Discover more from Design Lobster
#113 Is anyone there?
Design with a human connection
This week’s Design Lobster is exploring a human theme from a few different angles. We’re asking what becomes of the human designer in a world with sophisticated AI creation tools, and admiring a famously human-looking mosque wall in Turkey. Keep it real, people 🤖
✨Enjoying Design Lobster? Please share it with a friend, colleague or fellow designer.
Question: Will the robots come for designers too?
If your Twitter feed is anything like mine, then the last few weeks you’ll have been deluged by a flood of remarkable AI-generated images. Suddenly sophisticated AI models like DALL-E, Imagen and Midjourney are in everyone’s hands and people are using them to visualise truly anything you can imagine. From entirely new Van Gogh paintings to murals of Cleopatra holding an iPhone.
There’s been some debate about how we should think about art that’s made in this way. Erik Hoel believes the absence of human consciousness disqualifies these images as true art and argues that prompting – the act of typing in the words that tell the AI what do – is so divorced from craft that it can’t be considered an artistic practice. Others have argued conversely that these models democratise creativity.
I had a play with one of the less sophisticated models called DALL-E Mini, prompting it to come up with the chair designs that you can see above. A found it a fascinating way to explore a solution space, making connections and throwing things up which took my thinking in another direction. Whether or not we think of these creations as art I suspect this kind of back and forth with AI will become part of how many creative professions like design work in the future.
I’ve always believed that we think through our tools. So that a sketch with a pencil for example is not just a record of an idea, but is actually how you conceive ideas in the first place – a kind of embodied cognition. I’m excited to see the new kinds of thinking that we’ll be able to do with AI tools at our disposal.
Design takeaway: How might AI tools change how you design?
🤖 Browse some of Midjourney’s wildest creations
Object: Nigde Alaaddin Mosque
The picture above shows the eastern portal of the Nigde Alaaddin mosque in Nigde, Turkey – built in the 13th century. The carved vaults or muquarnas above the door are famous for revealing the face of a crowned girl when the sun falls on them at the right angle in Spring. See if you can see it.
Legend has it that the stonemason who built the mosque fell in love with the daughter of a local lord. Though his passion was unrequited, he was able to find expression for it through his craft. Carving her image out of sunlight and shade, and creating an enduring monument to his love.
Whether or not you believe the story, I think we can all get behind design like this that pulls something special or surprising out of its context. In this case, a cleverly conceived set of surfaces combine with sunlight to create a powerful and unexpected image. It makes me wonder what other surprising connections we could be making in design work.
Design takeaway: What connections could your design make with its context?
Quote: “Design is people.”
– Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs wrote the canonical work of humane urbanism: The Death and Life of Great American Cities – published in 1961. I like the reminder this pithy quote provides that design is fundamentally always about people.
Who are you designing for this week?
Enjoyed this week’s Design Lobster? Let me know by clicking the heart button ❤️