“AI revolution” means design studios could look very different in three years

As AI begins to change the way designers work Design Bridge executive director of experience design Tom Gilbert levels on what the design consultancy of the near future will look like.

If design consultancies are to adjust to the speed of change that AI is offering, they will need to learn to work with it to avoid being left behind and if they are to do that well they can learn from historic examples of tech-enabled transition.

Embracing new tech will help solve challenges faster

We’re in the midst of the AI revolution and as such, no one is 100% certain what will happen, but, like in all times of change we look to examples from the past, times when we’ve faced and embraced transformation. After all, this isn’t the first time the creative industry has had to adapt to new technologies. Just as the music industry adapted to online downloading and streaming, the design industry embraced Computer Aided Design (CAD), now we must embrace AI and other technological advancements as tools to improve the quality of our work and solve problems faster.  While some will always prefer to stick to traditional methods, we see the combination of technology and craft as an advancement that will ensure our work moves forward. As a result, not only will the work develop, but so too will we – as designers, as businesses, and as an industry.

Restructuring our perception of “studios”

Although the pandemic contributed to well documented isolation, it also accelerated the uptake in new ways of communicating and collaborating across borders and time-zones. A network of multi-disciplinary and diverse talent working collaboratively across the world is, and will continue to be the best way to design and solve problems. There are several factors which may help virtually connected studios evolve further.

Strategy for design: as people, communities, consumers, and cultures continue to evolve, so will their needs. Design will always play a role in fulfilling these and strategic thinking will remain key to identifying and defining how a brand or organisation will meet them. Design thinking will also help us continually evolve our approach to problem-solving.

Original Ideas: With AI able to learn from existing bodies of work, designers will have to learn not only to wield, but to recognise, critique, control and ultimately how to surpass it. To ensure our teams remain creative and inquisitive, we must continue to train and stretch our minds through creative thinking exercises, traveling and experiences that inspire us. Feeding interesting prompts into AI engines will result in more favourable outcomes; designers will have to learn to avoid creative laziness and relying too heavily on AI.

Creative Tech Teams: all agencies will need a creative tech team to bridge the gap  between design and technology, to connect the creative heart and the brain. These teams will have to learn to create custom tools that can harness the power of AI and solve one of the greatest issues – how to make it unique, ownable and controllable when it is open to everyone and anyone who can type in text prompts.

Coders and developers will be able to bring ideas to life and automate time-consuming tasks, allowing more time for tasks that add value. Creative tech designers who can connect unmet needs and technology will become increasingly valuable.

Ideas that happen: AI is making design more accessible to the world, but bringing concepts to life in the physical or virtual world is still challenging. This may lead to increased demand for designers with the technical and practical skills to bring ideas to life. Designers understand that there are many stages from concept to reality and the importance of these skills, used alongside relationships with trusted partners, will become invaluable.

Measuring our impact: measuring the success of design should be simple, as our output is tangible. Communication industries are better at capturing the impact of their efforts, but as designers in general we must also measure our effectiveness and make sure it’s captured. By solving problems through design, we’re not only making a difference to our clients, but on society and the world. For this reason it is important to measure and understand the impact of our work, and to use this information to continuously improve our processes and make a greater impact. As part of our way of measuring impact, we must also be aware of bias.

One thing we can be certain of is that the design industry is constantly evolving and it’s our job as designers to stay ahead of the curve. By embracing technology, restructuring our perception of the studio, focusing on strategy and original ideas, fostering creative tech teams, and measuring our impact, we can ensure that the design industry remains at the forefront and continues to make a positive impact on the world.


Hide Comments (2)Show Comments (2)
  • Andrew Morris February 27, 2023 at 2:04 am

    This compelling headline grabbed my attention, but does it deliver past the clickbait test?

    When the internet first weaponised the ad industry, we invented new ways of working. Many agencies created bright new experiences for consumers, while others wreaked havoc on a largely unsuspecting and naive public.
    The net result? Trust in Agencies is lower than trust in Estate Agents.

    When the dust had settled, the design industry was transformed.
    We witnessed the creation of powerful new channels and responded with media tools and process, which we rapidly monetised and made indispensable. Where we inherited new complexity, we found revenue. It could easily be argued that we profited more from this tectonic shift than most clients or consumers.

    I’m not comfortable with the implied suggestion that this industry has always been on the right track. That, in the face of another step-change in technology, all we need to do is restructure and redefine a few roles. That’s simply our instinct for self-preservation taking priority over the people our industry purports to serve.

    Perhaps our first AI conversations should be less about threat, disruption, or resurfacing old paradigms with a light lacquer of sincerity. We are at a crossroads of significant change. This is an opportunity for the design industry to re-energise people in the manner of Buckminster-Fuller’s ‘Design-Science’ revolution.

    Can we not pause, peel back the commercial lenses for a moment, to see the person behind the consumer. Let’s put a little human progress before profit. How can we help create meaningful experiences and outcomes that do more than monetise people’s needs and desires? If we excite the public about a world bettered by the introduction of AI, we can provide a much-needed North Star for everything that may follow.

    I would love to see our industry’s press concern itself less with clicks and instead, drive a substantive debate that injects meaning beyond the headlines.

  • Carl St. James February 27, 2023 at 9:59 am

    I have a feeling that as it becomes easier to spot AI-created work then companies eager to show their humane credentials will employ humans to do their work and it will become a badge of honour amongst the companies that can afford it.

    AI will probably eat up the Fiverr-based ‘make me a logo for my streaming channel’ market but the agency model will remain. Mcdonalds didn’t put the Michelin chef out of business and the Vinyl actually made a comeback against the MP3.

  • Post a comment

Latest articles

From the archives: Picture Post

As we head back into our archives, here’s a gem from March 1990. Jane Lewis looks at the creative ways design firms promoted their services through mail-outs.