Is design going to be an extinct profession? Algorithms, machine learning and a bunch of other technological advancements bring us ever closer to Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity and the rise of the machines, but we still do not need to give in to an apocalyptic point of view. On the other hand, it is also not helpful to be complacent, or dismissive towards the new automated tools. Here are the news: algo-design is here to stay.It may be good, it may be bad, but this is a fact.

The major complaint from designers, at least those with whom I speak, is that this type of design is doomed to be of poor quality. Those who require designer services do not necessarily know what’s good for them. Businesses, small or big, do not necessarily know how to create their brand, project their identity to the outside world with the best visual representation or to understand how bad design will harm their business.

Over the past few years we saw an increase in online services offering extremely cheap design services. Anyone with a photo labeling app can offer their $5 logo services. This is a trend that many designers, not just in the branding and web design worlds have to deal with. It does have some good in it, where those who appreciate high quality design and want to stand out from the automated design drones, are happy to invest in a proper design.

Algorithmic based design is a totally different thing. Algorithms which automate manual work are already well established in the financial trade sector. Search engine learning your search patterns to perform increasingly better, is another way algorithms have, arguably, improved our online experience. Today, with algorithm based news services and even personal assistants such as Google Now, it seems that we are slowly and surely being entrapped in an artificial intelligence spider web woven by these smart machines. Usually we are oblivious to it, especially when it serves our day to day needs.

But when it comes to areas where human input is considered a must, we start to protest. It first hit us when we learned that websites use bots as customer service agents in chats. Later, we learned that online dating services use fembots. These are just the first harbingers of winter. Imagine a world without cab drivers or even Uber drivers, when all cars will be self-driven. We already have algo-news and it is not hard to think of an algo-psychlogist, with patient-therapist confidentiality as a privacy setting. It can also be good: in the future, the Miranda warning may be rephrased to say: “If you cannot afford an attorney, an algorithmic defender will be appointed for you.”

Are designers going to follow stock brokers, switchboard operators and video store clerks? Maybe, if creativity is quantifiable. But if creativity is creativity, and you know it is, than designers will have to design a new path to take.

Posted by Samuel Miller

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