Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) Taking Over Graphic Design?
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Even before ChatGPT shook up the digital world, DALL-E has already been making waves as an AI in the digital art community. It’s deep learning AI that produces images based on your “prompts”
For example, a user has entered “an armchair in the shape of an avocado” and the AI produced some convincingly good images.
As with all innovative tools, comes the question of “Will It Change The Industry” and sentiments like that. It’s a long standing concern for employed people and business owners.
For example, when the assembly line was introduced by Henry Ford, every business owner and every employee knew that it would change the industry. It’s not a matter of if but a matter of when and how.
Even without the knowledge we have now and the advantage of the internet, people already estimate the impact of a game-changing innovation like this. It’s human instinct. We are inclined to innovate and adapt.
So having tools like DALL-E and its iteration DALL-E 2, Simplified, Dream, NovelAI, Midjourney, makes the creatives think how it’s going to change graphic design forever.
Yes, we can fairly say that AI is taking over graphic design. And it might not be the best source but we can take a look at one side of Twitter to see its take over.
AI Art and the Vtuber Community
So I’m a part of a community that likes and watches Vtubers.
For context, Vtubers are digital content creators that stream entertainment-related content such as playing games, singing, reading, and stuff like that. They usually stream on YouTube, but they can also stream on Twitch or Facebook Gaming.
What makes them different to “traditional” streamers is instead of having a webcam showing their identities on stream, they show an anime-style avatar that has face and body tracking to convey their emotions and movements.
Aside from their streams, Vtubers are very active on Twitter to post their schedule, relay announcements, grow their community, and interact with fans. Most Vtubers, at the start of their career, always create a unique hashtag for their fans. And one of those hashtags is dedicated to fan art and there are lots of it.
There are many digital artists who are contributing to Vtuber fan art. Mind you, the fanarts are digitally produced but are worked on for hours by enthusiastic fans. And they are just being created for fun and to show appreciation and support. It isn’t even monetized although some artists get commissioned to do fan art for some Vtubers.
But when AI art came along, it definitely brought the community into conversation. It was sudden and very fast. And soon enough, the art hashtags of Vtubers are having AI generated art. It’s still fewer than the artist created pieces but it’s obvious and even normal fans can distinguish artist created vs AI-generated art.
The Ethics of AI Generated Art
Again, I want to emphasize the value that digital creators get from the fan arts are not primarily financial. Digital fan arts are something that people bond with, appreciate, and created to show support for their favorite Vtubers. It’s more of a community value.
Most of the digital artists that produce this fan art and work on it for hours feel like the AI generated is almost like theft. It’s because of how AI generates its “art”.
Just like other AI software out there, it gathers from a large pool of data then it’s filtered to the prompt, then tries to amalgamate what it thinks the image should be.
Although it’s not dissimilar to the creative process of art –artists also draw to their own ideas before drawing– it’s considered different and unethical.
Because it’s unfair that an artist spends time and expertise trying to create a perfect digital art, while some random person on the internet types 2 words into an AI and takes credit for it.
Also the process can also be considered unethical. Because the copyright system can be invoked in the conversation.
The Policies of AI Generated Art
First, if an AI-generated art will be copyrighted, who owns the rights? Is it the individual who typed the prompt or will it be shared with the owners of the AI program?
Second, are we sure that the images that the AI program scrubs through are not copyrighted content? If it is, what are the measures that the creator does to prevent it?
Third, how can we properly credit the art? Is it a joint credit of the individual that typed the prompts and the creators of the AI?
The fact that derivative works, the copyright system, and the all consuming nature of the internet does not favor the sentiment of the artists. And opening these cans of worms does not help.
Another indication of the AI “takeover” is that the attention that it got towards the community made some Vtubers to address the situation to appease the community. Some Vtubers didn’t mind having AI art in their normal art hashtag, as long as the people posting the art indicates that it is AI-generated. While some Vtubers created a separate hashtag for AI generated art.
So to keep the long story short, artists have a mostly negative sentiment towards AI generated art because of credit, copyright, and community sentiment.
And though this sentiment is just based on a niche community, it still has a huge sample size. Thousands of Vtuber fans and hundreds of digital artists have this opinion, so I think it’s beneficial to take their opinions into consideration.
Let’s then jump into the professional world.
The Professional’s Perspective
Art is first and foremost a cultural topic. But downstream of culture is the business side of it. So let’s observe how it’s taking over.
The first take over of AI-generation tools isn’t actually an immediate disruption but rather an emotional concern and an impetus to conversation.
The main sentiment among graphic designers is the fear of getting replaced. It’s not an unfounded fear. It might be an exaggeration for now but some business owners are already thinking of it.
And here’s the thing: As a digital creator, If your organization decides to replace your talent with a tool, then it’s better for you to leave that organization because it will not last long.
Jumping on trends is a risk. And though we may be on a watershed moment here, it’s far too early to just jump on the bandwagon.
Easier Barrier of Entry Means Stronger Competition
AI will definitely make graphic design much easier for graphic designers. This is still a part of concern for the “replacement narrative” because business owners might think “Why should I pay for an expert when an entry-level designer can do this cheaper?”
So the future battlefield between graphic designers looking for opportunities now isn’t going to be pure talent or artistry. Designers are also required to have skill in adapting to new tools, especially being proficient in using AI-assisted programs.
Honestly, I think it’s a good thing since it increases the skill ceiling of the industry. It will push individuals to be more creative, acquire more skills, and be even competitive in the workforce.
And though it will most likely be a very rough start for graphic design veterans to suddenly adapt, it’s the way of the industry. The “adapt or die” mindset isn’t exclusive to the tech industry. It’s how humans evolved and persisted ever since the stone age.
So to all digital professionals, learn as much as you can about AI and don’t be threatened by its existence. Learn from it, control it, and use it as an asset.
Because if you fail to do so, it will control you. It’s already using you as an asset because if you enter prompts in the system, you’re inevitably making the algorithm better. It’s already learned from you.
And it might sound like the odds are against you, but it’s not. AI is fast and it got the upper hand because we are unprepared and it showed as a surprise. But AI’s ultimate challenge isn’t the individual, it’s the collective.
AI Technology Doesn’t Match the Maturity of the Industries
Yes, I believe AI will be the future and it will change all the industries including digital content creation and graphic design. But we are still interacting with an infant or a child at best.
The technology is revolutionary, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not as mature as the industries that it is showing its presence on.
Think of it this way. I think the best gauge to determine our stage in AI right now is Tesla’s “autopilot” feature.
While other people, including myself, consider the term “autopilot” misleading, it’s not just a frivolous feature tacked into a Tesla just as a unique selling point. It’s just meant to assist drivers on the road to be safer.
That’s why people would prefer the term “driver assist” because “autopilot” gives the impression of just letting it drive itself. And though it has capabilities to do that already, it isn’t enough to replace an experienced driver.
Radical technological leaps in generations always change the way that we are, for better or for worse.
A child can show massive potential and it can definitely be better than you. But it still has to go through the system. It has to go through people who will mold it and shape its future.
So in order for this AI child not to rebel in the future, better give it its due attention.
Taking Over as Assistants, For Now
AI, in its current state, is meant to empower people. It’s not meant to replace us. Yet.
People getting replaced by machines have been a conversation since the industrial revolution. Because that’s what humans do, sometimes to a fault.
Given enough time, even humans can optimize the fun out of games. And that’s a real quote from a game developer, Soren Johnson who is one of the developers of the Civilization series of video games.
But even with that instinct among people, we ourselves can combat that.
The title’s question is “Is AI taking over graphic design?” And the answer is yes. The term is apt because it is just taking over. It has not taken over the industry yet. It’s still attempting to.
Thankfully, the question is not “Is AI taking over graphic designers?” And in order for us not to answer that question in the future, it’s up to us to treat AI as it should be.
With the wise words from Mickey Mouse, he says, “It’s a surprise tool that will help us later.”
Better let a tool help us do our jobs than to help a tool replace our jobs.