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AI tools in Adobe apps risk flattening design

Louie Mantia:

The current focus of “AI” in the software industry is not on solving problems for current users, it’s to create solutions for potential future users. I find that super frustrating.

It would be genuinely helpful to me if Adobe built an “AI” tool for Photoshop that notices when I’m doing a repetitive task and creates an action to automate it. That would save me time by doing the mundane tasks associated with my job. That’s what I want help with.

Instead, the “AI” tools they built are for generating vector illustrations from text. I don’t want an AI tool to replace the creation aspect of my job, that’s not helpful to me at all. That’s not a tool for illustrators or designers. That’s a tool for people who aren’t.

Louie’s post is relatively short, and I felt compelled to quote a large part of it here so please consider clicking-through to read the little bit more.

This struck me because I’m seeing this on all ends. In my classes I see students who have some Photoshop experience using the AI prompts in useful ways. Think generative fill to extend, say, a sidewalk or a street so they can get more room for text in an image. But in my advertising class the students with no prior experience are using it to just do everything. Think, “An image of a dog chasing a ball as a bus drives by.” They are, of course, saddened to find it doesn’t do super great, the image has no layers, and instantly recognize they can’t “do” much more with it.

Illustrator is much the same. Students will type in a prompt and like the Auto Trace/Vectorize functions before it, find the result more than a little sloppy.

But some of them plow ahead anyway, unable to resist how deliciously “easy” it was. Some of that is to be expected for students that just don’t care.

But at some point I’m going to start getting clients emailing me with, “I made this thing in AI and OMG I LOVE IT!!” and then, like 20 years ago when people sent crummy, useless, borderline disgusting photos taken from a Nokia phone, I’m going to have to do something with it. I already see this with Canva’s templated library of banal same-ness.

I don’t hate the idea of people being able to “help themselves”, but I do have a visceral reaction to people thinking this makes them something they’re not. No one assembles IKEA furniture and thinks, “I’m a woodworker” or “I’m a furniture maker!” They think, “I didn’t do much. I assembled a flimsy, cheap bookcase for the kids’ room. It’s fine.”

Likewise, no one confuses “I have a copy of Microsoft Word” with “I’m a best-selling writer and author.”

But somehow in the Canva world and increasing with AI tools in Adobe’s products, that line of thinking is totally absent. “I typed text in this box that no one wants to read. I’m a designer!”

It seems irrelevant to me how “good” AI gets. I will likely always get big “Ralph Wiggum with his finger up his nose” energy from all this.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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