Design meets AI

I’m super excited to see work emerge from The Grid lately. Designing websites has become a much easier experience since the 90's when HTML was first born, and it is also a much richer one in terms of what’s possible. We have evolved quite quickly when you consider that tables only arrived in 1995 and CSS in 1998. Then we debated responsiveness and flat design through 2010, and saw beautiful websites with full-bleed photos pop up everywhere too. Making stuff with software has become really fun for designers.

We have also shown that “Design” is much more than just what it looks like and that the user experience is tantamount. We invest in understanding what users need and push hard to make products that work really well for them. As designers, we have graduated from making a box look pretty to reinventing how the world works. We are no longer tucked away in little rooms, we are embedded in engineering teams, and in some companies we even get to lead the charge. Given that, why would AI threaten designers?

Meet The Grid:

“It won’t matter how many times its founders claim they aren’t replacing the designer, because to most people it doesn’t make sense why you would try to replicate their skills through algorithms and AI, if removing the designer from the equation wasn’t part of the goal.” — Tyler Hayes

The idea of taking the designer out of the equation doesn’t seem plausible when you consider that design is far more than how something looks and feels. When We design a website we tend to start with its purpose, its intention, the experience from different user perspectives…a whole host of things that lead us ultimately to brand and visual design. The latter stages take time, so an automated way of getting a head start sounds like a good idea to me.

The Grid seems like a super useful tool for testing lots of different options quickly. The algorithms are created from the working processes of real designers. This means that design rules, best practices, and know-how from much experience is rolled into them. What you won’t get is the “gut-feel” that is just as important and also the finer tunings that make these things awesome. I still see it as allowing the designer to creatively direct the process and see many different ways of doing something quickly.

The main features are:

  • Takes all your content & shapes it into a website
  • Chooses colour palettes, typography, sets contrasts
  • Layout filter adapt to your content (no more templates)
  • Makes design decisions based on best practices (i.e call to action placement)
  • Automatically crops images and optimises content
  • Magically sets up e-commerce
  • Automated A/B testing

If it saves us time, and allows us to explore more broadly than we would normally have time for. I think it will boost this aspect of design. Taking anything out of the box has its limitations, and knowing how to use new technology like this and leverage it to our benefit is smart. I’m excited to see AI reach this area, although I may be more biased and accepting than some, seeing as my Ph.D was in AI and HCI combined. It’s an interesting thought experiment to think of this as applied to products as well. AI could help change the design according to usage and reveal features overtime, morph the product into something else according to the needs of the individual or the team. Perhaps it makes the idea of Slow Design a lot more manageable. Now that would be interesting…

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