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The Creative Columnist: The AI Revolution & the Creative Process

Pete Clayton is Made in Plymouth’s Creative Columnist; an illustrator, animator and graphic designer based in Plymouth. Not a born native to the city and region, but a fully bred Plymouthian who’s lived here most of his 41 years… man and boy! In work, Pete’s purpose as a multidisciplinary creative and writer is to share his love of what he does and in turn give people an inspiring creative lift. Outside of work, Pete is a father of 2 to Jack and Mia who love a family outing to The Box or a trip to the Barbican for pasties and iced fingers. Today he discusses the AI revolution…is it really the revolution it seems?

Artificial intelligence and its future impact on the creative industry has long been a discussion in the studio I share here in Plymouth. Mainly, it’s a fear that it will one day take our jobs and the illustrators and graphic designers of today will no longer be here in the creative world of tomorrow. Granted, maybe a very dystopian view, but what’s playing out with AI has been likened to the “fourth industrial revolution” in recent months. Like the original industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th century, there is a fear that jobs will be displaced and taken over by technology. Personally, I have yet to witness this happening with AI in our industry at the moment. But I am concerned as a business owner what the effects of the new image producing technologies will have on my livelihood.

AI technology like Dall-E 2 and even Adobe’s Firefly are, in its most simplistic form, image based AI generators which turn text into images with just a few prompts and clicks. Prior to writing this I had a play with Adobe’s AI offering and it is mind boggling and frightening how fast it can churn out images and the breadth of styles, both illustrative and photo based. It’s just simply, a super clever bit of kit to say the least. Now, it isn’t perfect. In some imagery the hands and faces aren’t very well produced. So for now, my job is safe…ha! But it is fast, and it leaves me wondering will clients, as time goes on, prefer a quick and dare I say potentially cheaper option when budgets are tight? Still, regardless of its “intelligence” and speed, it does leave me wondering, where’s the soul?

Where’s the soul?

There’s something false about these generated images. It is, for me, a little inhuman and soulless. It leaves me thinking, where’s the creative magic? Where’s the serendipity that turns into bigger ideas during the creative process? Where’s the craft I enjoy so much? Typing in prompts isn’t being creative to me. It seems at this stage, in its development of imagery, you aren’t really in control as such as to what is produced. The look and feel can be a bit of a lottery. But maybe, that’ll all change in time?

As I write this, I can’t help but feel like a dinosaur, awaiting the AI comet that might come crashing down and wipe me out of existence. Maybe this is the way forward and I should just embrace the inevitable?

Revolution or mediocre imitation?

I have posed a lot of questions here without much answer. The truth is the future is kind of unknown and the technology in many respects is still in its infancy. Whether I like it or not I think it is here to stay. I, for one, hope that it could become a creative tool to assist me, but not take over the craft I love. Now only time will tell with all this but I’ll never want to stop using pen and ink and scribbling ideas down on scraps of paper with blunt pencils or whatever is at hand. I simply love the process too much. I love getting into that crazy flow state. I also hope that in time there will always be a need for the creative soul only a human can provide. Almost like playing vinyl records over streaming music, or hard copy books over e-readers there’s something lovely about the real thing. There’s a beauty in that and everything else is surely just an imitation.

As I have said, only time will tell how things play out. But at the moment it seems AI is currently less revolutionary and more of a sluggish, soulless coup without a cause when it comes to creativity and the creative process. I doubt I will ever embrace it until that changes.

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