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Could You Become a Designer Without Going to Design School?

Imagine we could get rid of this middleman called “skill” and focus on creating, not doing.

If reading isn’t your thing check out my 6-minute video summarizing this article.

About the author: Nash Escalada is a Toronto based industrial designer and content creator. He focuses on telling stories about how emerging technologies can bring positive change to the human experience. Kind of like the opposite of Black Mirror.

Cadillacs are ugly, but what can I do about it?

Yikes!

Have you ever watched a youtube video and said “wow, I wish I knew how to edit videos.” Do you outsource your graphic design needs because you’ve never made a logo in your life? Have you ever looked at a car and thought to yourself that you could probably design something better if only you knew how to draw?

I’ve always thought modern Cadillacs are some of the ugliest cars on the road. In my head, I can imagine exactly how I would want a Cadillac to look, feel, and even smell like. But when I have to translate my thoughts through drawings that vision becomes lost in translation. It’s kind of like I’m drawing in broken English.

The languages of creativity

Each creative field has its own language and to achieve fluency it may take many years. Car designers communicate through sketches and renderings. Filmmakers communicate their vision through film editing software. A game designer communicates through storyboards and animations. So how can a normal person like you and I ever communicate our ideas if we haven’t mastered the necessary technical skills?

Well, in the future we may not need to learn any of these technical skills to become a designer, videographer, or artist. How you might ask? Through the use of General Adversarial Networks (GAN). In this article, I will be covering how GAN’s will let anyone become a designer by eliminating the roadblock between our imagination and communication.

The luxury of software

In the past, people didn’t have the luxury of creative software tools and the power of clicking command Z or command C. To edit a film, people had to physically cut and splice the film, resulting in a very time consuming and tedious process. Now we use programs like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro, that shorten that process into a matter of seconds. When drawing tablets didn’t exist architects and designers had to worry about things like smudging or spilling their coffee on their drawings. Crazy right? If we spill coffee on our iPad we will at least have our files saved in the cloud.

We have a limitless variety of very powerful digital tools that give us the capabilities to manipulate and transform media in ways that were simply not possible a decade ago. These tools have democratized entry into a variety of creative fields for anyone who owns a laptop or tablet. But although we have increased capabilities and streamlined certain processes, we still face the drudge work that is inherent in any creative process.

Imagine a world where we could create without doing

Imagine a world where we didn’t have to worry about engaging in these uncreative repetitive tasks like adding transitions to our videos, creating new layers, colouring in our drawings, or creating a final draft of our logo. Imagine we didn’t have to master a technical skill to communicate our million-dollar idea.

I don’t know if anyone else does this but sometimes I’ll think of a really good design for a new pick-up truck or even something I would personally change about a car I just saw on the road. In my head, it looks beautiful, but when I try to sketch it out chances are you will most likely not see it the way I want you to. To effectively communicate this car design to my parents, my co-workers, or maybe even the head of design at Cadillac I must first study 4 years of industrial design and perfect the art of perspective drawing. But who has time for that?

The point that I’m trying to make is that effective communication is nearly impossible without mastery of a technical skill. Imagine we could get rid of this middleman called “skill” and focus on creating, not doing.

YouTubers have figured it out

Chamberlain Coffee Rebrand

Emma Chamberlain never studied graphic design, but recently rebranded her coffee product line Chamberlain Coffee. Danny Duncan never went to fashion school, but landed a deal with clothing store Zumiez to sell his clothing merchandise. David Dobrik never majored in chemistry, but recently released a perfume line called David’s Perfume. These creators have figured it out; they have cut out all drudge work by paying others to do it for them. But of course, if you’re like me and still living with your parent’s outsourcing is not really an option. Therefore you either learn new skills or get left behind. Luckily in the future money and people won’t be necessary.

Money Ain’t a Thang

As Jay Z once famously said, “… to hell with the price ’cause the money ain’t a thang.” Whether or not he was predicting the future, these lyrics describe what it will be like for us creatives. Software powered by GAN’s will not only put graphic designers and video editors out of a job but also the middleman called “skill.” And before you leave some mean comments I do not mean graphic designers or video editors will no longer have work. I simply mean that we will become our own designers.

Generalized Adversarial Networks

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned something called General Adversarial Networks (GAN). A GAN is a class of machine learning where a set of neural networks work together to generate new data that is similar to the data that it was previously trained on. But, how a GAN works isn’t really important. What’s important is what it is capable of doing. Below I have included three examples of how this technology is being adopted and paving the way for creative fluency.

AutoDraw

AutoDraw was an experiment created by Google’s Creative Lab. It takes your doodles and guesses what you are aiming to draw. You can try it out here for yourself.

GauGAN

GauGAN, named after post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, is a tool developed by Nvidia that creates any landscape you can imagine from your digital sketch. Each brush represents a different element from the natural world like Flowers, Mountains, Grass, and Clouds. You, the artist can use these brushes to generate a photorealistic rendition of your idea.

Celsys Clip Studio

Clips Studio is software for digital drawing and painting of comics, general illustration, and 2D animation. They have an AI-powered auto-colorization tool that can automatically colour in black-and-white line drawings.

From software “tool” to “assistant”

These are just three examples demonstrating the potential behind this technology and its ability to translate the simplest expression of our imagination into a refined medium of communication. In the future software will no longer be a tool; it will be your creative assistant. Using neural networks like GAN’s, the software will learn how you personally think and create so that it can adapt to you.

Every time I edit my YouTube videos in Adobe Premiere Pro, I have to rewatch the footage (what feels like six hundred times) so that I can cut and splice the usable segments together, add text to emphasize the things I want the audience to retain, and add supporting media. Imagine I didn’t have to do all of this soul-sucking work and could just tell Adobe Premiere my topic of discussion and my desired video length. Then, because it now knows this information, hears the tone of my voice, reads my facial expressions and body movement it could have the ability to cut, splice, and add the supporting visuals for me.

Becoming our own designers

AutoDraw, Gaugan, and Clips Studio are just the beginning of creative assistants. In the future expect to see tools that allow a data scientist to communicate their user interface design to a designer or an anthropologist to visualize a data set. Once GAN’s become more frequently embedded in our creative software it will create a world where different disciplines can speak the same creative language. We will focus less time on effective communication and more on imagining the outcome of our creations. We are one step closer to becoming our own designers, and when we do you can expect Cadillacs to look a lot nicer and probably smell better too.

Thanks for reading my very first article! Let me know what you think. How might GAN’s impact your practice?

Check out my YouTube channel here for more futures thinking content!

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Nash Escalada

Nash Escalada

We spend a lot of time thinking what can go wrong in the future. I’m here to talk about what can go right. Kind of like the opposite of Black Mirror.

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