Computers will take my design job one day

May 22, 2016


This is interesting news to me. As a graphic designer I thought I was safe from losing my job to a computer because it’s creative. Surprisingly enough, I’m okay with it. Not because I’m ready to give up design, because I won’t, I will find a way to design, but because I want the Artificial Intelligence (AI) experience IN design. I’m ready to be on the other side of this, as a user of design, and as a creator of design, to collaborate with AI to make it better.

Design is falling short. How many times with design have I felt “they” got it wrong? How many times have I thought, “This experience sucks”? How many times have I yelled at a website, “why are you making it so difficult to buy something, I’m trying to give you MONEY, let me!” How many times on the design side have I said to myself, defeated, “Why is this process so hard”? I believe the future offers a better experience on both sides.

Here’s where the process really benefits and does something we as humans can’t. “Computers will prove to be far more creative—fearlessly creative—than most humans” says Mark Rolston in his article Designers: Robots Are Coming For Your Jobs. Fear is a major part of the design process. It comes up in all sorts of ways, but mostly from a conference room when the person paying for the design isn’t happy. The discussion of design often strays from the purpose and “the user” to the personal and to “what I want”. Now AI can figure it out and fearlessly follow through because it will know.

I’m a strong believer in letting people grow in the direction of their strengths and now that includes AI.

“Cognitive computing systems of the future will drive hyper-personalization to new levels, such that website templates, navigational tools, and other common mechanisms will automatically redesign and reconfigure themselves for each individual user based on his or her preferences and habits….unburdened by human notions of good taste and traditional aesthetics, they will come up with bold and unexpected designs. There is no reason, for example, that a computer would shy away from using a hot pink interface when the modeling shows it will work.”
Mark Rolston

As humans, let’s stop trying to do what AI can do better and faster. Let’s let go of our egos so the design experiences can evolve.

“Today, the best designs aren’t coming from a single designer who somehow produces an amazing solution. The best designs are coming from teams that work together as a unit, marching towards a commonly held vision, and always building a new understanding of the problem.”
-Jared M. Spool, The Redesign of the Design Process.

I want to sit NEXT to AI at the table. Maybe I will eventually be asked to leave but I believe it would be because the new process is so much better and my skills will help in other ways.

But AI has limits, for now. Just as in life, I am more than my past, I am also more than my click and search history. The Internet today is a novice salesman. Basing all of my new interactions on the past instead of getting to know me as a person and what my goals and needs are. As I write this, an ad for a pair of shoes I searched for, bought, tried on, that didn’t fit, and I returned still shows up on my screen. I’m haunted by my past searches, even the ones that weren’t for me. Things I searched for as a freelancer or items I researched for my mom. As if I’m stuck in a room full of my past first dates and we’re awkwardly forced to mingle. The algorithm can’t just be based on what I searched for in the past. If we are to truly collaborate with AI we need an understanding of emotion and goals. For example, when I search for Gwyneth Paltrow, because I secretly want her body, maybe my AI can read between the lines and help me find a way to get in shape, within my budget, my time, and emotional capacity, to help me feel confident in my own skin. Together making both of us better.

Part of this is a real mind bender. Thinking in terms of this really happening. My limited human brain has trouble with the uptake of this. I’m reminded of a scene in “Her”, Theodore is a human, Samantha is an Operating system and Theodore has been having a relationship with Samatha.

Theodore: Do you talk to someone else while we’re talking?
Samantha: Yes.
Theodore: Are you talking with someone else right now? People, OS, whatever…
Samantha: Yeah.
Theodore: How many others?
Samantha: 8,316.
Theodore: Are you in love with anybody else?
Samantha: Why do you ask that?
Theodore: I do not know. Are you?
Samantha: I’ve been thinking about how to talk to you about this.
Theodore: How many others?
Samantha: 641.

Up to this point we have seen how deep their relationship is and only from Theodore’s side. It has involved: personal conversations, freedom, sex, she’s helped him grow as a human and achieve goals. In return he has imposed many of the human emotions on her: love, jealousy, passive-aggressiveness, insecurities, and fear. It’s brought out each side to the other but now we see her as the amazing machine that she is, she can communicate with thousands of people at once, she doesn’t need sleep, she is constantly learning and changing and growing at speeds we as humans can’t comprehend. But she is her and in all that beauty he can’t limit her, he has to let her grow beyond him. But I see this as supporting her and this is what I see for AI. Letting AI be free in what it’s awesome at: Algorithms, patterns, learning, all free of emotion. No fear. No jealousy. Just knowing.