Is Creative … Dead?

3d skulls on the gravestone with the mark "R.I.P."

The rapid introduction of image-generating AI systems raises deep questions about the future of the creative profession

By JP Lopez, Creative Director, MMI

The year is 2022, and the art world will never be the same.

The (seemingly overnight) invention of artificial intelligence (AI) systems that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language has sent shock waves through the ranks of mixed-media artists, graphic designers and agency creatives alike.

Since this game-changer is still in its infancy and until the technology is refined, we can’t really know how bleak (or promising) the future for human artists might be, but the possibilities seem endless.

For one thing, it will speed things up by making visuals a lot easier to create. It also will bring more power to ideation since a well-thought-out idea could quickly become a campaign brought to life. And, it will impact new business since spec work, storyboards and sketching can all be done with AI, giving artists and designers more time to finesse the creative concepts.

The future of design will be improved by this technology, with humans wielding the power for the better. In addition to the many possible outcomes with AI creative, the most likely is that it will give designers another tool to use while creating worlds, designs, and images at greater rates than ever before. Almost without doubt there will be some artists negatively affected by this creation, but the majority of us will reap rewards if we find ways to adapt and channel this remarkable tech into our existing creative strategies.

AI has already been used to create a cover for Cosmopolitan, and it was recently used to enter (and win!) a Colorado State Fair art contest. Of course, because the internet is the internet, it took virtually no time for someone to harness the power of AI-generated art to create something genuinely creepy. What has yet to be revealed, however, is how this new tool might reshape the advertising industry. As we are still in the early days, it’s understandable that most would wait to adopt until the technology is more polished, but at least one agency has dipped a toe in the water, using AI to reimagine creative for 10 iconic brands.

I’m confident in the future of our creative industry for a few reasons, but the big one is represented by the one thing that AI cannot replicate: nuance.

There is a lot of reading between the lines that goes into interpreting what clients want and designing creative that can tell a brand’s story in a compelling way. These tools will not replace designers and artists because, alone, the technology cannot create like a human can, with insight into the strategy that connects brands to their consumers. The creative power will remain in the hands of designers and directors, who can ask the algorithm to make it pop … or to make the logo bigger.