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Faking the unreal

Three hashtags: ai-tools, ai-generated, text-to-image

Have you ever heard from AI-generated images? No? Even if you did not, this designer here is betting on you already seeing them out there – mostly on social media. And they got so good so fast, that you would not have identified them as being made by an algorithm, rather than a human being. But what does it mean for content and for design when machines are doing the one thing people said they would never be able to do. Which is being “creative”.

First things first

If you think of a painting or image created by a machine, a lot of people think of something that is easily distinguishable from real art, a drawing or a foto. Some uncanny faces, colors that seem off or perspectives that just make no sense to the human brain. But what if I tell you, that in the last months, there have been new tools out there that are able to generate photorealistic and original art pieces, just from a sentence? These tools are called midjourney or jasper for example. And most of them work in the same way and have a free version for you to try out:

  1. First the “artist” or user enters keywords which describe what he or she wants to see the tool create. This could be for example “A pink kangaroo drinking tea in front of a TV oil painting”. 
  2. Then the AI generates multiple images according to that prompt. It then lets the user decide with which picture he wants to go on. Then a lot of adjustments can be made, like tweaking the prompts, colors, style etc. to push the picture in the right direction according to the user’s intent.
  3. Voila. You got your AI generated image. Now what?

Too good to be true

As mentioned before, these image generators became very good very fast. Let me show you an example here. These are architectural concept visualisations. Can you tell me which one was generated by an AI and which one was crafted by a human being with an artistic vision in mind? Go ahead. Don’t be shy. Which one is it?

three ai-generated images examples of architecture

Jokes on you. All of them come from a machine! Are you surprised? How are you feeling? These pictures were posted by studio arkhagen on Instagram and they get a lot of likes and recognition. On a first glance, it seems like this architectural studio spent hours and hours on creating these images, spending years practicing to be able to do it that well. But in the end, it may take them minutes. And this is where the problem starts for me.

An artist in disguise

As long as people creating their artworks this way are open about it and show the viewer through the image caption or hashtags that their work was created by AI, the problem is minor. People will, at first glance, still think they look at something made by a human. Why? Cause the mindset that everything you see may be created by an AI is not there (yet). But no harm is done. Copyrights by artworks created with AI is not with the users by the way, it stays with the people creating the AI-Tools, said founder of midjourney in this interview. And with traditional art, it is hard to use it in mischief ways, isn’t it? If you open an etsy store and sell merch, for example T-Shirts, with Van Gogh’s Sunflower on it, everybody would know that you did neither create that piece nor own the copyrights for it. But what about a piece of art that has not been there before? This makes AI-generated artworks perfect for claiming the illegitimate rights of creation, ideation and distribution. Cause it’s still original, but the user who made it needed almost zero time in creating that art nor had to practice for years and years nor spend money on education. And this is happening. There are people (for example this dude here: who use their AI-generated artworks as a source of income. They sell their pictures as NFT, print it on merch and distribute it. Or they even take commissions to create art for money directly!

Future challenges

It always takes time until the world adapts to new technologies, no matter how groundbreaking or insignificant they might be. In the case of AI-generated images, there will be the need for regulations around them to prevent abuse as best as possible without ruining the tools. For us content strategists, all I can say is that we will have touchpoints with these new technologies as well at some point in the future. But as with so many other things – we do not need to get experts in AI-generated images. But we need to be aware of them being out there and not always being used with good intentions.