Designer vs. the Bot: Can AI truly design for human needs?

3 April 2017Strategy

What kind of effect will artificial intelligence (AI) have on our jobs? That’s a question that’s been keeping us busy. Previously, we explored what AI means for content creators. Now that robots are already joining panel discussions at SXSW, what’s next? It’s time to look at the ‘humans versus robots’ race from the perspective of designers. To what extent could intelligent machines take over their tasks? Do designers foresee any difficulties, or perhaps great benefits?

While trying to find the answer, let’s keep in mind the different stages of our responses to robot replacement, as proposed by Kevin Kelly, one of our inspirators:

  1. “A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do.”
  2. [Later.] “OK, it can do a lot of those tasks, but it can’t do everything I do.”
  3. [Later.] “OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often.”
  4. [Later.] “OK, it operates flawlessly on routine stuff, but I need to train it for new tasks.”
  5. [Later.] “OK, OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do.”
  6. [Later.] “Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more interesting and pays more!”
  7. [Later.] “I am so glad a robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do now.” [Repeat]

UX designers are specialized in understanding human behavior. They’re trained to have a user-centric approach to design questions, something that might be quite a challenge for a robot! Can AI truly know what humans want and need? Let’s find out more in designer vs. the bot.

Reality check: How fast is AI catching up?

AI website generators

The goal of a designer is to create great user experiences. Designers find ways to optimize user interactions, prepare visual assets, and construct innovative digital products. Ways to do this are to use effective icons, create meaningful animations and design smooth micro interactions. Companies like TheGrid.io and Wix already offer tools that use the power of artificial design intelligence.

In this process, generating unique new sites based on available data is key: “From billions of combinations including layouts, images, text, contact forms and more, Wix ADI selects the most stunning just for you – creating a one-of-a-kind free website.”

We have to admit, their creations look promising and might take away some work from designers.

Visual recognition software

During a visit to the Adobe Creative meetup in Amsterdam at the end 2016, we attended the introduction of Adobe’s image recognition tool, Adobe Sensei. The event was all about the future of creativity and design. Sensei is applying artificial intelligence and machine learning in combination with big amounts of content and data assets. This tool enables designers to easily mix and match, manipulate and adjust graphic designs.

Beyond images, there are growing possibilities to quickly scan millions of hours of video with the help of artificial intelligence tools like Matroid. These types of recognition tools seem to allow designers to work more efficiently.

Automated logo design

Mark Maker for logo design is not an ultra-futuristic example, but it allows people who are not experienced designers to “design” a nice logo. It works like this: You fill in you company name and Mark Maker generates a logo for you. By retrieving user feedback based on hearts (❤️), the tools saves user favorites and learns from this data:

A genetic algorithm allows the system to learn your preferences and improve its designs. At the beginning of each session, logos are generated based on a random “gene pool”. When logos are ❤️‘ed, their genes are reinforced, and new logos are created by borrowing and recombining their traits. If, for example, all of the logos you are red, the system will propose more red logos as you continue to scroll down.

❤️‘ed logos are also saved in a shared database. The logos you see are based on designs that have recently been ❤️‘ed by other people on the site, and the logos you ❤️ will inspire the designs they see, too. This way, the system learns design trends, and as trends change, the system can change along with them.

What is the half time score?

AI helps designers to automate both time-consuming and boring tasks. This puts us in between stage 4 and 5 of robot replacement. We’re comfortable with this, because it allows designers to spend more time on creative problem solving. An intelligent machine can process routine tasks a lot faster than a designer, but we’ll still need designers to interpret client briefings and make decisions on which digital channels to design for. We believe that the sum of AI applications + digital designers will generate exciting new concepts that we didn’t think of before. The role of designers is essential in adapting to human behavior and emotions – at this moment, giving ❤️s as feedback is still the weak spot of computers.

designer

The definition of ‘designer’ will adjust over time. When we say designers, today, we no longer just mean those dealing with shapes and colors. At the same time, it is unclear to what extent the scope of a designer’s responsibility will broaden. Do we mean everyone involved with the creation of intelligent machines? Do we mean everyone monitoring and managing digital user experiences? What types of new designs specialisms will arise? Currently, we don’t know, but here is a ‘jobs of the future’-list which makes us excited already! Maybe we’ll have a new wave of “Driverless Ride Experience” designers standing up soon.

Interested in how AI will affect other expertises? In the near future, our developers will also share their views regarding this topic. What does the rise of AI mean for different types of jobs? Will our tasks be replaced in the blink of an eye, or will it not go that fast? Let us present your future. Contact ai@afrogleap.com.