Lessons from Creative Pros: How Digital Creatives Can Prepare for An Artificially-Intelligent Future

by Patrick Faller

posted on 11-29-2017

There are few topics related to digital and creative careers that get people as simultaneously anxious and excited as artificial intelligence (AI). Conversations revolve around how AI represents the most disruptive technological paradigm shift of the next decade. Conversations go from AI’s potential to help us to its potential to harm us and even replace us in our jobs altogether. However, the majority of designers are optimistic about the future of AI and how it can enable creative intelligence. According to Adobe’s recent “State of Creativity in Business” survey, 55 percent of U.S. creatives and marketers said they are optimistic about AI and don’t foresee automation taking over their job responsibilities in the next ten years. 17 percent said AI had already made their creative workflows simpler in the past five years.

At Adobe MAX 2017, the focus was on AI’s ability to help creatives be more productive. With several announcements related to Adobe Sensei, the company’s AI and machine learning platform, many focused on how AI can amplify human creativity and intelligence — not replace it. There are innovations on the horizon that can help designers forge more efficient and enjoyable careers in the future. It’s a sentiment that was echoed by several speakers working in AI, who said the future is bright, but it’s up to designers to make it that way.

Advocating for human interests in AI design.

Human-centered design principles are the key to making sure AI becomes a force for good in our society. MAX speaker Albert Shum, Microsoft‘s corporate vice-president of design, feels it’s really up to designers to make sure empathy remains at the core of artificial intelligence.

“A couple principles we’re really trying to figure out is this idea of making sure humans are always at the center of control. Sometimes, we forget that the machine is a system, and it’s there for us. That’s such an important thing for designers to think about, and focus on creating that control and transparency so you always know what’s happening in your interactions with AI,” he said.

Albert Shum. Image Source: Scott Eklund for USA Today

The priority for AI designers, and those working with AI now, should be finding ways to have machines eliminate some of the time-consuming, arduous tasks in workflows. This includes time spent on customizing tools and process-related tasks like importing and exporting files.

But Shum says that as AI has become more helpful in workflows, consistent challenges have presented themselves in the form of biases. AI has shown racial and gender biases in interacting with data, because that data itself shows bias. He says it’s important UX designers instill empathy into the AI systems they create, so they don’t pick up human patterns of discrimination.

“When you use dataset biases, AI may only recognize people with certain skin tones, for example. It’s a tricky thing to make sure we have a diverse set of data to work with. I feel like that’s an area of UX where we have to create those principles, and create empathy.”

Properly defining AI, and avoiding “nightmarish scenarios.”

While AI is a term we hear regularly, actually defining what it is (and what it isn’t) remains a challenge. For speaker Tom Goodwin, Zenith Media’s executive vice president of innovation, much of what people call AI could just be called “smartness;” there are degrees of automation, image recognition, and relationships between data. But he forecasts that the spread of truly “smart,” automated services in society that really work is yet to come.

“For the next five years, I think it’s going to be very positive. This is going to be a lever to allow people to do more, and they’ll be able to spend more time thinking and being creative, and less time doing rudimentary edits,” he said.

But the long term future, where AI has the capacity to do much more than augment our tasks, is the world where designers and a design system approach to AI are needed more than ever. Goodwin says we are already seeing evidence of AI making decisions that are, essentially, good for businesses and bad for individuals, and designers need to be aware of these. He points to the example of programmatic advertising — ads you see on platforms like Facebook that have never been seen by a human being. They may be cheap to create, but they fail to show any real creativity.

Tom Goodwin. Image Source: Zenith USA

“I worry slightly that there are some sort of inroads like that, that mean people — when it comes to cheap media — start putting out things that are just not good enough and some jobs are lost as a result. We need to be mindful that these tools get used to allow us to do more in a better way, rather than allowing us to just save money.”

MAX master class takeaway — AI will make designers’ lives better, if we do it right.

Both Goodwin and Shum are optimists about the role AI will play in the lives of designers in the near future. While we have lots to gain from AI’s ability to eliminate some of the drudgery of design work (allowing more focus on creativity), it’s up to designers themselves to make sure this future exists. The way to do that is to place AI technology at the core of what we do.

“I want us to use AI in the right way. What we tend to do when we get a new technology is sprinkle it around the edges. We need to go the other way, where we use it centrally. We need to create a culture and society where people value creativity and place AI at the core,” said Goodwin, adding we should be thinking of AI as “the intern with the crap job,” leaving the designer to focus on the empathy and creativity required to make something great.

“It’s up to designers and creators to actually make sure we understand what we’re going to create, and be thoughtful, and actually have design principles. A lot of it is about empowering creators to create with AI,” added Shum.

Every year, Adobe MAX brings the world’s best creative minds together to learn, share, create, connect, and play. Stay tuned for more lessons from the event’s creative pros, and head over to Adobe MAX’s website for more information.

Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Creative Cloud