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AI and the Future of Experience Design

Posted on:
August 28, 2023
Author: Jon Gifford
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Designing successful experiences requires many skills. Creativity, systems knowledge, precise communication, a layered understanding of business, and a finely-tuned sense of empathy for the users who rely on your services. I've been lucky. My journey has taken me to all those places, and many more. I've co-founded companies. I've written strategies, requirements, and estimates, and led large teams of designers and developers. Over the course of my career, I've worked with global companies and large agencies, as well as startups and boutiques. I've designed experiences, interfaces, environments, and entire products. I've been a consultant and a company man. And through it all, I've been someone who simply loves the work.

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With so much buzz around AI these days, we wanted to talk to the talented freelancers in the Wripple marketplace to get their viewpoints on AI and the impact it’s having – or could have – on their respective disciplines.  

 

What role do you see AI playing in the future of experience design?

Let’s start with what we mean when we say “AI.” In today’s culture, we really mean machine learning, which is one very specific type of intelligence. The term “AI” is bandied about to no end nowadays and it bothers me because when talk about artificial intelligence from a historical standpoint, there’s an expectation of sentience.  

I’m probably showing my age here. But those of us that are Gen X and older grew up with science fiction in which the qualifier of sentience was quite clear. That’s a much higher bar. And by that standard, we’re not even close.  

Science fiction aside, today’s AI only represents a single kind of intelligence – the ability to learn and apply knowledge. AI can analyze behavior and historical data and automate repetitive or obvious tasks to help designers focus more on what’s important. It can determine which interface patterns will connect best with most people. It can be used for automated testing. And in that respect, it’s very intelligent.

But designing experiences in the real world requires emotional intelligence (EQ) and social intelligence (SQ), which can’t be mimicked by AI today.  

AI can’t synthesize human passion—the kind of passion that might lead a talented design team to make unconventional design decisions that appeal to the human love of novelty and the unusual. Or lead a content strategist to select an idiom that perfectly captures the essence of a new product. Radical yet effective decisions that might increase engagement.  

It’s just not capable of understanding the deepest, most intricate nuances of human motivation and how we feel about our world.
All of which points to how incomplete today’s AI truly is. I know all of this sounds like I’m a detractor. But the truth is, I think AI (whatever your definition) is really exciting. I just think there’s a lot of hype and a general lack of understanding.

Okay, then how is AI exciting for creative people?


From a business and a scholarly perspective, we know the advantages of AI’s computational, analytical, and compositional capabilities. And those are extraordinary.  

The fact that a machine can tirelessly do all that smart, focused analysis is an obvious game changer when it comes to optimizing user flows or creating a more child-friendly environment.

Making a pixel-perfect Figma layout that leverages patterns you’ve collected from years of observation is going to get a lot easier.  

Building components and systems is going to get a lot easier.  

Creating accessible products and detecting anomalies in your work that might cause a negative experience for certain people is going to get a lot easier.  

And I think those are all very good things.

So, what are the negatives?


Instead of dwelling on the negatives, I think it’s more important to think ahead and make sure the technology genuinely serves our best interests.  

I think we need to focus on two things:

  1. Using AI to make our work better and our work lives more fulfilling.  
  2. Ethical, practical guidelines to safeguard the quality of life and the rights of individuals, including their right to privacy.

The first is easy. The second is a lot harder and will require smarter people than me.

Ultimately, the inability to empathize is where the limitations of AI as an experience design tool—as a tool in general—lie. We need to keep that in mind when thinking about potential problems. And we need to listen to industry executives when they ask for better regulation.

So all things considered, is it a good or bad thing?

Overwhelmingly good. We all know how tough it can be for a client to implement a well-built design system, and here comes a helping hand like no other. But mostly because I like to think that most people are basically good and that we’ll eventually put it to good use.

Jon Gifford joined Wripple in early 2021.  He’s worked with clients in agency services and automotive to rave reviews!

Author: Jon Gifford
Designing successful experiences requires many skills. Creativity, systems knowledge, precise communication, a layered understanding of business, and a finely-tuned sense of empathy for the users who rely on your services. I've been lucky. My journey has taken me to all those places, and many more. I've co-founded companies. I've written strategies, requirements, and estimates, and led large teams of designers and developers. Over the course of my career, I've worked with global companies and large agencies, as well as startups and boutiques. I've designed experiences, interfaces, environments, and entire products. I've been a consultant and a company man. And through it all, I've been someone who simply loves the work.