Is A.I. Going to Take My Job?

September 6, 2023
7 min read

There’s a lot of talk about A.I. at the moment and it can all feel a little overwhelming–maybe even boring. I don’t want to add to the ever-growing pile of A.I.-anxiety…but I have to say I’ve been wondering lately: is A.I. going to take over my job as a designer? I’ve been avoiding Googling it because, well, I don’t want to know. But it’s probably good to be prepared–and knowledge is power, as they say–so I thought I’d force myself to look into it finally (and what better way than by writing a blog).

I thought the best place to begin would be to ask A.I. itself. A reliable source, no? I made a beeline for ChatGPT and asked the perhaps overly simplistic question: “Will A.I. take over design jobs?” I immediately received an almost 400 word response, which I won’t paste here in its entirety, but the summary read: 

“AI is more likely to complement and augment the work of designers rather than completely replace them. The future of design is likely to involve a collaboration between human designers and AI tools, where AI assists in various aspects of the design process, leaving the human designers to bring their creativity, empathy, and intuition to the forefront.”

I have to say, I was reassured. I liked this idea that A.I. could perhaps be our creative partner rather than our competition. Of course, I was also somewhat wary that A.I. was trying to lull me into a false sense of security…but that’s paranoid, right?

I know that it would be a lie to say that designers’ tasks will be entirely protected from the impact of A.I. Although designers work creatively–something that would be seen as more difficult for machines to replicate–we also rely on computers and technical processes to execute our ideas along the way. A.I.-powered tools like automated layout generators, predictive color palettes, and A.I.-driven copywriting tools (hello ChatGPT) have become technical assistants that we rely on every day to allow us to generate and iterate more efficiently. As we learned in a recent project for Korea Tourism Organization, A.I. was able to provide us with insights into user behavior on the campaign-specific website we created and then reformat the website over time to allow for the most optimal user experience on the site. It was an amazing thing to observe!

But I have to say, when I consider the most common ways A.I. is used in design: automating repetitive tasks, gathering large amounts of data to inform design outcomes, generating many creative options within set parameters and inputs…I wouldn’t really mind if those tasks were taken off my plate. Like any creative, my time can often get eaten up with those repetitive technical tasks and it can leave less room for the best parts like brainstorming, creative image-making and clever copywriting. My favorite times are the times when I’m in a room with other people, bouncing ideas off each other, laughing at the absurdity of them, or hitting on a moment of genius when you know you’re really onto something. It’s the excitement when you feel that brain-spark with other humans that probably attracted most of us to this career. And I think that right there, that brain-spark, is what sets us apart. It’s the desire to create with and for other people. 

After all, design is not merely aesthetics. Design is problem-solving with the intention of optimizing a human experience. While A.I. can process vast amounts of data and learn, in a technical sense, what emotions are, it can’t genuinely feel. And designing for humans isn’t as rational as 1+1=2. Emotions play a significant role in the way we interact with and behave in the world, therefore it takes an understanding of the irrational and intangible forces that guide us in order to make something that speaks to us. This means that design requires empathy–a deeply ingrained and undeniably human trait. Empathy is the ability to understand and even share the feelings of another human’s experience. Design borne out of empathy resonates profoundly, forging connections between the creators and consumers, and makes sense of the world, briefly. In nurturing an empathetic approach to design, we can find the thing that sets us apart from A.I.

And what of creativity? It feels lately that the rapid rise and adoption of generative A.I. “art” programs, like DALL-E and Midjourney, has somewhat called into question what creativity is. If DALL-E can generate an image of an avocado in the style of Van Gough in a matter of milliseconds…are artists necessary or relevant anymore? It’s honestly scary to think about. I had to be reminded (by this article, and many more) that what A.I. brings to us is not original thought; it is a reformulation of human thought on the internet. Therefore, it can only rehash and return to us the vast history of human creativity that already exists. And I’m comforted when I remember that DALL-E doesn’t create an avocado in the style of Van Gough spontaneously–a human needs to think of this idea and request it of DALL-E. This is the same for all A.I. programs–humans ask the questions, set the parameters, and feed the information that is needed for the outcome they desire. What the A.I. does is the busywork of putting this information together in a variety of ways so that we can analyze the outcomes and continue to refine. A.I. is the middleman and the tool, not the creator. Creativity is the ability to think beyond limitations and combine seemingly unrelated elements to birth something truly novel. Humans excel in this arena, drawing inspiration from emotions, experiences, and cultural influences. A.I. can certainly aid in the creative process by offering suggestions and automating repetitive tasks, but the essence of creativity remains firmly human.

“how we differ from machines is the connections we make between things we’ve previously experienced and the new ideas we come up…filtered through the lens of our own perceptions, feelings, beliefs, and experiences – in other words, our humanity.”  Forbes

As I’ve been thinking about the blurred lines between machine and human over the last few weeks, I’ve realized that a project I’ve been spending my free time on is actually an excellent example of our inherent creativity and empathy as humans. Recently, I’ve been working on an art installation with a small team called Without Sin. We’ve created a modern confession booth which two people can enter and share an intimate conversation with each other. This concept came from a desire to bring people together to share stories, fears, anxieties, joy–humanity–because we believe conversation has the power to heal and connect. Over the last year, over 1,500 people have entered this modern confession booth and many have had transformative experiences. I’ve seen people leave the booth, hug, cry, and laugh. Many of them continue the conversation outside the booth or exchange numbers so that they can meet this new friend, so recently a stranger, again. Observing these reactions brings me so much satisfaction and joy–humans are connecting, building empathy and showing compassion! What could be more beautiful? And a lot of careful design went into it. From the construction of the booth to the sound design, responsive lighting, printed materials and branding. Every detail was considered so that we could create an experience that resonated with anyone who participated. I don’t think a machine could ever dream that up. There’s technically no value in it. There’s no money to be earned, no ladders to be climbed, no tangible KPIs to measure. The conversations are not recorded so they can’t be mined for data or further learning. We created this because we wanted to, without any expectations, but with a hope that a few minutes inside that booth might open a few hearts. 

All in all, I’m feeling optimistic after writing this blog. I know that A.I. is here to stay, but A.I. will always think differently than we, as humans, do. We can learn to use it to augment our skills, not replace them. Our innate, irrational, intangible skills and behaviors can never be replicated in genuine ways and that’s what sets us apart.

“Human design with all of its imperfections and flaws is an important distinguishing component in the age of technology, and it needs to be made visible in the design work that we produce.”

Anastasiia Raina

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