The impact of artificial intelligence on creativity and design is top of mind for creative professionals. AI will undoubtedly accelerate the rapid pace of digital transformation and change the way we work, live, and play at a scale the world has never experienced before.
Naturally, we should expect profound changes across many industries and employment categories. But we shouldn’t fear them. For all the disruption caused by technological change, we gain innovation and productivity, and we unleash entirely new industries and expanded employment opportunities for creative workers.
Most designers I know would happily give up the mundane parts of their job. Many designers are already leveraging AI-based techniques like deep learning and machine learning to accelerate their work and minimize the time spent on rote tasks like analyzing images, tagging assets, analyzing datasets to uncover marketing insight, or even ideating audio tracks. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by my team at Adobe about the state of creativity in business, 69 percent of marketers and creatives expect the pace of automation to increase over the next five years.
The creative benefits of AI
But what impact will AI have on the creative process, which is perhaps the hardest human characteristic to replace?
I envision a world where AI empowers creatives, rather than supplants them. I see AI enabling creatives to express their ideas and tell even more compelling stories across an ever-expanding universe of media, channels, and devices. Wesley ter Haar, the founder of global creative production company MediaMonks, agrees:
I think AI can solve a lot of work that we know needs to happen, but just takes away hours from creative thought and vision. It will allow us to refocus our efforts on what’s really going to impact the project in a meaningful way — which is design vision, design thinking, and real creative leadership.
In the creativity in business survey, we discovered that more than half of creative practitioners believe AI and automation won’t be taking over their job responsibilities in the next 10 years. The majority of them say their job requires abilities and attributes that only humans possess. In fact, that survey also found that out of those creatives who feel their workflows are simpler today than in previous years, 17 percent attribute the benefit to AI and automation.
Creatives are also struggling to meet the demand for increased content personalization across the customer journey. Brands need to speak to more people, in more unique ways, in more places, and on more devices than ever before. AI represents the ability to harness deeper insights and increase productivity, offering real solutions to the problems creative workers face today.
Our survey also found that 70 percent of creatives and marketers think it’s important to personalize content and designs across the customer journey, but only 28 percent think their organization does an excellent job of it. Making effective use of data appears to be a key problem — 74 percent of creatives and marketers use data to personalize experiences, but only 8 percent say that all of their creative output is driven by data.
Fortunately, analytics tools are already utilizing AI to help marketers with this problem. Deep learning is excellent at leveraging large datasets to categorize objects or uncover hidden relationships and associations across millions of data points.
AI is also capable of tackling complex experience challenges such as image matching across millions of assets, understanding the meaning and sentiment of documents, or automatically fine-tuning the targeting of important audience segments. In fact, according to the 2017-18 Global Digital Outlook from SoDA and Forrester, 69 percent of agency leaders said that AI and conversational interfaces will significantly affect the way they design for customer interactions.
AI as a creative assistant
Where AI fails is high-value creative tasks.
AI can’t reason. It can only develop statistically likely answers from observing data sets. AI cannot perform logical inferences or integrate abstract knowledge. AI is not capable of capturing the cultural zeitgeist, or intuiting how different subcultures will respond to an idea. In fact, AI can’t develop a truly unique idea at all. It can only offer variation or reinterpretation of what is already done.
AI will serve as collaborative assistants for creatives, rather than competitors. AI will be capable of observing our work and developing an understanding of our habits, personal style, and contextual relationships. It will be able to offer suggestions and help us brainstorm, locate assets, manage workflow, and perform the mundane tasks that waste our time, freeing up creative workers to focus on more meaningful, high-value activities.
Despite the efficiencies AI offers, creatives need not worry. A robot can never replace human creativity.
Ashley Still is vice president of creative cloud for enterprise at Adobe, a multinational computer software company.