matter seem to run in polar opposites, from positive to downright fearful. Here are three reasons that designers should embrace artificial intelligence with open arms, based on my observations of the insights industry:
1. Design is Fluid
As a fluid industry, we move with the latest technological advancements, and each step helps us improve our efficiency. We become faster at our jobs and better suited to the demands of today’s society. Artificial intelligence may seem like a jump; however, we are already seeing the benefits of machine learning (ML) in a number of fields.
Companies are slowly entrusting basic design tasks to AI, such as The Grid – which was one of the first machine learning-based website builders to emerge. It provides users with auto-generated websites layouts in minutes; just add content. This works well for those who need a quick fix, leaving designers free to work on more complex and creative tasks. This is something that can already be observed in the research industry; as automated survey and sampling tools are speeding up tedious tasks without impeding on the creative freedoms of insights professionals.
2. AI Will Not Replace You
Part of the push-back for AI is based on the assumption that jobs will become redundant if we bring artificial intelligence into the industry. However, what we need to see is that technological development is inevitable, and the steps already made have only enhanced the industry, not hindered it. What AI will replace are the mundane, repetitive tasks that take up so much time in our processes. If we can cut out the menial tasks and riff-raff, it leaves us more room for creativity, focus, and exploration of design. The use of AI is about optimization and speed, not about getting rid of human elements. Your job role will be safe, but may simply change and adapt to the times; as it always has, and will. Proof of this can be seen across the Market Research sector; where we used to have physical help chats on websites, we now see a rise in automated chatbots; this leaves researchers with tasks that require more cognitive function and who can, therefore, perform these tasks to a higher standard.
Our own history shows us how we adapt to the changing times. We evolve and learn. Enhancing how we produce our work, the means of optimizing our industry, and our way of living. The development of agriculture did not bring about the end of days for hunter-gatherers, and the industrial revolution did not cause Armageddon. American economist and professor of economics, David Autor, raised this subject in his 2016 TED Talk: With each new technological innovation over the last 200 years, there has been the same debate about whether machines will take over from humans. And yet this dystopian scenario has yet to materialize. In fact, innovation has a net positive impact on economic growth and employment, especially in the market research industry.
Though it is safe to say that AI will cause a large shift, moving from linear computing systems to more cognitive and human-like technologies; this will simply replace specific tasks, skills, and activities. For example, recruiters no longer have to focus so much energy on the recruitment side, as this is something that can be undertaken by AI; instead, they can focus on forging trust and relationships with the clients. AI may take our jobs as we know them now, but this will just give way to new and better opportunities for everyone, and the processes we use will be vastly more productive and economic.
3. Design May Not Be Subjective, But Viewpoint Is
Design is the process of communicating a message effectively; the artistry is where graphic designers come in. It is about giving the audience the message in a style that our client wants. And when it comes to artificial intelligence, it is great for certain processes, but from a science, research and art perspective it becomes shallow and uninformative. In order to utilize AI in the design industry, we need to take a leaf out of the market research world and create a balance of old processes, new AI, and our own social intelligence in order to provide the most effective outcomes.
As an extension of this, there will always be clients or companies looking for a cheap, quick design fix; AI is perfect for this and lets designers focus on tasks that require more thought-potential as well as the clients who want a deeper understanding behind their designs. As viewpoint is subjective, the design industry is broad enough to expand to accommodate all preferences, be it augmented or human. AI helps streamline the processes so that we as designers can focus our efforts on creative endeavors that require a more natural or emotional response. In a strange way, the introduction of AI will, in fact, make our work much more ‘human’ yet the response to it will be as subjective as ever. This is much like the fact that Machine Learning and AI can be used to obtain the data and predictions for market research, yet lack the insight factor, paving a way for more in-depth insight to be handled by researchers.
We Should Strive for Balance
In an essay about his science fiction, writer Isaac Asimov reflected that “It became very common to picture robots as dangerous devices that invariably destroyed their creators.” And we can see that today; some excitement about AI has been tempered by concerns about potential downsides. Although it is very unlikely that machines will exhibit broadly-applicable intelligence comparable to, or exceeding that of humans in the next 20 years, we can expect that machines will reach and exceed human performance on more and more tasks.
But as Asimov concludes in his essay, “I could not bring myself to believe that if knowledge presented danger, the solution was ignorance. To me, it always seemed that the solution had to be wisdom. You did not refuse to look at danger, rather you learned how to handle it safely.” Undoubtedly, the future for artificial intelligence should be handled with intellectual curiosity, caution, and collaboration, and as such, should be welcomed gloriously into graphic design as it is currently in market research.