AI and the Design Firm of the Future

How cool would it be to go on site for a client meeting, snap a few photos of their interiors, and, within less than 24 hours, have a basic 3D model of their interior space? How much time would that save designers? How much more would we focus on client relationships and success? How many more feedback cycles would that give designers to iterate and refine designs? How much more value would be created for clients? I am going to guess a lot.

There’s already a service in the residential interior segment that is doing just that. Modsy is a San Francisco startup that is using computer recognition, and Autodesk Fusion360 (I believe) to generate 3D models of residential interiors in order to quickly create designs for the consumer market. Here’s how it works: a homeowner snaps a few photos of their room, they upload the photo to Modsy, take a style quiz, and then receive a package of media, including complex renderings of their room complete with new furnishings and flooring.

With the right talent, I could see Modsy not only generating basic 3D models of interiors, but eventually training an AI to place furniture and decor based on a user’s design preferences. If cars can learn to drive themselves, maybe design tools can too. With an AI set up to learn from designers as they work on projects, and customer feedback, AI could learn layout design and generate iterative options based on an inventory of product and style themes.

It’s just a matter of time before such a system could start handling more complex problems. A company with this kind of technology could parlay that system from the consumer market into other market segments, ie: workplace, community, and lifestyle.

The landscape of the design marketplace will change because of AI and generative design. AI will simplify the consumer experience of design services and even empower consumers as co-creators; By extension, client expectations across segments will change to align more with consumers as systems become more intelligent.

The same way Apple’s consumer demand is driving pressure in the enterprise hardware space for their products, the commoditization of design services will change design paradigms and client expectations. Companies that do not have the advantage of AI and generative modeling will have greater difficulty competing with the design firms of the future.

Service providers whose primary differentiation has been helping customers navigate the complexities of an inefficient marketplace will find themselves disintermediated by digitally enabled systems that mask or bypass complexity.

The design firms of the future will create greater value and competitive advantage through the synergistic relationship between their customers, designers, software engineers, and business model innovators that can respond to an increasingly more efficient marketplace.

In the posts to follow, I’ll explore how AI can benefit designers, business models & innovations I believe will be required to cope with the coming changes, and territories of competitive advantage.

Works Cited:

Burns, Matt. “Modsy Brings The Virtual When Designing Reality.TechCrunch. 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

Moore, Geoffrey. “The Nature of the Firm-75 Years Later.OpenMind. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Vance, Ashlee. “George Hotz Is Taking on Tesla by Himself.Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Alexander, Christopher. “The Origins of Pattern Theory, The Future of the Theory, And The Generation of a Living World.” OOPSLA. ACM Conference on Object-Oriented Programs, Systems, Languages and Applications, San Jose. Oct. 1996. Archives. Web. 02 Jan. 2013.