Whole Brand Thinking™ on Design.

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What trends, themes, surprises, or disruptions have you seen around Design in the last 12 months?

The promise — and potential menace —  of Generative AI has been among the biggest talking points across every facet of Design for the past several months.

With the sudden availability of tools that significantly augment our ability to ideate and create, Design professionals have been forced to take notice. And while most practical applications of AI in the design field are still experimental (at best), the rapid pace of development has been eye-popping.

From ideation and visualization to automation and optimization, AI has the potential to be the ultimate Design collaborator. In the coming months and years, tools will help Designers explore conceptual variations, automate repetitive tasks, optimize executions based on specific constraints, and scale ideas to any number of potential applications.

Many of these are already being put to the test by early adopters. As large software developers (i.e., Adobe and Google) continue to fold AI features into their signature products, Designers will adopt them as the new baseline.

What does it mean for aspiring whole brands?

Generative AI can potentially affect many aspects of tomorrow’s whole brands, well beyond the practice of Design. Its presence will be imperceptible in time, as AI becomes integrated into the process and flow. In the short term, AI can cause ripples among the workforce which will be impossible to ignore. It will call for more to be done by fewer, and introduce new roles based on ever-evolving technical needs.

For now, a host of hard questions remain. What is the real human impact of AI on professionals and skilled workers who may be displaced? What legal resolutions will answer current challenges to copyright and intellectual property? How will we protect the output of artists, photographers, actors, and writers as things progress?

Smart brands already know their world will change. AI will apply a new filter to products, services, and brand experiences. And the competitive landscape will be in a  constant state of flux — just as it was with the advent of the Internet.

But this time, things will move much faster.

Aspiring whole brands that meet these challenges will survive. Those who identify emerging opportunities amid the chaos will flourish.

Advice for whole brand thinkers on Design:

  • Don’t be a bystander.

  • Assign a multidisciplinary team within your organization to evaluate the tools available right now, and to forecast the impact of future developments in the field.

  • Identify leaders among your team who are early adopters of the technology, and invite them to consult at the highest levels of the company.

  • Introduce your team members to current AI models as a matter of course. Train them on AI in ways that augment their current skills, so they will be better equipped to thrive.

  • Get into the platforms and experiment. Make small bets in lots of different areas. Find ways to integrate generative AI as a constructive tool in your current workflows, and initiate pilot programs to push things in new directions.

  • Consider Generative AI not as a threat, but as an essential collaborator in your enterprise, an idea engine with varied uses and unlimited scale.

  • Buckle in for the ride.

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