How AI Is Changing Design

It has been said that a tool is only as useful as the hand that wields it, but what if those hands are virtual? UX Collective says that artificial intelligence isn’t replacing designers, at least not as yet but based on new trends within the design field AI has already shown that it is capable of making the life of designers a lot easier. AI offers a new way for engineers to look at things and is a strict upgrade from the methods of simulation that we currently have available to us.

In a sense, it’s a logical conclusion to 3D simulation software suites like AutoCAD and Revit. More than that, though, it utilizes machine learning to offer us solutions that we may not have thought of initially. We risk losing creative agency by incorporating AI into the field of design, something that is a long way off but is looming in the future nonetheless.

Algorithm-Based Iterations of a Design

The power that AI demonstrates is its ability to process things quickly and utilize what it’s learned from other nodes to improve its suggestions. As SAS tells us, this is the definition of machine learning, where model-building is automated to produce results with little to no human intervention.

How AI “learns” is through a series of iterative methods, determining what works and what doesn’t then updating the rules as you remind it what the final goal is. It uses an iterative approach to streamline its algorithm so it can produce something that you want in the way that you want it. AI, just like every other computer program on the plant, uses an algorithm to determine what is the ‘required” product.

With each iteration that it presents and is approved or rejected, it fine-tunes its algorithm to produce precisely what you want in the way you want it.

AI in the World of Design

Understanding how AI works means that it’s easy to see how it can be applied to mechanical design initiatives. Boeing mentions that they utilize an AI-based system to help their engineers perfect their mechanical designs. With each successive iteration, a mechanical designer can tweak any number of variables to see if the model is mechanically sound and if it does what it’s supposed to do. In the past, mechanical designers would produce three or four prototypes for real-world testing and simulation out of which the best candidate would be taken.

However, with AI comes abstract simulation, where data can be used to create thousands of simulations of a product, each one testing a different facet of its design and a final design generated from the most suitable result. In this way, AI can help to build better products by making the design and resting process easy to navigate and cheap to implement.

The Growth of AI Research

The United Nations notes that half of the patents published for research in Artificial Intelligence have been done so since 2013, signifying a massive jump in analysis within this field in the last few years. This statistic demonstrates how important AI is to the future of design and development from a practical perspective.

Companies that fund research and development internally have seen the promise that AI offers to industry and commerce and are trying to build systems that can exploit all that we have learned thus far. Autodesk’s foray into AI termed Dreamcatcher on their website, claims that it uses constraints and goals to dynamically adapt users’ designs using their generative system showing exactly how far the depth of research into the technology has proceeded.

Can an AI Create Human Designs?

The crux of the matter is whether these AI systems have what it takes to replace human designers. At current, the answer is a resounding no, but Ai is learning from the pool of all human talent daily, so we’re not sure how long this will continue. Adobe has developed an AI system named Sensei, and the company claims that it can help improve the delivery of a digital design project by suggesting systems that work well together.

At the moment, all it can do is indicate because, like all current AI, it still works on providing something to a user, and not on coming up with ideas on its own. Human designers have their humanity as an edge, offering a product that reflects the things they think about and relate it to human emotion — something AI’s can’t yet fathom. Both of these facets, the creative aspect, and the emotional element, are what separates AI from humans, and it’s the place where designers are still needed.

Preparing for an AI-Designed Future

While AI still has a long way to go, it’s made a lot of inroads into professions that have long been bastions of humanity. Developers have been feverishly working to create an AI that successfully replicates human creative endeavor to automate design and implementation. While that may be a while off, we as designers need to face the reality that one day, the field of design may be as defunct as the profession of a centurion.

However, if AI’s get to the point where they express human emotion and can make creative design choices, there will be a lot more cultural, social, and ethical dilemmas for the world to navigate before it can replace us as designers.

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