Is creativity over?

Exploring the impact of AI on human creativity

Hamish Johnston
4 min readApr 13, 2024

AI or Artificial Intelligence is a term that I’m sure most of us have become more familiar with over the past couple of years. But what is it? IBM describes AI as ‘leveraging computers or machines to mimic the problem solving and decision making capabilities of the human mind.’

Applications of AI have exploded over the past couple of years disrupting whole industries. In the healthcare sector, the tech is being used on scans to detect tumors and cancer, which not only cuts down on doctors workloads, but acts as a second source of truth uncovering things which could potentially be missed due to human error.

But as with any new technology, when it gets into the hands of the wrong people, it can be used in a way that negatively affects society. In 2017, deep fakes, a subset of AI emerged in a subreddit dedicated to photoshopping famous women’s faces onto bodies of adult entertainers. Further to this, in March 2022, during the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, a viral video of Ukraine’s President arose telling Ukrainians to lay down their weapons and go back to their families — only later to also be revealed as a deep fake. With people increasingly consuming media and news digitally, it’s scary to think about how deep fakes are blurring the line between reality and fiction.

But what happens when this same technology is applied in a different context?

Image source:

In The Heart part Five, American rapper Kendrick Lamar uses this same deep fake technology to seamlessly morph other men’s faces onto his in an act of storytelling. Lamar says that the song “is about perspective” opening with the line,

“As I get a little older, I realize life is perspective, and my perspective may differ from yours.”

From there, he uses transformations enabled by deepfakes to talk about various issues from the viewpoints of the people he morphs into. Could an artist who uses this same deep fake technology with good intentions change the perception of this medium for one which previously encouraged revenge porn and political manipulation?

Image source:

Another application of AI being used in the arts was back in 2022, when Jason Allen submitted the above image into Colorado state fairs annual art competition. Contrary to speculations around cheating, Allen came out scoring first place. Officially, no rules were broken in creation of the image, but it caused a lot of debate and media attention as it was made using Mid-journey, an AI programme that turns lines of text into hyper realistic graphics. While some say he was creative in his approach, others considered this cheating.

A number of AI tools have also been emerging in the field of design, claiming to shortcut traditional processes — from synthesising research to designing screens for new products. The tools have undoubtedly split opinions within the field of design, with some arguing that this is a natural progression while others are on the more skeptical side and worried that AI is coming for their jobs.

Although the tools provide an insight into the future of how design could be changing, I question whether AI can truly be creative. Robert E Franken, author of Human Motivation describes creativity as:

“A mindset, skill set and a set of tools. It’s a framework for approaching problems that involves brainstorming a lot of ideas, seeking novelty, deferring judgment and building off the ideas of others.”

To me, creativity is about providing solutions to problems based on your lived experience, freedom of expression in whatever form that might take and the process of taking an idea from in your head and developing that into a tangible thing that can be used, viewed or interacted with. My creative process has continued to change throughout my career, but at it’s core I’d say that it’s playful, nonlinear and must be adaptable depending on how a project progresses.

Personally, I’m fascinated by emerging technologies like AI and always looking at how I can be more effective as a designer. To me, design is about understanding the needs of your user to solve problems and improve people’s lives, and if the journey to get there involves or can be improved by the use of technology then it should be utilised where appropriate to do so.

Below I’ve outlined 3 tips on how I believe designers can move into the future while embracing this new technology:

  • Think collaboratively, not competitively: When we’re working with a team on a project, we don’t compete with them, but work together, sharing ideas and suggestions around how to solve a given problem. Identify opportunities to collaborate with emerging tech, and work out how AI can best support us.
  • Become a problem solver and show the value of design: As long as we continue to show the value of design to our clients there will remain to be a market for the work that we do. Lean into human elements that make good design — speaking and empathising with users and channeling these insights into our work.
  • Keep the conversation going and remain open to change: Rather than seeing it as a blocker and turning a blind eye to AI, stay open and engage in the wider conversation. How can you make it a regular topic of conversation with your peers or up skill your knowledge in the space? The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be for the future.

As we continue to navigate the intersection of AI and creativity, we must remember that it is our unique human perspective and empathy that shapes design and innovation.



Hamish Johnston

Hamish is a multidisciplinary designer from England. His work references design, creativity, AI, sustainability and emerging tech.