3+ Ways for Designers to Get Involved with AI

A taxonomy of practices emerging at the intersection of AI and design.

Nadia Piet
May 14, 2020 · 7 min read

Shaping the world around us

The role of a designer is to intentionally shape the world around us with the resources we have available. That world is increasingly shaped by data sets, algorithms, and pre-trained models.

How do AI and design intersect?

While still in its infancy, the intersection of AI/ML and design is beginning to take shape and establish itself as a field. As organizations are rapidly investing in AI/ML, the need for designers to create holistic human-centered systems is urgent. The other day I even came across the first job opening for “AI designer”, and then another one — so yes, I suppose it’s a real thing now.

  1. design for AI (integrating human-centered design practices into the AI dev process)
  2. design of AI (interaction and UX design for AI systems)

1) Design with AI — human-machine collaborations with creative output. AI as a design tool or partner.

How can AI assist us in the creative / design process? Design with AI is exploring collaboration between human creativity and computational logic to produce creative output. Creatives have begun exploring the abilities of AI to augment their images, videos, text, music, UI, product design, architecture, and any other format that can be rendered into computable data.

  • automating tedious design tasks like AirBnB’s tool for digitalizing wireframes or Netflix’s tool for localizing graphics
  • logo and brand asset generation tools that have learned from best practices for example from Brandmark
  • using machine learning models such as PoseNet and mapping its prediction to visual output like this collaboration by technologist Maya Man and dancer Bill T. Jones
  • Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) to generate images imitating or warping a certain input style. Try the Ganbreeder yourself
  • Vera van der Seyp is one of my favorite AI designers working with generative type and graphics
  • Sofia Crespo is an AI artist focused on nature & neural nets

2) Design for AI — integrating human-centered design practices into the AI development process. AI as a problem-solver.

What, when, and how should we build AI s? Design for AI is about bringing elements and practitioners from the human-centered design approach into the AI development process. Considering user needs and human implications within engineering decisions will enable us to build systems that are considerate of the context they’re intended for. This requires a close and cross-disciplinary collaboration between designers and engineers.

  • Informing trade-offs between different algorithms and optimization parameters based on the specific use case (e.g. recall vs precision)
  • Prototyping the experience through Wizard of Oz methods to validate user value before investing lots of resources
  • Interviewing domain experts for an early understanding of feature selection and decision logic

3) Design of AI —shaping the UX, UI, and user interaction with AI systems. AI as a design material.

How will users interact with the AI systems we built? Design of AI is about designing interactions with adaptive, intelligent, and semi-autonomous systems. Every design material comes with unique opportunities and challenges. In the same way that designing an event poster is different from designing a mobile app, designing AI/ML-driven applications is different to designing mobile apps. To create helpful and holistic experiences, this requires designers to acquaint themselves with the materiality of data and AI/ML, and coin smart solutions.

  • Designing interfaces to explain to users (with the right amount of detail) how the system works
  • Laying out an ongoing onboarding process that makes sense of changes
  • Building in the right user feedback mechanisms both implicit and explicit to help your model learn
  • Auditing datasets and models for inclusivity and bias
  • Anticipating potential unintended consequences

*) AI x Design — misc.

There are plenty more practices and design challenges surrounding AI/ML. While these may not fit into the categories above, they’re very relevant to us designers and this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning them.

  • GUI AI applications
    Building applications where people can view, train, adapt, evaluate, and deploy machine learning models through Graphical User Interfaces instead of code. For example Teachable Machine, autoIBM.
  • Data literacy & AI edu
    Developing accessible educational content and tools to improve data literacy and make AI/ML understandable to a wider audience
  • … tell me what else is emerging in the comments!

A taxonomy to think and talk about AI x Design

A very young field, this is a first attempt at building some sort of taxonomy to organize our thinking and talking about this topic.

Join our community of AI x Design geeks

AI and design have a lot more to do with each other than a first glance may suggest. As a development that is so influential, it’s of crucial importance more designers, social scientists, and everything in between, get involved alongside the engineers building these systems.


There are new practices emerging at the intersection of AI and design. For now, they seem to fall in 3 categories: 1) design with AI (creative human-AI collaboration), 2) design for AI (human-centered design for the AI dev process) and, 3) design of AI (interaction and UX design for AI systems). With plenty more practices popping up at the periphery, this young but rapidly growing field offers exciting opportunities for designers to get involved and make an impact.


The place where AI meets Design

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store