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Critical Reflection on AI from a Designer’s Perspective

Initially, like everyone else, I had fairly shallow thoughts about AI. After completing graphic design, which I found too simplistic and likely to be replaced by intelligent programs, I switched to studying motion graphics, but that’s another story. I believe the essence of graphic design lies in the aesthetics of collage structure, and it is indeed the foundation of all design disciplines. The shift in graphic design styles is also relatively easy to trace and imitate. For example, the recent trend of acid design after minimalism can be imitated in large quantities by focusing on a few visual elements. In commercial branding and posters, the selection and combination of elements such as logos, colors, fonts, illustrations/photography, grids, and icons can to some extent be used to categorize various styles and randomly combine them to create different visual effects. However, the final judgment of good or bad design still depends on the designer’s skills.

I don’t have much experience in Chinese font design, but given the volume and complexity of Chinese characters, AI should be able to save a lot of time for font designers. However, font design should be one of the benchmarks that can test the level of AI design. So, on the one hand, I believe that AI and designers should have a cooperative relationship. Brand designs that used to require a team from a studio can now be completed by one or two people with the help of AI. The decrease in design costs should also lower the threshold for hiring designers for more industries and brands, potentially creating more job opportunities for designers.

Especially in commercial design, companies are more concerned with reliability, so the creative freedom that was once possible during studies is increasingly limited. Therefore, commercial design can be highly automated.

So, what were our initial fears about artificial intelligence? In a commercial society established by capitalism, human value has been replaced by commercial value. The value of a person is measured by their utility, and after three industrial revolutions, productivity tools have been iteratively upgraded. Artificial intelligence, as a tool that can replace humans in designing better productivity tools, is the ultimate tool designed by humanity since the Stone Age. It seems to be able to completely replace the utility of humans, which is the point of concern.

But from my own experience, on the one hand, I’m happy and dependent on the time saved by AI, and on the other hand, I envy and tremble at AI’s ability to blend styles. I used to take pride in creating unique style blends, which I admit was the most exciting and addictive process that set me apart from other designers. However, this skill has now been proven to be replaceable and producible in large quantities in a short time. This makes me think that the creativity I developed in school has a utilitarian attribute and is not the unique quality that defines humanity.

But I’m not entirely unprepared for this. In the process of learning motion graphics, the most challenging part was translating imaginative animation into code. I had to move away from the creative part and start thinking about how to achieve the desired effect with simple layer animations. This training changed my creative process over time. I no longer create in a fanciful manner but instead approach various visual arts in a more logical and coded way. I started thinking about which variables could be changed to produce different output.

In my job, my tasks are indeed mechanized. I’ve also asked friends who do animation, especially 3D animation. They are responsible for a small part of the entire animation process and cannot fully participate in the creative process to experience the joy of creation. This still shows that even in a commercial society, designers/artists cannot fully express their creative potential. This is the psychological gap that new designers and artists entering the workforce have to face. The creativity we once took pride in is difficult to fully express at work.

So, I wanted to see how artificial intelligence can replace us at this stage. Mid-Journey is my preferred program for this. It’s interesting, highly random, and even has the excitement of gambling and card drawing. Even though I prepared the rendering keywords based on the work of previous artists and added my own touch, I still couldn’t predict how the colors and patterns would blend together. I gradually entered a state of flow while playing with AI-generated designs, and I didn’t feel any disconnect between the results created by AI and myself. These were still my creations. As I continued to experiment and play, I gradually forgot about testing the technical skills of AI in graphic design and instead enjoyed the curiosity and happiness of creating images through AI.

I think AI is a liberation of creativity for designers/artists. Creativity is no longer in service of economic activity but becomes a pure form of self-entertainment and self-expression. This represents two levels of purity: using AI to replace the utilitarian attributes of designers, allowing creativity to return to its essence, and using AI to rediscover the joy of experimentation and play in visual effects.

AI replacing human designers, or any job involving mechanical labor, should not be the problem of AI but a reflection on the direction of large-scale production in capitalism, which has led to the mechanization of humans. We should consider what remains after removing our utilitarian selves. What is the essential, spiritual nature of humanity?

The thoughts above led to my work, “The New Typeface.” In this experiment, I attempted to create a complete typeface using Mid-Journey, but the result was not as expected. Instead, it generated patterns with typeface serifs and structural characteristics, which were fascinating, as if they were blurred cognitions created by pure, emotional consciousness. As the ultimate tool that can replace human utility, AI should be highly rational. However, immature AI produces patterns that seem to be pieced together like dreams. I found it interesting to visually contrast this with the language system built on human logic.

After unexpectedly obtaining a series of patterns with typeface serifs and structural features generated by Mid-Journey, I thought about creating something relatively human. Human nature includes an element of uncertainty, as the future holds infinite possibilities, and the mistakes made by humans are to some extent the result of highly complex calculations. This represents the spiritual side of humanity. I believe there are no real mistakes, as errors result from binary thinking in human logic. So, what visually represents uncertainty? I thought of the dashed lines used to shape sketches, those intermittent lines outlining part of a form. In contrast to AI’s highly rational approach that produces a sensuous understanding of human text, I believe that creating sketches with a computer is a better way to express the contrast between human and machine interaction.

Humans create tools, become enslaved by tools, and tools become external organs of the human body. This interplay between humans and AI, these strange phenomena of mutual influence, are the result of the interaction between carbon-based and silicon-based civilizations.