For a while now, countless articles, opinions, utopian imaginations and dark predictions of various horror scenarios have been running rampant on the internet, all regarding one topic: the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in design, as well as related existential fears of designers and legal concerns regarding copyright, ownership and what art or design even are.
We studied the subject intensively and take a strong stance: AI can serve as a great inspiration, as a basis to start from and it is one of many tools we as designers use. AI, however, will not replace good designers.
With this article, we want to show the potentials of AI in creative applications, create awareness for legal matters and position ourselves against the fearmongering that is currently taking place.
April 18, 2023
Generally speaking, artificial intelligence works with ‘artificial neural networks’ ». These networks are programmes that aim to imitate the way our brain functions and how it processes information via algorithms in order to recreate human behaviour. It is not 100% clear why our brain can even do certain things, which is why the calculated assumptions are only empirically proven rather than being based on clear theories. This means that we can even use AI to draw conclusions on our abilities such as how the human brain processes and applies language. Interesting to know is that our brain is actually much more powerful than artificial intelligence – but also much slower.
What exactly it takes for AI to work reaches technical depths that are based on decades of development. We therefore want to focus on AI applications form the user perspective. For creative applications such as image generation, this typically means: Enter a prompt (= text description of the desired output), variate your prompt and generate enough variants of a suitable prompt until you get useful results. That does not sound as intelligent or ominous after all, but it is still responsible for the current AI storm. Those who are interested in the details can find an extensive explanation of how AI works here ».
Now, before we start to look into the applications of AI in the creative industry in more detail, we want to mention one thing right away: There is something that no AI at this point possesses. What that is? Creativity and empathy. AI programmes simply combine what various humans have created to this point and just make the end result appear new. True innovation looks different. Why AI offers great advantages regardless will be explained in this article.
AI has applications in a range of areas such as IT, transport & logistics and many more. AI has also seen a surge in creative areas and can support artists and designers with various tasks. We want to start off with the positive aspects of this controversial topic and are going to introduce exciting use cases in the creative areas of digital design, copywriting, video game development and product design.
Less in the sense of artificial intelligence and more in the sense of augmented intelligence », AI can simplify a range of design processes. Instead of reinventing the wheel with each design project or researching which page navigation system meets the latest standard, we can use AI to complete such monotonous tasks. AI can, for example, do the research for you and even list useful guidelines.
This presents designers with the opportunity to focus on the truly important aspects of the design and to think innovatively.
Who hasn’t had to deal with it: Numerous e-mails waiting to be written and answered, but neither enough time to do so nor the creativity to know how best to write them. After all, there are already enough other tasks waiting one one’s desk. Or topics for social media and blogs that you first have to research before you can start writing about them.
There are plenty of examples for required text content, but by now, there are thankfully equally as many text creation programmes for various content that take off some of your work. Which, as mentioned, leaves more time for you to dedicate to the truly important stuff (those who require something less strenuous to do between all their important tasks might want to try Townscaper » – just a little tip).
The probably best-known text creation software is ChatGPT ». The programme delivers surprisingly well-formulated texts that, for the most part, feel as if written by humans. But in reality, the AI does not do much more than put one likely word after the next based on calculated probabilities (with some variation to seem more human). Well, it is a little more complex than that; for those who are really interested, we recommend this article on how ChatGPT works ».
There are countless ways you can use the software. They reach from simple text creation to preparing copy text for prototypes to market research that forms the basis for product development. Here are two specific use cases:
AI has long been used for the creation of video games in different ways. But the new use of AI for the creation of elements such as background sceneries, voices, music or narratives raises concerns regarding copyright. This is because AI, similarly as in other fields of art, cannot make great new games appear out of thin air without referencing human creations as it lacks creativity and does not think the way humans do. Apart from these concerns, however, AI increasingly supports areas such as error detection » of videos, among other monotonous tasks, meaning that game artists can focus on the complex parts of game development. So as long as AI is used to support the actual video game artists, it brings great advantages and contributes to the improvement of games and work flows.
Product designers can definitely not be replaced by AI yet. Designs that are created based on existing designs may serve as inspiration, but they do not come with a technical feasibility check, nor an optimisation of ergonomics, nor do they pay attention to emerging topics such as circular design ». In addition to their use as a source of inspiration, AI has another potential application in product design ». At the moment, it is still a dream of the future, but AI could greatly facilitate matters as a source of knowledge for complex topics in product design, such as the building envelope ». Knowing and complying with all standards and regulations, always meeting the state of the art, and all this from a financial, ecological and social point of view, is virtually impossible and yet expected. Researching materials and material properties alone is a huge project in itself. Those who fail to meet requirements will, in the worst case, have to deal with the issue of product liability. A well-functioning AI can provide support in this area by covering research, listing requirements and thus ensuring compliance with relevant regulations.
Of course, it does not stop with the above-mentioned areas: Music, programming, architecture and all other areas will feel the impact of AI ».
What all areas will benefit from is the possibility to generate ‘checklists’ with AI so that you can carry out creative tasks freely without having to worry about missing standard elements or similar. Designers and artists can also use AI to compare their designs with AI-generated suggestions – just as you would do when comparing with colleagues or the competition.
A special potential of AI is the fact that –provided it gains access to all the writings and other works ever created by humans– it can identify new connections from the billions of pieces of data that humans were previously unable to make. After all, it is impossible for a single person or even groups of people to know and combine all the data in the world on a specific topic. It can therefore be assumed that correlations discovered through AI will enable great leaps in a variety of areas.
We would like to use two image creation programmes as examples of how far AI has –or hasn’t– come. At the end of the blog there is an extensive list of various AI programmes for various creative fields, but our focus here is on image creation. The first example is Midjourney ». The text prompt of each image varies except for one common part – “colourful robot”. Here are the colourful results in various styles:
The second tool is Lexica », with which we have tried out a wide variety of motifs. The operation and results are clearly different from Midjourney. This already reveals an important point, which we will discuss in more detail later: The programmer of the algorithm has an enormous influence on the results.
As we all know, every coin has two sides. This is also true for AI: As fascinating and helpful as artificial intelligence may be, it does not come without problems, enemies, legal issues, shortcomings and plenty of mixed feelings.
Probably the most hotly debated topic in relation to AI, especially in the creative field, is the issue of copyright infringement and copyright law. After all, AI outputs are based on examples of real artists that AI has been trained on – without having asked the creators for their permission or offering them a share of the profits. But should creators automatically earn money as soon as their art is used for learning, or only/also when related AI art is sold? According to experts, a possible solution would be to compensate artists on a contractual basis for the use of their images by AI generators ».
And who does AI-generated art belong to? The programmers? Those who generate them through prompts? Certainly not the application itself, as non-humans cannot have ownership. Because of all these unresolved questions, there has already been a class action lawsuit by several artists in the US » against Stability AI, Midjourney and the platform Deviant Art, as these programmes used their art for machine learning without permission and without a share in profits.
The current loophole is that AI-generated creations are available free of charge to anyone and that the creators of the AI software thus do not make any money from them either. However, the situation is different when someone takes AI-generated materials and uses them for commercial purposes. It suddenly becomes very difficult to understand who is earning money from the work of other artists and where boundaries need to be drawn.
In our exploration of these questions, we received answers to the most burning legal questions from design law expert Dr Markus Grötschl. You can find these answers in the video interview below this section.
There will certainly be new laws in the course of the next couple of years, but until there is a legal framework, artists can at least protect their art with Glaze » to stop AIs from learning from their digital or digitised work. The programme covers images with a ‘filter’ that is invisible to the human eye », but makes the content of the images unrecognisable and thus ‘unlearnable’ to AIs. Another interesting aspect is the connection between images, AI and SEO optimisation: From an SEO point of view, it makes sense to provide images with descriptive alt tags so that they show up in (Google) search queries. However, it is precisely these alt tags that make it very easy for AIs to track down images for certain keywords and include them in their ‘repertoire’.
There is already a lot to think about in terms of copyright, but there is another open question: What about copyright on work created with artificial intelligence? According to US federal law, copyright only applies to work created by humans or with their input ». This means that machines cannot be contractors under copyright law, as they would either have to enter into an employment relationship or sign a legally binding contract, which of course a machine cannot do.
Laws can change, but since the current copyright loophole of AI services is to provide AI-generated creations for free, AI-savvy artists would do well to consider the lack of copyright claim if they want to use AI for their own art.
However, some experts are optimistic and are sure that artists will soon be working with AI instead of against it ».
“Deepfakes” caused a stir a while ago, as the ability to depict (made up) people in (made up) environments or contexts in photos or even in videos can be used to spread false claims as they can often not be identified as “fake” ». Likewise, this can happen, albeit unintentionally, with the output of text creation software as it is not good at judging the truthfulness of a text it created. Recently, there were scandals surrounding ChatGPT, as the programme had only been trained with data up to 2021 » and was therefore unable to accurately answer queries on current topics. In addition, the large amounts of data with which AIs are fed already contain misinformation from humans, which is passed on.
The general trust in the internet is relatively high among many people (e.g., Google search results on the first page are automatically trusted the most ») and “fake news” are often not recognised by certain groups. People who want to ease their workload and therefore use ChatGPT to quickly generate texts on a certain topic will not always question facts, but will gratefully accept them. If programmes like ChatGPT are to be used on a large scale, these limitations must therefore be taken into account.
AI consists of code made by humans. AI-derived output is also heavily influenced by what the AI has been trained on and how algorithms process that content – which even has implications for court decisions » as artificial intelligence makes decisions with the biases of its developers and of those who created the materials it learned on. For example, AI contributes to the perpetuation of discrimination.
For a long time now, content and advertisements on social media channels have been selectively fed to us by algorithms and alter our perceptions. In the same way, the views of programmers will influence AI-generated output in the field of art, thus indirectly influencing us with their own perceptions of the world, prejudices and political judgments.
When analysing AI art in this regard, you can see clear tendencies in different programmes as to which default styles they use when short prompts are entered. This means if you do not specifically try to achieve a different end result, you will be strongly influenced by the programmes’ defaults.
AI can do many things, but what it does not have are human creativity and compassion. The lack of a human contact and consultation is therefore a major disadvantage of AI in the creative industry. This may not matter when buying AI-generated posters online for home decorating, but it does matter a lot when implementing marketing campaigns, product designs or other projects on a larger scale. Many people are simply frustrated when they cannot turn to someone who understands them on a human level when they face problems or want to request changes.
From our point of view, designs developed by humans have the essential advantage that they take into account all those things that AI cannot. These include emotions, to a large extent, but also the courage to try something new as well as intentional provocation. In any case, the professional consultation of our clients and the development of innovative designs is clearly better suited to us designers.
With AI, vast amounts of data can be collected and analysed, which can bring great benefits and efficiency in terms of smart connected products » and the IoT (Internet of Things) ». At the same time, however, there is a danger that corporations will misuse this data and interfere with the privacy of their customers in order to monetise the insights gained ». This is where data protection, human rights, privacy and security become problematic issues. The development of AI must therefore respect human values, including privacy, in order to be truly intelligent and meaningful.
Our managing director Alexander Peschke received answers to the most burning legal questions about design law, copyright, intellectual property and the general use of AI in design from lawyer and design law expert Dr Markus Grötschl:
Clearly, there are still many concerns regarding AI that require guidelines to prevent opportunistic, unethical applications. But of course, not everything about AI is bad. As we have shown, AI can be extremely helpful in a wide variety of areas, as long as people let it help them. And the hype surrounding AI will most likely die down soon (we are already past the peak), existential fears will calm down and people will realise that AI will not wipe out humanity anytime soon. AI falls precisely into the classic hype pattern of the Gartner Hype Cycle », which consists of the following five phases that must be passed through before us humans can relax and concentrate on the benefits and use them to our advantage:
You can easily see which phase we are in by looking at the stock prices of various AI providers, but also by looking at the number of LinkedIn posts and comments with widely differing opinions.
What is interesting is that the development of AI actually began 10-15 years ago. AI has been in use in many products for a long time, but has never been perceived as AI because we feel that certain tools simply have certain abilities. Just because of that assumption, they don’t cause a stir. Examples of this are automated software tests, Photoshop tools such as the area selection, the capabilities of Google Maps and countless others.
But back to the hype: Where is the journey likely to go once the hype has died down? In the creative field, countless possibilities open up, such as making designs more accessible » (for example, by automatically correcting colour contrast and font sizes), optimising and automating design processes », or simply using AI as a tool for inspiration and research.
What is clear despite all the disadvantages and concerns: AI can relieve us of mundane tasks in everyday life, support us with researching facts, help us comply with standards and specifications, provide us with insights into understanding our “humanity” in contrast to a machine, or simply entertain us with inspiring creations. However, actual artists and creatives will not be replaced. Concrete design ideas that creatives have in their heads can currently only be visualised by AI with difficulty and cannot yet be transformed into design sketches that can be modelled, but there is no lack of potential uses.
And what can we expect in the future? Of course, it is impossible to make detailed predictions, but with billions of dollars of investment in various industries, AI will continue to expand ». In addition to creative applications, AI will also be used in other areas such as customer service, transport, health and education. Resisting the trend is therefore futile and, given the infinite possibilities, not advisable.
As with all inventions, advantages and disadvantages are to be expected. But those who approach AI with an open mind and who let themselves be inspired by the possibilities as well as the outputs will benefit from AI. It does not matter which industry you are in, but as a design studio ourselves, we can particularly advise other design agencies to take advantage of the trend – it is here to stay.
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