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Is DALL-E Coming For Your Design Job?

by Rudy Sanchez on 07/26/2022 | 4 Minute Read

Machines taking over jobs is nothing new. Robots have become more sophisticated and utilized in factories and warehouses for decades. Apps can now take our pizza orders, negating the need for a human on the end of a phone line, while robots can learn the layout of our homes and efficiently clean our floors (thanks, Roomba). Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), machines can also do complex tasks like transcript audio and make grammar edits in real-time.

Until now, AI was not at a point where it could threaten the jobs of creatives. Besides, visual design is complicated, and software couldn’t possibly replicate the ingenuity and emotion of a professional human designer, right?

OpenAI’s software DALL-E, whose name invokes Pixar’s plucky trash-collecting bot WALL-E and Spanish painter Salvador Dali, is capable of generating original art based on natural language prompts. For example, asking DALL-E to construct an image of “a red panda with a cup of coffee, thinking of his good old days, oil painting” produces a reasonably accurate and aesthetically pleasing result. Now that OpenAI feels its DALL-E art generator is ready for commercialization and has opened up access, you have to wonder if flesh and blood designers and artists should be concerned that AI will replace their job.

Until now, OpenAI limited DALL-E to a small group of users and researchers while exploring the possible implications of allowing broader access. But the AI research and deployment company has announced that it has opened beta access to one million additional users. They intend to add more users as it improves and addresses possible misuse of DALL-E, such as platform abuse and inherent bias in its machine learning. Users will get 50 free credits a month and 15 credits each subsequent month. Each credit is good for one set of generated images or three in the case of edits and variation requests. Users can purchase additional credits in 115 increments for $15. DALL-E works can also be commercialized, meaning users can reprint, sell, or merchandise their generated images.

So what does that mean for visual artists and designers? 

OpenAI describes DALL-E as a starting point for creatives, something that saves time in the designing process, similar to Adobe's AI tool Sensei that integrates into their suite of creative software, offering shortcuts to optimize your workflow. It's also offering subsidized access for artists needing financial assistance, and the implication is that humans continue to be part of the creative craft.

AI is the next technological advancement, following computers, telecommunications, and mobile. If previous advances in technology serve as examples, AI art generation will be a tool that will give more people access to design and creativity. It will free up time for professionals allowing them to work on different aspects of a project or complete more of them in the same amount of time.

Cosmopolitan recently tasked DALL-E with making its first magazine cover for the publication. A group of editors worked with digital artist Karen X. Cheng and OpenAI, starting with a brainstorming session over Zoom. While DALL-E could produce images in seconds, the results were a mixed bag of astonishing to underwhelming. One thing Cosmopolitan editors did notice was how DALL-E was capable of producing images similar to human artists, despite relying entirely on fed data and machine learning. The final cover was in no part thanks to a very specific prompt from Cheng, demonstrative of DALL-E’s limitation as an art generator and the importance of human creativity.

But like any tool, AI could conceivably get used for more nefarious ends. Hate groups use the same social media and design software everyone else does, but OpenAI is taking early steps to ensure that its DALL-E software isn’t utilized in damaging or fraudulent ways. Harmful images and violent, adult, or political content are not allowed. Image uploads of realistic faces and attempts to generate pictures of celebrities are also not allowed, with OpenAI actively scrutinizing and policing these policies, employing software and human monitors to identify misuse of its platform.

One advantage humans have over AI platforms like DALL-E is recognizing inherent bias in culture and society. The data used to train DALL-E has racial and gender bias and generated artwork in earlier iterations reflected those prejudices. OpenAI made progress in making DALL-E's artwork more reflective of the world’s diversity.

In most cases, automation transforms the nature of a job. ATMs have offloaded basic transactions from human tellers to machines, freeing up tellers to focus on more complex services not possible on a touchscreen. Robots have also taken over some dangerous warehouse or factory jobs, reducing employee risk. Similarly, computers radically changed how graphic designers created but didn’t send them packing. It’s unlikely AI like DALL-E will entirely replace human designers. Instead, it’s more likely to follow in the footsteps of technological advancements and serve as another skill in a creative professional’s tool chest. DALL-E still needs a human to come up with creative concepts to generate. DALL-E can’t think up a piece of design or artwork by itself; like most machines, it still requires a human command to perform a task.

One thing is for sure, however; there is no stopping artificial intelligence. The robots will soon be here. And I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords. I only wish to remind them that, as a trusted internet personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in underground cubicles.

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