The Creative Possibilities with Ai

April 27, 2023

Oganalp “O.G.” Canatan

Bow to your AI overlords. Or not.

As a designer and a transhumanist, I’ve had my fair share of conversations about the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to rule the world and turn us all into jobless husks. While such debates rage on, I’m much more interested in exploring the creative possibilities of AI as a tool. There’s somewhat of a fine line between being paranoid and being prepared, after all.

Sure, AI may take over our species someday, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For now, let’s see AI as just a tool, albeit one with some serious potential (and pitfalls). And as a designer, I’m all about tools. Especially ones with a charismatic voice, like Ultron from the Marvel universe (thank you, James Spader, for the amazing performance).

I’ve noticed that some of my designer friends, particularly those in the early stages of their careers, are panicking about becoming obsolete before even building their professional life. Here’s my take as somewhat of a seasoned designer: whether AI renders us obsolete is entirely up to us. As with any tool, it’s all about how you use it. Our species is somewhat famous for its adaptation capabilities, eh? It’s no different for AI.

Let me dive deeper into that.

AI as a tool

One AI tool I’ve been using since its launch in 2022 is Midjourney. I’ve created thousands of images on the platform for personal and commercial use. And while there are certain legal and ethical debates to be had about AI,that’s not the focus of this post. No, today we’re talking about how AI can help us create amazing things and test out new ideas.

Most people use Midjourney to generate images, and I’m no exception. But I’ve also been using it as a blending engine, taking pictures of objects, scenes, and people and blending them creatively. And that’s where design thinking comes in. It’s not just about using the tool; it’s about understanding how to use it in a way that’s creative and impactful. So, by taking a picture of a Sensodyne tube, adding a few circles and the trees from my office window, blending them, and adding a few clouds, I was able to create a space image that looked cool. The options are limitless with blending and weights you can apply to individual images. You can blend up to five images at the time of this writing and get amazing results with your input as some of the raw materials.

Yeah, OG, so what?

Being a designer

The “so what” part is in the approach. Not how to prompt it; that part’s just a click away, sitting patiently to be discovered within the help documentation (I’ll add how I do it to the end). No, how, as in “how to arrive at that creative approach?”

Design thinking is more important than ever. It’s not enough to just be able to use tools like Midjourney (or Figma, Photoshop, or pen and paper-any tool you can think of); you must understand the “why” behind your designs. That means having a deep knowledge of the subject matter and meditating on what you’ve learned. For example, AI will not make you embrace the knowledge that everything you see is geometry. It will not help you see a planet as a sphere (irregularly shaped ellipsoid? Osculating sphere?) and a satellite as a T shape which is just two rectangles attached. Sigh, okay, rectangular prisms if we are talking three-dimensional geometry. Becoming a great designer takes time, practice, and patience. As a designer, you need to be able to “see” and not just “look.” A toothpaste tube can be a spaceship, and a mobile phone can be a landing pad if you learn to “see” it. Even if an AI can do everything for you, you still need the experience and knowledge to understand the concepts quickly and use the AI tool most effectively. AI can tell you to see objects differently, but it’s not your eyes. Not yet, anyway.

But here’s the thing: being a great designer isn’t just using AI tools. It’s also about being adaptive and fluid. You can’t rely on one tool to do all your work.That’s why it’s important to keep learning and exploring new technologies and approaches to design. Learning design, or whatever your profession is, is learning how to adapt to different circumstances. Today’s AI will be tomorrow’s robots, next decade’s pandemic, or a future alien invasion, whatever. Adaptability comes from critical thinking and a strategic approach to knowledge. Being fluid is only possible when you know what you’re doing.

As a designer, I’m confident that my team and I can use AI to create amazing things that push the boundaries of what’s possible. So, I let the debates about AI rage on and be excited about the possibilities it presents as a creative tool. You are no different; just be open to change and to knowledge. Learn your craft. And if the robots do eventually take over, well, at least we’ll have had some fun along the way. Just in case, always use “please” in your prompts to be on the safe side.

Simple tutorial:

How to use geometric shapes and blend to create images:

  • Create a few circles with different colours
  • Take a picture of trees, sand, clouds, or anything that has an organic feeling (or whatever you want to use as texture)
  • Blend the circles to get a gradient colour feeling with /blend command in Midjourney
  • Blend the output circle with the image with the /blend command in Midjourney again
  • Blend the other circles with the image, and change weight with the command --iw .5 (or whatever weight you want between 0.5 and 2)
  • Copy the image location, add planet, concept art (or whatever you want in style) to your prompt, or find a space image from a stock photo service you use, and blend again.

You can use Photoshop or another tool to further play on the image. I like to work on the images I created with Photoshop afterward to create something unique and fitting better to my tastes, like removing the background with content-aware fill. You can do things your way, use PS scripts, or whatever you want. Applying what you know to tools will help you try things with strategy and tactics rather than blind guessing.

There are multiple ways to achieve similar results. I do it this way to create something more unique and test what the AI can come up with in my flow. The thing is to create your own flow and approach to tools.

Here is a flow I used to create a planet from shapes and photos:

The planet is now a part of the composition at the back with some added Photoshop work for hue and blend.

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