Graphic design and artificial intelligence

There is one narrative about graphic design’s historical development that contextualises it in relation to the technological advancement of creative tools. This is often at odds with designers’ own focus on, for example,  consumer aesthetics (Kuutti 2009).

Nevertheless, it is inarguable that graphic designers have increasingly been forced to face the advance of disruptive technologies (Drucker & McVarish 2013). This is especially significant with the rise of in-house design, where organisations have increasingly been able to take more basic layout aspects of graphic design away from dedicated external design agencies (Geraedts, Verlinden & Stellingwerff 2012; Silk & Stiglin 2016). 

It is into this area of graphic design that most of the research into artificial intelligence (AI) seems located – or more accurately automation rather than true AI, which seems many years away as regards creative practices. This is understandable, the computer scientists who are behind most of this research are not creatives and there can’t be many graphic designers with the technical skills to carry out AI research. But it also means that the research that exists tends to be focussed on automating template driven layouts. Which is fine, but also compartmentalises graphic design into a mechanistic practice over and above its historical emphasis on visual communication (Meggs & Purvis 2012; Newark 2002). 

So, is ‘creativity’ and ‘problem solving’ where graphic designers must focus their attention, so as not to become victims to automation and the ‘democratisation’ of their practices – allowing non-skilled practitioners (or machines) to take on much of their day-to-day work? Or, is the topic even more complex? 

I feel that there isn’t enough of a discussion about this from a graphic design perspective and, while this remains unaddressed, the narrative will continue to be created by those outside of graphic design practice. This, in turn, becomes another obstacle to graphic design’s attempt to differentiate itself as a distinct disciplinary practice.

Update: I recently presented my paper on graphic design and artificial intelligence (AI) at the Design Research Society conference in Bilbao.

Drucker, J & McVarish, E 2013, Graphic design history : a critical guide, Pearson, Boton.

Geraedts, J, Verlinden, EDJ & Stellingwerff, M ‘Three views on additive manufacturing: business, research, and education’, in I Horváth, A Albers, M Behrendt & Z Rusák (eds), Karlsruhe, Germany, 7-11 May 2012, 

Kuutti, K 2009, ‘HCI and design: uncomfortable bedfellows?’, in T Binder, J Löwgren & L Malmborg (eds), (Re)Searching the Digital Bauhaus, Springer, London, pp. 43-59.

Meggs, PB & Purvis, AW 2012, Meggs’ history of graphic design, 5th edn, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

Newark, Q 2002, What is graphic design, RotoVision.

Silk, AJ & Stiglin, MM 2016, ‘Build It, Buy It Or Both? Rethinking the Sourcing of Advertising Services’, International Journal of Marketing Studies, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 1-13.