AI and The Future of Creativity — Part 2

Following our experiments using the image AI model, Midjourney, we sat down with the team to talk about the experience and the implications for the future of Creativity with the arrival of AI tools.

Midjourney imagines the future of Creativity integrated with AI

After our experiments with the Lunar New Year Portraits, We spoke to Nicholas Loke, Asyraf Daud, Jasmine Poh, and Deej Zulkifli to reflect on the experience and share their thoughts on the topic.

Will AI ultimately enhance or hinder human Creativity? Will it replace human artists and creatives or provide new opportunities for collaboration? Settle in and read on for what our team has to say. 

What were your initial thoughts and expectations of the project?

Nick (Senior Lead Designer): I had high standards because I knew what Midjourney could produce. I had the chance to play around with other AI generators, but none of them could achieve my expectations. Knowing that we were not making content as before (video creation, printed material, etc.), I wanted the outcome to be creative and not a generic visual render without a story behind it.

Asyraf (Experience Designer): Mixed feelings and overthinking. Intrigued to see AI's capabilities and understand its limitations. Conflicted because I still could not comprehend the ethicality of AI generators using data collected from the internet and what it means for artists and designers. Uncertain of how extensive AI can potentially be and what it means for the future.

Jasmine (Designer): I was excited to have a go at generating AI art for the first time after having seen a lot of online discussions about the various AI tech (AI art generators, AI chatbots, etc.). I was looking forward to seeing what absurd outcomes the bot might generate and whether Midjourney could produce the outcome I was looking for.

Deej (Content Designer): I was excited to try out the AI generator as I'd never used it before. I had some idea of the potential limitations of the platform but was eager to test its limits.

What was your reaction to the rendering outcomes?

Nick: We were very pleased with the outcomes as a team. We made an effort to keep trying different variations, and the decision process was smooth and effective.

Asyraf: Even though most of the images were not entirely accurate to what we had hoped for, I was blown away by the level of detail and fidelity of the generated visuals. I would not know the difference if someone told me an artist painted it.

Jasmine: I found it fascinating to see the outcomes generated and how the AI interpreted my prompt based on how it's phrased — a slight change in how the prompt is worded could result in something totally different. And it was also interesting to see the various options generated based on one prompt and how different they all are even though they came from the same prompt. Occasionally, the AI bot generates something super absurd or uncanny-looking. I found it very amusing.

Deej: Overall, I was delighted with the outcome. As someone whose Creativity is often limited to the written word, being able to use words to successfully instruct the bot on what I wanted to see was gratifying.

What were some of the challenges or limitations you encountered along the way?

Nick: This could be my lack of experience in Midjourney, but it is very difficult to "copy" someone else's work. Meaning— getting a consistent style throughout the same query was challenging. The AI wasn't good enough to understand human anatomy. The images rendered showed 10 fingers on one hand, fused arms, ears that aren't in their right place, etc.

The bot rendered mutated appendages most of the time

Asyraf: To accurately put my thoughts/imagination into words to generate the images I wanted. It took multiple attempts, and I had to consider that my account could only generate a limited number of prompts. So we had to be strategic and know when to move on. I had the impression that the AI had trouble accurately depicting Asian features or celebrities. It wasn't easy to make the AI understand that we wanted our hero in rabbit form or with rabbit features. It was unable to provide the perfect amount of rabbit while still being recognisable as the hero.

Jasmine: There were many unsuccessful attempts at prompting the bot to generate a rabbit resembling the intended person. Sometimes the bot did not fully understand what I was asking for. It resulted in generic-looking rabbits with barely any key defining facial or visual features of the person. Or the bot would interpret the prompt too literally and add rabbit ears to the person's head or insert a rabbit next to the person instead of merging them together cohesively. I also tried to give more detailed visual descriptions for each person. Still, the AI bot could not seem to get it exactly right, which was quite limiting for the final outcome.

Jasmine: I wanted Lionel Messi to wear the Argentinian soccer jersey, but the bot would either only include the correct colours or the correct striped design, but never both.

The images generated by the bot weren't 100% perfect and realistic, and some elements looked slightly off — the perspective is slightly off, or there are missing body parts or inaccurate anatomy of body parts, or in Conan's case, it merged two different types of microphones to create one weird looking double-microphone.

Hybrid Boom + Dynamic microphone

Deej: Getting an accurate depiction of the selected hero was challenging for certain portraits. The likenesses of Jet Li, Quentin Tarantino, and Hillary Duff were particularly difficult to nail. The AI bot often depicted really warped details like mutated or missing appendages. The limited number of renders gave us limited experimentation for the 15 intended graphics. We had to create multiple accounts and subscribe to execute the volume of renders for the various queries to arrive at the final 15 selected graphics. 

With AI generators becoming more widely accessible and recognised, what do you think the future holds for Creativity and the Creative industries?

Nick: It could be very useful for rendering artistic impressions for now. It's not yet sophisticated enough to be reliable for more intimate and nuanced details.

Ash: It's terrifying yet thrilling. The integration of AI into Creativity will be inevitable, but it is still unclear how it'll be regulated or if it can even be regulated. It's an excellent tool for efficiency and productivity, but AI uses existing data, and these datasets are still generated organically. What will it mean when these AI models eventually collect data from other AI-generated databases? What about when Web3 and decentralised data come into the picture? How will this impact the way that we create as designers? I have questions, but I'm not sure I'm ready for the answers.

Jasmine: AI generators like Midjourney open new perspectives and avenues for Creativity. And because it's pretty accessible to anyone, you no longer have to be a designer or photographer to be able to generate something visually aesthetic. We are in a new lane of artistic medium.

Deej: Ultimately, these AI models are passive tools. Creativity is still borne from human input— machines have learned from human-created bodies of work and knowledge. Queries still require human triggers to be activated.

Should we include AI in the creative process?

Nick: Yes, we should, especially for prototyping a space or a scene. I see this as a potential ice-breaker tool for workshops or events where anyone can create a concept visual to share their ideas. There's still room to experiment and identify the benefits of using such tools.

Ash: I think it will eventually become a creative toolkit essential. So it's best to master and fully understand how we can utilise it. It isn't a case of "if you can't beat them, join them." It's more about embracing inevitable change and gaining an advantage.

Jasmine: I think it can be most helpful in the early stages of the creative process when you're figuring out a mood board and coming up with rough ideas. If AI can push the boundaries and capabilities of what humans can do, maybe this is the next step of our evolution.

Deej: I think we should be prescriptive and intentional about it. If it helps make processes and outcomes easier and more efficient, why not use it to our advantage?

How would this change the creative process and designers' roles in the future?

Nick: It would be easier for designers to visualise and develop concepts more quickly, but it would still require the designer to create them. Because the ideas for design and Creativity originate from a designer. For now, AI can only help with inspiration.

Ash: I think it isn't about changing the roles of designers but adding new skills and capabilities. Upgrading our skill sets is crucial. AI could really push efficiency and productivity. But, it isn't capable of fully taking over the creative process. Human intervention is still valuable in ensuring accuracy and quality.

Jasmine: I don't think it'll change much. These AI tools can be used to assist during the ideation stage.

Deej: Not particularly drastically. It really depends on the creative process that the designer is committed to. It could be incredibly helpful in streamlining the creative ideation process. The final touch should always be human for quality control. 

Is there room for improvement? How far do you think AI could go?

Nick: If the AI can produce working files, that would be the end of traditional designers.

Ash: It would be to have some predictive or recommended prompts and suggested keywords to help users more effectively frame their query, especially for beginners who may not know where to start. I think AI could eventually do most of the grunt work while humans serve as coordinators for accuracy and quality control.

Jasmine: It would be nice to have specific fields for the AI to better separate and process subject matter requirements versus visual direction requirements. 

Deej: Perhaps being able to target specific details or areas in the results that one can further refine or change. The potential is limitless. I think the more we utilise AI in our day-to-day, we'll continue to find areas for improvement or implementation.

Any final thoughts on AI and its impact on Creativity?

Nick: I think AI art generators are a great example of the dissonance between how we imagine things to be and the reality of how we describe them. When we try to describe a memory to our friends, their imagination will conjure a visual based on their own frame of reference. It will always be an interpretation. AI cannot be expected to be the catch-all or know-all. But it is a great starting point to quickly visualise an idea when there are no existing examples to build off of (e.g. a GameBoy designed on mars excavated in a dystopian environment).

Ash: AI is a more efficient way to springboard new ideas and build upon Creativity. I cannot predict how the future will unfold and what it means to current industries, or if there'll be a fundamental shift in the world or the workforce. However, we are starting to see a trend in how AI can dictate our livelihood. So much has happened in 2022 and quickly. I think 2023 will be the year that AI plays a significant role and will be a recurring topic of conversation for people, companies, and governments. I am excited to see how this technology will advance and how AI and automation can break the current mould in understanding what is possible.

Jasmine: I don't think AI will ever fully replace designers (at least for now). While generating images on Midjourney, I saw other users trying to create logos and other design elements while specifying the text they wanted to see in the results. However, the bot could only make a jumble of merged letters. So there are still limitations to these tools, and you still need a human to come in and clean up the design and improve it. Non-designers trying to develop artwork may not fully grasp sound design principles.

Deej: What is essential in AI and Machine Learning for the creative sector is the services it can provide to creatives. The creative sector is more likely to experience workplace burnout than most other industries. For many whose livelihood is dependent on creative output, having tools that aid in said output should always be championed. In my experience with using AI bots such as ChatGPT, I spend a lot less time floundering in a sea of ideas and honing in on what's most relevant to what I need. AI is a powerful tool that can truly help humankind collectively advance in knowledge. I don't think we have anything to fear. The term "artificial" means that it is no miracle solution.  

The Creative industry is at the forefront of the current AI revolution and has the potential to greatly benefit from its integration. The rise of AI in this sector will undoubtedly impact the demand for human Creativity and Innovation, and challenge the authenticity, originality, and feasibility of creative works. As a sector, the industry is uniquely positioned to shape the future of AI for Creativity in a way that enhances, rather than replaces, human Creativity. 

There are some immediate foreseeable implications. One is the shift of skills from using creative software and tools (like Photoshop, Procreate or even pen and paper) to using language to instruct the AI. As we've seen, prompts require specificity and experimentation to achieve the desired results. Creative briefs will have to be intricately detailed. Another shift is the change of roles where creatives now take on the part of 'client' to the AI, instructing it to create. There becomes a cascade of 'business client' to 'creative person' as the client for the AI producing the result. In this new age of man-machine collaboration, will business clients sidestep creative services and go directly to AI? Or will there be a 3-way collaboration, and how will AI influence or deviate from the original vision that both clients and creatives had in the first place?

To sum it up, we think AI is here to stay and will evolve more rapidly than we think. AI image and language models will become a part of the creative toolkit. Efficiency will always be valuable, so mastering these AI tools becomes an asset. 

As AI continues to evolve and disrupt, staying up-to-date becomes beneficial to approach its integration thoughtfully— How will you utilise these tools? What are the people directly handling these tools most concerned about? Is there a rollout plan to ensure these tools are being used correctly and as intended? In a domain that isn't fully regulated, it's not a bad idea to create regulations of your own.

Nuclear Physicist Al Bartlett said, "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." AI will evolve and impact us in ways we haven't even thought of yet. Perhaps these efficiencies will give us back the time to work on those aspirational projects on the back burner. Maybe this revolution will give us more autonomy to do a little good in the world. Who knows?

Do you? Share your thoughts with us on social media or start a conversation. Are you nervous about embracing AI? Have you started using AI tools for work? What are your biggest concerns?

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