Is AI really going to replace graphic designers?

Two robots making a pizza

Imagine you open a pizza app on your phone to order delivery, and find that there’s no longer a menu. Just a text box that says “What would you like today?”

You type in “a large, pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and extra cheese. Garlic crust. Side order of cheesy breadsticks with marinara sauce.” The app responds with a big green animated check mark, you pay, and 45 minutes later a drone drops a box at your doorstep. You open it, intrigued, excited, and a little nervous….and voila! A pizza! Kind of! It’s a little misshapen and the pepperoni was added after cooking, and it used blue cheese instead of mozzarella, and the mushrooms are whole instead of sliced, and they added in olives and broccoli for some reason, and they forgot the breadsticks, but still…it’s kind of cool…right?!

You can imagine the novelty would wear off pretty soon, and maybe next time you’d call the local place down the street. You can teach a machine what a pizza is and how to interpret an order, and how to make one, and even deliver it to your house. It’ll get better each time, and eventually the pepperoni will be cooked and the mushrooms will be sliced, but the machine will never know what a pizza tastes like. It will never be able to replicate the talent or personal touch of a real, human chef.

In my (perhaps unusually) optimistic and controversial opinion, the same goes for graphic design. As the world of technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, some designers have expressed concerns that artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually replace them. But the truth is, AI is not here to steal our jobs, it’s here to help us do them better. Just like Photoshop, Illustrator, Figma and Canva, our ability to create faster and more expansively is enhanced by these new tools, not replaced. The most important piece in the AI workflow is still the human input, and in many cases, at least with these early iterations of Midjourney and Dall-E et al, there is plenty of work on the back end that needs to be done to clean up the output. AI generated art is much more effective as a starting point for a human designer than a standalone finished product.

AI is a tool, not a replacement. It can assist designers in a variety of ways, by automating repetitive tasks, generating new ideas, or helping with color and layout choices. However, it’s important to note that AI-generated designs typically lack the creativity and human touch that sets a design apart. Graphic design is an art centered around solving problems, and like all forms of art, it requires that human touch to truly excel.

Moreover, there are certain aspects of graphic design that AI simply can’t replicate. A designer needs to understand branding and how to connect with a target audience. Most designers know when a piece is finished because they can empathize and feel whatever emotion the piece was designed to engender in the client, the satisfying equivalent of watching a puzzle piece click in to place. This requires true empathy, cultural understanding, and a deep understanding of human behavior, things that AI just can’t replicate, even if they’re really good at pretending to.

Graphic design is also a rapidly changing field, where designers need to continuously educate themselves and stay current on new design trends, best practices, and yes, technologies. Midjourney, Dall-E, and even ChatGPT will be playing an important role in my future workflow, and my clients will be better off for it. But creativity is intrinsically linked to emotion, and humans will always have the edge in that regard. AI may be able to mimic current design trends, but it can’t anticipate or create new ones.

AI is an exciting development in the world of graphic design, but it’s not something to be feared, and certainly not shunned. Instead, the smart graphic designer will embrace it as a valuable tool that can help them create better designs and work more efficiently. So let’s welcome AI to the design table, and work together to create something truly spectacular. Like stuffed crust pizza – something only a human could come up with.