Elena Fombertaux on bridging activism, design and Generative AI

AI generated image of a coral reef fish

Illustration created by Elena Fombertaux using Adobe Firefly

In an age where technology and creativity converge, generative AI is a powerful tool that further enables creators to use their skills for positive change.

For artist, illustrator and designer Elena Fombertaux, illustration and creativity has always been a way to advocate for what she cares about.

White, orange and blue illustrations of doves, butterflies and wooden toy horses.

Artwork created by Elena as part of a charity print run for Ukraine.

We caught up with Elena to explore the role generative AI will play in the future of design, and how emerging creators can harness it to create real impact.

Removing the barriers to creativity

Generative AI is making creativity more accessible, reshaping the creative landscape to a space where anyone can make for change. For designers, it’s an especially powerful tool that helps them direct their attention towards their creative passions.

In the early stages of a design career, aspiring creators face a multitude of challenges. Generative AI can help eliminate some of these unnecessary hurdles and allow them to channel their energy into their craft.

Quote from Elena Fombertaux: "If we can help young designers remove some of that stage when they are learning how to ideate and just visualise their ideas, it allows them to focus not only on their creativity and all the different possibilties, but also all the other skills that come with being a designer."

Think about using generative AI in your design process like learning to drive, and starting on an automatic car, says Elena. If you’re new to driving, it can be so helpful to just remove one element of the process that allows you to focus on the destination.

Upholding creative worth when creating change

Generative AI is undoubtedly enhancing productivity and empowering creators on a mission to effect positive change. “As creators, I think we have a lot of power to use our skills to bring attention to important issues and good causes. I’m hopeful that the future of AI and creativity will be there to enhance our ideas,” she says.

But using it to support the design process should never overshadow the irreplaceable human touch and lived experiences that designers bring to their work.

A designer’s influence lies in their originality and creativity. Generative AI should be seen as an enabler, as it’s through individuality that creators can create work that advocates for what they care about.

Quote from Elena Fombertaux: "Our lived experiences and authority as designers shouldn't be devalued just because there is a new tool. I'm pretty sure no one was reducing their day rates when Photoshop came out."

Unique experiences and creative authority are irreplaceable. It's through this fusion with technology that designers can make truly impactful work.

Advocating for change with Generative AI

Passionate to reshape the world through her boundless creativity, Elena joined our Takeover Tomorrow campaign along with Heidi and Victor to reimagine what the Great Barrier Reef would look like in the future. Using Generative AI, Elena visualised the reef’s future if we took collective action now, and what the “very-real” counter-scenario will be without making a change.

Illustration by Elena of a coral reef fish
Illustration by Elena of a coral reef fish in 2053 if nothing is done to resolve climate change

Elena used Adobe Firefly and Generative Fill in Adobe Photoshop to rapidly generate a mix of images, from her tropical fish to the coral reef. She created her captivating composition by blending and layering 25 different images before working over the image in her own illustration style.

The upper corner of both illustrations includes an interface that replicates a diving watch. In one illustration, the interface and visuals show a future where conservation efforts have been successful. In the other, the interface shows a rising sea temperature, and the accompanying visuals capture what the implications are for the environment.

“I wanted to make something that felt dreamlike and impossibly colourful. In the positive future, there’s a feeling of fluidity and symbiosis between the reef and the marine life. Contrasting this is a very-real future, where the reef is bleached, decaying and devoid of life. Reefs are at a tipping point, and it’s now or never if we want to preserve these ecosystems,” she says.

According to Elena, it’s important for designers to realise they have the skills to influence people, and to filter messages to the masses. Through the visuals she created for Takeover Tomorrow, she hopes to have used her skills to make a positive change and drive action.

There is so much to learn from this year’s Adobe MAX. Hear more from Elena and learn about how creators are dreaming bigger with Generative AI.

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