But First, What Is AI?
First and foremost, we must look at what AI is to understand how AI can affect the product development field. If you’ve seen Sci-Fi films or TV shows, you’ll know AI is nothing new. We define artificial intelligence as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages” (Merriam-Webster). Simply put, this means companies are using computers to solve problems traditionally solved by humans. The reality is that artificial intelligence (AI) will never replace designers. AI must be innovated by humans to stay at the forefront. It’s essential to remember that any technology is just a tool that helps us do our jobs better and faster.
AI Can Aid Us In Our Efforts, But Replace Us? Not Yet!
Artificial Intelligence is becoming increasingly prominent in today’s world. This increase in the prevalence and usage of AI is also leading to its impact on multiple industries. For instance, job roles within the IT industry are now being replaced by machine learning systems and automation algorithms. So, what does this have to do with designers, and why should we care? Are human designers slowly becoming obsolete in the face of AI innovation?
On the one hand, it is exciting because it will eventually mean that work could be more accessible, and it offers non-designers an opportunity to explore and develop their creativity. On the other hand, AI replacing our jobs means that we have to rethink what it means to be a designer and what makes us valuable in the first place.
As designers, we often focus on the emotional aspect of design. We are constantly working toward creating products and services that solve problems for users and make them happy by providing value. The emotional part of design is where AI has a long way to go before being able to replicate what humans do naturally. We have to keep in mind that AI is still in its infancy, and while these tools can assist in our profession, they also have their fair share of shortcomings.
While breakthroughs such as Dall-E, MidJourney, or Project Dreamcatcher enable designers (and non-designers) to craft designs based on constraints or keywords, we also have to think about what these tools consist of that makes human designers reign superior. These applications are pre-programmed data that lack human emotion and real-life experiences that we as humans use as the context in our design processes. Can AI assist in reaching tight deadlines? Absolutely. But when it comes to quality assurance, real-life connections with clients, and providing intricate details, AI still has its limitations.
Additionally, there are fundamental differences between how the brain works and how computers think. For example, humans can make “happy accidents” in the ideation phase that make a product unique. In Hatch Duo’s experience, our design team has had those “a-ha” moments during ideation where we have turned a “mistake” into a possibility for innovation. On the other hand, AI applications are pre-programmed to avoid mistakes entirely. The most effective designs need human curation to develop the final product rather than leaving it completely in the hands of AI.
(Images above by Hatch Duo designer, Jinseon Lee)
AI’s Role in the Future of Design
We’ve established that product design requires a high degree of specialization and industry knowledge that AI has still not mastered. In the longer-term future, AI may be able to create more complex machines, like automated cars or planes. However, it’s unlikely that AI will replace design jobs entirely in the immediate future. The challenge is adding human emotion to the computer code to create something meaningful and innovative instead of something that looks computer-generated. Ultimately, AI cannot evolve without human input, which is why we will always be a step ahead.
Designers have an emotional attachment to their work. As AI technology grows and evolves, it will be necessary for designers to make sure they create art that resonates with their audience. As long as humans create/innovate AI, it will be creative without them. It’s partially because of this emotional element that designers can’t be replaced by artificial intelligence at this point. Humans will continue to find ways to adapt, interact and create within their environments.
As with any emerging technology, our team will experiment with AI applications cautiously. As designers, it’s vital to stay ahead of the curve; otherwise, AI programs will make design decisions faster than we can make sense of them. While we can’t predict precisely how our field will evolve, it is clear that designers are in for some significant developments over the next decade. AI may have the potential to make design faster or cheaper than before, but only as long as humans are there to guide it. Do you think AI can ever take over as technology integrates into our lives and drives business? Can AI be designed to act as the creative drive independent from human guidance? Comment your thoughts below!