12/01/2024 Nick Dormon

We Need to Talk About AI

Firstly, I haven’t shirked my duties and asked Chat GBT to write this article, but it’s tempting just to see what it comes up with.

I expect, as with everything I have seen so far from AI, it really depends on how much effort you put into briefing it in the first place. You get out what you put in. We have been hearing a lot about AI of late and how it’s going to turn on mankind and wipe us all out, but the first time it really came up in our business was a few months ago when a frazzled and impatient client, who wanted something yesterday, said can’t we just knock something up on AI? It was as if she thought it was some omnipresent force that fully understood what we were discussing and would instantly know what the solutions was.  Reality is a little different.

So, it’s not AI I’m worried about, it the humans using it (worryingly I think the gun lobby use the same argument). There is huge misunderstanding about what it’s for, what it does, and how it should be used. It’s therefore people making assumptions that seems to me to be the most dangerous thing. Obviously as the technology develops and the leaning capability expands it will do more and more, but for it to flourish it needs to be useful to us. If copyright or legislation ties it in knots it won’t be. If it does damage to mankind, it won’t be. Or if it’s unwieldy or difficult to use, it won’t be. But if it can do the vast computations required to understand the universe, cure cancers, or make our planet sustainable then it will be worth the effort and the worry.

I’m learning, as we all are, so I can share what little I know so fa from a design and brand perspective.  Firstly, I’m glad to say it won’t replace designers – or at least the good ones. But it’s likely to proliferate mediocrity if left in the hands of anyone but the experts. It won’t eliminate anybody, but it might bore them stupid. From my understanding AI works on what it knows, i.e. what is out there that it has gathered and therefore what has been before. It replicates extremely well, which if left undirected will result in very clever variations of what we already know.

The whole point of design and branding is to create something unique and ownable. AI won’t do that, not yet anyway. The adage that there is nothing new under the sun is so true, and AI will find it all for you, but design puts a new slant on it, turns things on their heads. Moving easily between logic and illogic to find new meaning and provocation. Why did Punks wear kilts, but they did, and it worked. Why did fifties American cars have wings, but they did, and it worked. Why did Banksy shred his painting, but he did and it’s recently been resold for $25 million.

Never before has the importance of a good brief and a good idea been more important. As marketing and brand communications moves from one-to-many to one-to-one we need AI to cope with the sheer volume of interactions. One-to-one allows us to build personalised individual experiences – using AI to communicate with the consumer to understand what they want and then to figure out how to deliver it. Personalisation has higher value to the consumer so has huge potential to the brand owner.  We need AI to deliver, but for it to stay on brand, stand out, maintain its uniqueness, and keep the consumer engaged across all those interactions it will need to be very cleverly briefed and kept on track. It will do the everyday brilliantly, but humans will need to inject the empathy, quirkiness and edginess that will keep the brand alive and successful.

One of the most exciting trends out there, beyond personalisation by the brand, is curated creativity by the consumer or tribes of consumers. It presents the possibility of co- creation between consumers and brands building loyalty, longevity and mutual benefit. This exciting future will only be possible with AI dealing with the endless permutations fitting consumers wishes with business’s ability to deliver them.

As a designer I can see how AI will help me do much, much more. Yes, AI design tools, like Midjourney, will help my team explore and deliver things quicker, but more exciting is the prospect of designing AI facilitated products and experiences with a complexity beyond my wildest dreams.

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