This article is part of a VB Lab Insights series paid for by Capital One.
Generative AI is dominating the conversation in 2023, and the design community is no exception to its transformative potential. Product innovations fueled by emerging AI capabilities have the potential to unlock new opportunities and put the power of real-time intelligence in customers’ hands like never before.
As a design leader focused on creating innovative products and solutions for millions of our consumers and for thousands of our employees, I find AI’s potential particularly exciting for the design discipline. New technological advances like generative AI, computer vision, natural language processing and large language models can augment, complement and elevate the capabilities of designers, enabling them to focus on work that delivers maximum value to their users. At the same time, there are ongoing and important conversations about designing and implementing new safeguards and frameworks to mitigate risk and ensure the responsible application of AI.
Let’s take a closer look at the dynamic intersection of AI and design, focusing on how AI-enhanced design tools can enhance designer workflows, improve outputs and fuel product innovation.
Transforming how we design: Using AI to enhance designer workflows
In the near future, it’s very likely most designers will be leveraging some type of AI tool that will enhance their workflow. AI has the potential to help designers better research, brainstorm, design and build. Here are some examples of AI-enhanced innovations that could enhance designer workflows:
- Images and Videos: A whole ecosystem of new tools and products to overcome blank page syndrome is emerging for designers. With a single language prompt, designers now have the ability to generate images and videos that can provide an accelerated starting point that designers can customize with their own discretion, creativity and contextual knowledge. This will allow designers to easily generate multiple variations of images for use in storyboarding, in their designs or for A/B testing. There are, of course, important questions and considerations that still need to be understood with regard to trademark and copyrights from AI-generated image and video, and this is a space where it will be particularly important that creatives’ and designers’ creations remain protected.
- UI: Several tools can now serve as a co-pilot for user interface design. These tools will enable designers to also use language prompts to generate wireframes, user flows and other UI assets. This will allow designers to go from first draft to finished product faster.
- Language: Advances in natural language processing and text generation, like large language models (LLMs), can help designers get a head start on generating a broad range of copy suggestions that are also on-brand.
- Design Research: One of the most important capabilities the design discipline brings to users and the business is research and insight. AI can help designers with the heavy lifting on baseline research from which they can get much more granular, and can also help summarize and distill the most salient points from long reports and research studies. The growing field of synthetic data is also one which could present positive lift for this space, offering the potential to conduct useful design research in ways that protect the privacy of users.
Evolving what we design: How AI can power product innovation
Across every industry, companies are competing to increase loyalty and win customers in an era of rising consumer expectations. The digital products of any brand are some of the most intimate and important ways that a company engages with its customers.
Designers serve as a vital link between companies and consumers. They are largely responsible for how digital products show up in the market and how customers experience them. Designers work to understand and advocate for the user and help connect influential brands with the world at large. They spend a lot of time doing careful research, talking to customers and creating solutions to meet their evolving needs.
With AI’s rapid growth and influence, designers can now infuse AI into their product designs. By leveraging different forms of AI, designers can drive product innovations in many industries spanning a wide range of use cases like personalized shopping, AI-powered customer service, fraud prevention, facial recognition and marketing tools (targeting and personalizing ads).
Because of AI, what is possible today from a product design standpoint was not conceivable a decade ago. AI’s influence on product innovation can be seen in the tremendous growth of AI-startup investment. According to Crunchbase, investments in AI startups have more than doubled in the past year. In addition to the growth of AI startup investments, we also see an uptick in corporations investing in AI. A recent CNBC survey shows that nearly half of C-suite technology executives across industries affirm that AI is their top tech budget item for the next year; they project AI spending will more than double that of their second biggest budget item, cloud computing. This is further evidence of how AI is driving the future of product innovation, which in turn will have a strong impact on the future of product design.
Embracing a responsible human-centered approach through AI
As AI transforms workflows and enriches user experiences, the design discipline should embrace these advancements with cautious optimism and a responsible approach that centers on human users and mitigates potential bias and errors in the AI outputs, which can be particularly harmful for underrepresented groups who may not be well represented in the training data that generates AI outputs. This means it will be critical for organizations building AI systems to strategically build diverse, cross-functional teams — with a multitude of lived experiences and capacities for multi-dimensional thinking — that are representative of their broad user base.
By identifying user pain points and priorities with more clarity and less friction, AI has the potential to elevate human-centered design and help designers get to better solutions more effectively. But maintaining empathy for end users and addressing their needs will still be paramount.
As my colleague and Capital One’s Chief Design Officer, Daniela Jorge, recently noted: “In designing products, what we have to do is understand broad segments of users and then find common patterns. With AI, I think there’s that opportunity to have a much more one-to-one solution between human and system.”
This technology has the power to transform every aspect of our professional and personal lives. Yet, as with any emerging technology, the potential benefits have to be balanced with risk management and a mindset that places the human user at the center of every decision.
Richard Ting is Managing VP, Experience Design at Capital One.
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