9 February 2023

Will AI replace
graphic
designers?

In summary...

With machines predicted to 'do half of all work tasks by 2025', we discuss whether AI will replace graphic designers.



  • Technology and automation have advanced all industries, including graphic design
  • An understanding of human psychology is essential to good design
  • While AI can assist graphic designers, it lacks the creativity to completely replace human input

You don’t have to lose creativity in a world of AI

The year is 2023. By now, science fiction writers of yesteryear would have expected us to be commuting in flying cars and holidaying on the moon while served by a staff of robots beholden to our every whim. While these predictions have yet to come to pass, it’s undeniable that technology has impacted our daily lives in ways no one living in a pre-internet era could have imagined.

With these technological advances have come advances in automation with many tasks – particularly manual – now undertaken by machines. Look at car manufacturing plants, distribution centres and supermarkets; once solely manual processes are increasingly undertaken by technology.

Further advances mean administrative as well as manual jobs are now at risk. However, graphic design is one profession that will remain reliant on human involvement.

Here’s why…

  • Creativity cannot be automated

It’s long been accepted that creativity is a uniquely human trait. A process occurring within the human brain’s right side; one which is a key differentiator between human and machine. Its inventiveness – using ideas to create something original – is why artificial intelligence, at least in its current guise, cannot be creative.

For now, all AI can comprehend is what it’s been programmed to understand through human input. It cannot, in a creative sense, think for itself. It has no life experiences to draw on; indeed, it hasn’t lived.

That’s not to say attempts to ‘teach’ AI to create works of art have not been made. Images are fed to machines, allowing them to learn trends and styles, before attempting to implement them in original works. This has been completed to various levels of success. While portraits often look deformed, their appeal has not always suffered. In 2018, an AI-created portrait Edmond de Belamy sold for $432,500, suggesting there is beauty to be found in these pieces.

We had a play with DALL-E 2 perhaps the most well-known AI text-to-image generator – in an attempt to recreate our wordmark, and the results were, well, underwhelming to say the least.

Examples of a wordmark logo using DALL-E 2

Whilst we certainly need more experience honing our text prompts to get more appropriate outputs, it’s obvious that these results are not usable. However, as discussion prompts, some interesting ideas are explored here, all created within seconds.

But it is these limitations which are prohibiting robots from taking over from graphic designers in the design and conception of elements such as infographics, marketing materials and website graphics.

  • Machines can’t understand human psychology

Where machine learning struggles is in its understanding of human nuances. Knowing how they’ll respond to a stimulus or using design to create a story for a human audience. Where an artist, for example, will use a setting or situation as the basis for their work, a machine will not understand this context. It struggles to evoke emotion from its audience.

For example, a computer may choose an appropriate stock image for an article based on selected tags, but it won’t understand the effects of its choice. It can’t comprehend the subtle differences between a Birmingham high-rise and a London block of flats.

This formulaic decision-making process can cause embarrassment if it goes wrong, particularly if the process is entirely automated.

Likewise, there may also be times when more than a stock image or a tried and tested template is required. When creativity is involved to create a unique sensory experience. Maybe an infographic or an illustration will sum up an article better. Or a product mockup. One must not forget about keeping the audience engaged –  a task currently beyond the scope of a robot.

It’s long been accepted that creativity is a uniquely human trait ... which is why artificial intelligence, at least in its current guise, cannot replace a graphic designer.

How has technology improved graphic design?

It’s undeniable that digital technology has transformed the graphic design industry. Before Photoshop, InDesign and even word processing tools, designers had to do everything by hand. Designs were created using pens and pencils. Cutting and pasting (with sharp knives and intoxicating solvents) were commonplace. Even tweezers were needed for the extra fiddly bits.

So digital advancements are well enjoyed by graphic designers. Likewise, project management, client communication and workflow efficiency have all benefitted from digital advancements. It’s hard to imagine a world without video conferencing, cloud storage, collaborative real-time editing, or even email. But all are now commonplace. The world really has become smaller.

And, in an increasingly digital world, it’s easy to see the appeal of automation, too. Finished documents can be uploaded to a digital device with little human interaction. Words written based on the most basic of commands. Adverts displayed based on data. Or emails automatically sent following certain actions. As we’ve seen, even art can be created in seconds.

But creativity cannot be replicated.

Not even with today’s advancements.

The future of graphic design

Graphic design and the role of the designer have changed over the years. Where print was once the only medium, now most documents are created for a digital audience. Designers must now be adaptable to different media, be that web design, UI, animation…

And as we’ve discussed, automation is playing an increasingly influential role, as it is in a number of industries. However, we still believe, given its creative nature, that graphic design is unlikely to be replaced robots anytime soon.

Encouragingly, a 2013 study by Carl Benedikt Frey & Michael Osborne of the Oxford Martin School agrees. In their report examining how susceptible jobs are to computerisation, graphic design was ranked 161st out of 702 jobs to be automated (where 702 is most likely).

More recently, Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb wrote in the Harvard Business Review, that “upskilling millions of people in their ability to create and manipulate images will have a profound impact”. Talking specifically about the AI image generator, DALL-E, they believe graphic design now becomes possible at scale. Of course, this still requires a creative mind at the start of the process. And that, ultimately, is why the future of graphic design will remain human-led.

Will AI replace graphic designers – ChatGPT’s answer

Given this is an article all about AI, we thought it best to give the bots the final word. Here’s what ChatGPT, the AI chatbot that has taken the world by storm, had to say:

“As an AI language model, I can’t predict the future with certainty, but currently, it is unlikely that AI will completely replace graphic designers. AI has the potential to automate certain aspects of the design process and make it more efficient, but the creative aspect of graphic design requires human intuition, imagination, and experience that AI still lacks.

“Moreover, graphic design is not just about creating visually appealing images, it’s also about solving communication problems, understanding the client’s needs, and creating designs that effectively convey a message. These tasks require human empathy, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving skills that AI is still far from possessing.

“It is more likely that AI will augment and assist graphic designers in their work rather than replace them. However, like with many industries, it will likely lead to some job loss and shifts in the job market. Graphic designers who embrace and incorporate AI tools into their work will likely be better positioned for the future of the industry.”

In summary…

It’s undeniable that artificial intelligence has the potential to disrupt the graphic design industry. The key for designers is to work with it and embrace its many benefits. All whilst remembering the value we, as experienced professionals, bring to the table.


Graphic design from a human design team

If you require assistance with your next design project, we can help. With decades of experience, we’re experts at designing for different purposes and mediums. We always start by asking, ‘who’s the audience’, and take the time to understand who we’re designing for. It’s a small thing, but one that we think makes all the difference. To get in touch, contact our team today for a friendly chat at hello@jdjcreative.co.uk or fill in our contact form.

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