I do like the beer stein.

TL/DR; No.

So this strident post shows up in my LinkedIn feed, and I started my wise ass response.. but then paused and thought two thoughts: 1) don’t be a jerk, and 2) I should try it out before I mouth off.

My knee-jerk response was this:
I’ve been hearing ‘Designers will be out of a job’ for over 20 years, and yet I still have a job. Also, that I will especially be out of a job if I disagree with their statement, because I’m ignorant? Auto code generators were going to replace all of us starting in the 80s. Then product managers were going to design. Or developers. Then offshoring. Now AI.

Computers are good at identifying and copying patterns, better so than junior graphic artists and art school students, but it is really the same process: look at a bunch of crap and produce something similar. Indeed, if I were a logo designer I would probably pack it in right now. Fiverr should in trouble; as it should be for getting designers to undervalue their work.

If you dig into those stunning AI mocks, you can’t see what data is in the charts, how the app flows, or if the AI in fact knew it was solving the right problem. I’m sure you could train a system to generate tons of alternative designs and connect to usertesting.com to spit out a very elegant, optimized app with the perfect typography stack and precise shade of blue, simplest navigation and IA… and is ultimately useless as it doesn’t solve any actual user need.

But, I thought I should put my money where mouth is and try it out.

So I picked an AI generator mentioned in the post, got through the signup — BTW the app and signup have terrible usability — and tried to do something real. Recognizing I’m limited to image generation, I asked it to solve a real crisis in UI: the Save Icon. What is that collection of rectangles and why is it in my menu?

After taking a few minutes to figure the app out (ah it is a CLI! How modern) I put in my prompt: “computer icon to save a file digitally”. And quickly get these:

You can do iterations on the first set of results, or re-run the prompt, which got me the various images above. I didn’t do any user testing, but can say that the floppy disk is safe for now. I am not sure where these images got their inspiration — one looks like an early macintosh with a usb hub plugged into a fan vent; others are vintage game cartridges with play buttons??

But the favorite is the beer mug. And the iteration that made the button a smiley face info icon. I am not sure how the system knows I like beer, this is vaguely frightening. Though not as frightening as most of the AI-generated images I see, which have something off.. for example this bedtime story AI should come with a warning that it will induce nightmares.

Ultimately, AI and machine learning could do a lot to improve the product development lifecycle. I could foresee a system that takes facilitated user interviews and generates journey maps, or takes abstraction laddering to kick start problem framing, generating statements that can bypass that blank whiteboard phase that stymies so many teams.

But content generation AI isn’t replacing UX designers. Now excuse me, I need to build my application to generate a mug of beer from my computer. Maybe the TAB key?

Designers Will Be Out Of A Job!!!
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