It’s been a trend for our species since the dawn of time that technology always replaces manpower.
Bus or taxi drivers? Self-driving cars. Mechanics? Assembly lines. Bank Tellers? ATMs.
These are only few of the jobs that we replaced with machines in the last century. One thing common about these jobs is they had repetition and pattern in their workflow. If it has any recognizable pattern then machines, more specifically Artificial Intelligence or simply AI, can take over. More and more jobs will be replaced by machines in the future and that is certain.
I’m a graphic designer and my job requires imagination, creativity, and intuition. So being replaced by a machine should be the last thing I should worry about, right? Wrong. ‘Pattern and repetition in workflow is almost non existent in this industry because every single design is different.’ — wrong again! With my new experience with AI today I’m not sure if I can say I have full confidence that I won’t be replaced by a machine. This industry is more repetitive than we think.
Look at the attached artworks in this article. How much time do you think it took the artist to make them? Five, six, eight hours? Pause here and take a guess.
Ready for the answer? A minute. AI took only a single minute to complete one these concept arts! Well, technically it was maybe about three minutes to be exact starting from the initial concept up to the final upscale version. But still, we’re talking less than five minutes here max when an experienced human would have taken hours to finish something like this. How much experience do you think is needed to create something so intricate as these? Maybe half a decade of consistent practice? With AI I only had to put in keywords for the prompt and it took a minute to generate an initial concept. The only effort I had to do was to dig into my vocabulary and to type in the right keywords that describe what image I want to see. Concept art is something I enjoy but I have very little experience on and is definitely not my forte. But somehow with this system I was able to generate an image that is very close to the level of work I see in Juxtapoz magazine and Artstation.
This AI was developed by team called Midjourney — “an independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species” as stated on their website. They offer free beta testing as I write this article. You can try to access their services through their website. Go crazy and be amazed. You can also subscribe to their services once your limited access runs out.
I tried to look back on my job as a designer found that it indeed has its own very repetitive pattern in terms of workflow. It could be different from one designer to another but I think generally most of us will have something like this: Research — inspiration seeking — conceptualization — sketching — to rendering of final output. With this evident pattern and the power of internet then this AI could easily do what I do. While AI may not have its own “imagination” it sure does have a pool of billions and billions designs made available by us, humans.
What now? After this experience I feel both terrified and excited. Right now this AI creates concept artworks but I can see it eventually developing into logo design, branding, and other branches of design. It terrifies me because obviously this could seriously affect my job security. I’m not as irreplaceable as I thought I was. To be fair one of my college professors always taught that all of us are replaceable so none of us should be too full ourselves but I just never imagined being replaced by a machine in this industry.
On the other hand I think this could also help graphic artists who aspire to elevate their freelance game or even help them transition into building their own design business. This idea personally excites me. One of my biggest concern in freelancing is scaling. Eventually no matter how fast I become in designing it may not be enough to handle multiple clients on my own. Let’s use branding as our frame. With this kind of AI I can build the initial branding of any client, let it learn it, and then let it handle the collaterals that maybe a too mundane for me to handle but also too expensive to hire more designers for such as flyer templates, calling cards, or company t-shirts.
While technology moves forward we should not lose our humanity along the way.
Some even more awesome concept art created by Midjourney AI: https://www.midjourney.com/pub/feed/