The Importance of the Human Factor in Design

AI is a great tool with a wide range of applications, but it is still a long way from
replacing the human imagination.

With the huge advances in machine learning technology over the past couple of years, artificial intelligence is becoming an increasingly important tool in a variety of areas. It has led to the growing use of voice technology in helping us out with day to day tasks and is used in a range of business applications alongside data analytics, to provide insights on customer behaviour and to spot hidden trends and statistical patterns. All very useful, but when most of us think of artificial intelligence, we cannot help thinking of the famous androids from film and TV, such as Data in Star Trek and the little robot boy played by Haley Joel Osment in the 2001 film AI: Artificial intelligence. These were machines that had imagination and artistic talent. Could they ever become a reality?

The question was brought into focus within the logo design industry recently when design guru Jack Qiao launched his new Brandmark enterprise. This uses artificial intelligence to create a brand identity from scratch. Qiao put the application out there for industry experts to assess. So how did the AI perform? Let’s take a look.

Testing the app

Qiao’s software was given the challenge of redesigning the logo for a Netherlands based web development company. It came up with half a dozen options, and these were presented to both the company’s Head of Design and an independent freelance illustrator to get their opinions. There was one word that came out above all others: “generic.” The proposed logos, icons and typefaces were not unattractive, and looked professional enough, but they were distinctly unmemorable, and called to mind the “standard templates” that you can pull up for a report or presentation in PowerPoint.

The making of a great logo

There are many aspects to creating a great logo, and most of these are so subjective that it is impossible to plug them into a computer algorithm. As well as considering what fonts, icons and colours work together, there are questions of brand ethos, and whether you are seeking a traditional or contemporary vibe. Many of these considerations are difficult to quantify, and you can only assess whether they are “right” when you look at them. It is, perhaps, inevitable, then, that the designs produced by AI are on the “safe” side. This is not to say they are without merit. If AI can come up with a serviceable brand identity for a few pounds, this could be just the ticket for a small scale project or a bootstrap startup where every penny counts.

But as to our original question of whether AI is about to take over logo design? The answer is a resounding “no” – at least for now. After all, it is important to take into account the speed at which technology develops, and just because a new technology is underwhelming today, who knows what the future holds. After all, a few years ago, we were all laughing at the thought of electric cars.

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