Six Ways AI is Changing Design

February 08, 2019
Associate Principal Developer

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to have a major impact on design, and it’s one we welcome here.

AI technologies will be integrated into the tools artists and designers use daily to speed up labor-intensive tasks and to help unleash artists’ creativity in new ways.

Here’s a glance at a few areas where AI can, and in some instances already is, bolstering our design capabilities.

1. Image Generation

Stock photography is a resource that designers lean on to make slick-looking websites and emails, without the expense of shooting their own photos. But, it’s not a silver bullet. The image you’re looking for isn’t always in stock – and, even if it is, sifting through hundreds of photos to find the perfect fit is time-consuming.

What if we could use plain language to ask an AI system to generate exactly what we’re looking for?

Enter GANs:

GANs example using search the search text this bird is red with white and has a very short beak the results shown are three birds next to each other

AttnGAN created this image from the text above. First, it generates a low detail image (left), then refines it, adding detail (right).

Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) are an AI system that can generate images. AttnGAN, a popular provider, is a GAN that has been trained to generate images from text cues. The example above is trained only on birds, but more complex systems trained on a wider variety of images are possible.

Face Generation (TL-GAN)

Another GAN, referred to as TL-GAN, allows for the generation of realistic faces with controllable parameters. The implications for design are significant. In the future, finding the perfect face for a new ad campaign could be as simple as making a few slider tweaks.

2. AI-Assisted Drawing

An inability to draw by hand was once a major handicap for a designer. Pix2Pix has leveled the playing field. The model translates basic sketches into realistic renderings, in real-time.

Pix2Pix Unity from Keijiro Takahashi on Vimeo.

3. Style Transfer

Let’s say you love the aesthetic of Starry Night, but are no Vincent Van Gogh. Style transfer allows you to take an image and recreate it in another style. This allows designers to get creative with complex effects, like transforming colors and brush strokes in ways that were not possible or practical before. In short: it’s like Instagram filters turned up to 11. Try it in your browser.

Example showing how the mona lisa can be changed to different artistic styles using reiinakano

4. Image Enhancement

If you’ve ever watched the show CSI, then you’ve witnessed a character shouting “enhance!” while some whiz kid magically extracts the killer’s face from a blurry reflection on a door handle. And you’ve probably also snarkily remarked how such things are impossible. Well, I have news for snarky CBS viewers like you– image enhancement is now a reality. While the current iteration of the tech falls short of CSI-level resolution, it can upscale images in ways that add detail, remove noise, and sharpen edges. This allows designers to utilize low-quality photos, and zoom in on details like never before.  You can try it for yourself here.

blurry image next to an enhanced image using

5. Whiteboard to Code

Most websites begin with a few quick sketches to test layout options. What if these sketches could be turned directly to HTML? And what if you could test that code in the browser immediately?

That future is here. AI now enables us to employ image recognition to generate code in real-time. Now you can go into a design meeting with an idea, and leave with a working prototype.

6. Background Removal

Anyone who’s tried removing the background from a picture of someone with frizzy hair, understands what a true pain it can be. Thankfully, those days may soon be over. Web-based tool makes cutting people out from their backgrounds as easy as a few clicks.

image showing how background removal tool can help remove the background of an image

AI has already begun to change how designers approach their work, but what’s ahead is even more exciting.

Each of the six impact areas we covered won’t merely augment the capabilities of individual designers – and improve the practice as a whole – but will, in turn, create new vistas of possibility. Each innovation opening doors, and giving rise to novel tools and techniques that, from the vantage point of today, are practically science fiction.

To borrow an old joke, the future is the hardest thing to predict. But one thing is crystal clear: The AI revolution is here. We can’t wait to see how it unfolds.