Disclaimer: The views expressed below belong solely to the author
Before you ask, yes, the characters you see in the featured image above were not created by humans.
As a graphic designer, I’ve always been skeptical about artificial intelligence (AI) taking design jobs from people. The obvious argument has always been that creative work is — or at least should be — original, and AI can only learn from what has already been done.
For example, you can feed a machine learning algorithm millions of images of past work, and they can programmatically learn how to imitate them, but shouldn’t really be able to create something new.
However, I’m just reminded that this doesn’t have to be true. I should have been more clear because it applies not only to machines but also to humans.
You see, the thing is that most creative work is also derivative. We learn from others and then incorporate their styles and techniques into our work. Historically, few revolutionary breakthroughs have changed everything—whether in design, art, music, writing, or any other creative pursuit.
Quentin Tarantino was asked about his success and he replied: “I didn’t go to film school, I went to film”.
This is the same principle on which new AI solutions are sprouting. Some of them are so advanced that they appear to be laying the groundwork for a whole new industry.
Design in seconds
What if instead of hiring a designer, pitching him a project and waiting days or weeks for a draft before moving on to the next stage, you enter your request into the website and receive your design in seconds ?
logo? complete. photo? right here. Beautiful paintings? Wait a mininute. Your app’s icon? No problem, here they come. A fancy cartoon character? see this. Do everything without Photoshop or Illustrator, or even hire someone.
Well, it’s already happening.
These instructions — which you use in recent viral AI engines like DALL-E (developed by OpenAI, an independent research lab co-founded by Elon Musk) or the dreamy, artistic Midjourney — are called “Prompts”, and someone has written them specifically, and then sells them on recently launched marketplaces like PromptBase (launched in June), where anyone can buy them for $2 to $5.
Then all you have to do is go to the AI solution written for it, paste it in, and wait for the algorithm to generate an image. Voila!
While it is an emerging platform, some are already using it for profit, although it will take some time to create new wealth there. Nonetheless, one designer interviewed by The Verge revealed that he makes 3 to 5 sales per day from a pool of 50 tips he keeps adding.
This is already at least a few hundred dollars in passive income, and it’s bound to grow over time as more people become aware of the service (as always – the early bird catches the worm).
But why do we even need hints?
Now, it takes trial and error to find what works, and both DALL-E and Midjourney have limitations. The former is still in closed beta, while the latter requires a paid subscription after the first 25 creations.
Most of the instructions you enter may not yet produce the desired results, and beautiful, professional images are often the result of a rather lengthy process that requires adjustment. It takes trial and error, which costs money—from $10 for 200 “jobs” on Midjourney, or $15 for 460 images on DALL-E, to get what you want.
That’s why it makes sense to spend a few dollars on a tip that produces high-quality results.
Everything you see here is completely algorithmically designed and follows specific prompts, and you can buy each one for your own use.
Almost any creative task can be accomplished with simple instructions, rather than weeks or months of planning, without human involvement.
Just a few days ago, news broke that an AI-generated work won a real art prize in August, and the jury didn’t even know its origins.
Mind you, we’ve only just begun this revolution. Over time, machine learning algorithms will be able to handle more complex tasks and more precise results.
Will creatives lose their jobs?
Whenever someone makes money using a new technology, it usually comes at the expense of the career that was replaced by the innovation. So yes, many designers, musicians, artists and even writers may soon be forced to look for new jobs.
But, as has happened with every such revolution in history, the best businesses will continue to operate, perhaps even at a premium.
Mass production of furniture a’la IKEA did not make all carpenters go extinct. Electronic watches don’t detract from Patek Philippe’s value. Cheap, mass-produced fast food hasn’t bankrupted restaurateurs. While most people may depend on the productivity of mechanized farming, the small-scale organic farming market is booming.
So, as ever, many will be replaced by innovations that meet the vast majority of market needs.
But when it does, it will a) create tons of new jobs for people who specialize in AI, and b) the market is bound to reward the best human creators more lucratively than before.
(Oh, let’s not forget c) It can actually help existing designers with their prototyping work, early design stages, provide more inspiration than otherwise, speeding up projects that would normally take months. )
Interestingly, it could soon affect hiring as well. Unlike soft skills, teamwork and communication with others — all of which have been emphasized by companies looking for new hires in recent years — the most valuable and sought-after competencies may soon learn how to work with… …machine talk.
Featured Image Credit: Midjourney, Community Showcase