Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and conversational interfaces are changing the way design happens. You may be familiar with the big announcement of an AI website builder called “The Grid” a few years ago. It was a website development and design system that was powered by artificial intelligence.  The idea was a platform where site modules and other interaction patterns design themselves, without the need of a designer. Conversational interfaces would engage the user to supply information and make decisions about the design of the website being created but the results did not live up to the hype.The resulting websites were basically a disaster. The good news in the disaster? Designer jobs will remain safe for the foreseeable future.

Creativity versus Task Automation

Design is more complex than other jobs that are task driven and repetitive in nature. These repetitive types of jobs are the ones that are most likely to be replaced by robots. As for design, it requires the ability to assess information within different contexts, to establish a context for a design, as well as an empathy for other users. Robots are not sophisticated enough at this time to successfully perform jobs that require that kind of perspective, empathy and creativity but they are well suited to automating repetitive tasks and making designers more efficient.

What we will see in the next several years

We can expect to see designers and robots working together to create all sorts of new opportunities. One area where robots could be very useful to designers is in automating certain tasks like cropping assets, color correcting photos and resizing images. Algorithms could take on simple tasks such as color matching. AI is perfect for automating many of these boring, repetitive tasks associated with a designer’s role.

Smarter Design Systems

Design systems are a series of patterns, modules and elements that taken together build the design language of a brand or a product. Start-ups and enterprises alike trust their design systems to keep their products consistent for users. The ability to add a layer of intelligence to these systems to analyze how users interact with each element will help identify which elements work best for each function. With AI and machine learning as these intelligence layers learn and identify what things are working and what aren’t it will help to optimize design systems to deliver better results. Some web design companies are doing exactly that. Website builders squarespace and Wix embed AI into their workflows to guide designers on more mundane design decisions and we can expect to see more and more AI driven tools embedded within design processes.

Everyone Will Become A Designer

Most design jobs today are defined by creative and social intelligence. The skill sets associated with these job titles require problem framing, creative problem solving, empathy, negotiation skills and persuasion. One of the biggest expected impacts of AI will be to make everyone a designer. There will be a push for all individuals to increase their employability by developing their creativity and social intelligence skills. These skills will no longer be limited to designers only. Instead of just training traditional creative occupations in design thinking techniques, all occupations will be trained to use the skills traditionally reserved for design and creative positions. Designers will need additional knowledge and expertise in multidisciplinary contexts in order to bring that extra value to the job roles that companies will be looking to employ. This in turn could lead to exotic specializations. There are already examples of this trend. The Seattle mayor’s office has created an innovation team tasked with finding solutions to some of Seattle’s most immediate issues and concerns. The team includes designers and design strategists and embraces human-centered design as a philosophy to guide their work. A new integrated design and management program at MIT is yet another example of this trend. Even medical schools are beginning to train future physicians in design thinking. Design is taking on a much broader role and significance in work processes as well as opening up new opportunities for educators across different disciplines to include creative intelligence training and human-centered design as part of their courses and curricula.

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Jan 22 21
Christina Zumwalt
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