We’re delighted to share that Unfold have taken on organising the Smart Cookies meetup group, started by the wonderful Nic & Nat Alpi, previously of Cookies HQ.
Smart Cookies is a quarterly meetup group of over 1,000 entrepreneurs, involved in the Bristol creative and digital industries, passionate about design, development and marketing.
We want to continue the events in the same spirit and ethos as our predecessors, promoting collaboration between disciplines so we can devise better solutions for all aspects of the creative process.
Each meetup will feature either individual speakers or an expert panel, where discussion will centre around a set theme related to building and growing digital ventures.
Whether you’re a tech professional, an entrepreneur, freelancer or student, there will be something for you. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people, make connections and join a community of smart cookies.
Come along and be inspired or – if you’d like to share your own experiences – why not contact us about becoming a speaker?
Nine Tree Studios, a brand new 10,000sq ft film, television and commercial production studio, has opened in Bristol.
The studios are now Bristol’s largest independent film and television facility, with the venture being backed by JonesMillbank, Bristol-based video production company.
The studios will support Bristol’s creative industries as well as attracting talent and productions from further afield, fuelling Bristol’s existing draw for film, television and commercial productions.
The facility is being launched in phases. Phase one encompasses a versatile production space with attached offices, suitable for a range of dry hire and set build requirements, as well as events and photography, with significant parking for cars, vans and trailers.
Phase two will see the build and fit-out of a state-of-the-art production facility encompassing a 2,600sq ft primary soundstage, two smaller 300sq ft studios, grading suites, wardrobe, sound facilities, and expanded office and meeting space, all housed in a Class-A soundproofed facility.
Located in Brislington (BS4), the studios are perched near the centre of Bristol, servicing productions mixing studio and on-location filming in the region.
The facility will also become home to JonesMillbank, allowing productions to be supported by crew and creatives, whilst bolstering their own in-house production capabilities and resources.
“This is an incredibly exciting chapter in our history. We’ve been based in Bristol for 12 years, steadily growing our team, portfolio and clients, but this represents a huge leap forward and an incredibly exciting development for the region too” said Russell Jones, Co-Founder of Nine Tree Studios and JonesMillbank.
“We’ve already secured funding to develop and expand the space, helping to support not only our own productions but the wider creative community too”.
Adam Millbank, Co-Founder of Nine Tree Studios and JonesMillbank, added that “the continued growth in productions across our region is wonderful. I’ve been blown away by the diverse talent here. It feels fantastic to know we’ll be part of such a dynamic industry, celebrating all the region has to offer.”
The expansion will allow for the creation of numerous jobs, including technicians, crew, studio managers and marketeers, whilst allowing for the provision of work experience and placements.
Phase one has launched, with phase two aiming for 2023 Q3, pending existing bookings.
For booking and press enquiries please visit www.ninetreestudios.co.uk, call 0117 3706 372, or email [email protected].
From Midjourney to ChatGPT, AI tools are flooding the internet with exciting possibilities, imaginative new imagery and many a meme – from the inspiring and amusing to the downright gruesome.
Possibly the most accessible and widely tested AI tool yet, ChatGPT has got many marketers thinking about the power of this emerging technology. But AI advancement doesn’t come without its critics and controversies – often generating more questions than answers.
So how can marketers make the most of this powerful technology? And should we approach with caution? UX and UI designer Dan Marek explores.
View image in blog here.
Developed by OpenAI, ChatGPT feels like absolute wizardry to use.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken the world by storm recently, with one of the leading players being the natural language processing (NLP) model known as ChatGPT. In just two months, it set a new record for the fastest-growing user base ever to reach 100 million users.
Tools like ChatGPT have already begun transforming our lives. You can’t go more than five minutes without seeing a news article about it, or stumbling upon AI-generated imagery (albeit mostly more disturbing and amusing than beautiful). But make no mistake, this is the very beginning of a fast-moving revolution. So how can businesses make the most of this opportunity?
This article examines how businesses may leverage AI to solve problems more efficiently and gain a profitable advantage. We’ll also look at some of the limitations of AI tools like ChatGPT, so you can avoid making costly mistakes and stay ahead of the competition.
The AI opportunity for businesses
Imagine generating top-notch product descriptions, social media posts, and even entire search-optimised articles in a matter of minutes. How about 3000% returns on ad spend, automatic meeting notes and summaries, or asking AI to generate spreadsheet formulas? It may not all be possible yet – and it certainly won’t replace your copywriting and UX experts in the near future. But there’s certainly a big opportunity here.
“…It may not all be possible yet – and it certainly won’t replace your copywriting and UX experts in the near future. But there’s certainly a big opportunity here…”
With ChatGPT, businesses can streamline their processes, freeing up time and resources to focus on other areas of operations. It might sound cliché, but the opportunities for companies to leverage AI tools like ChatGPT in 2023 are endless.
Top 10 business use cases for AI tools in 2023
The limitations ofAI
Hold on a minute – does this mean we’re ready to replace humans with AI? Not yet. AI-powered tools like ChatGPT are not a quid pro quo for genuine creativity and expertise. For now, it’s far more likely that you’ll be replaced by a human using AI rather than the tools themselves.
Think of ChatGPT as the Iron Man suit to your marketing team’s Tony Stark. Iron Man enhances Tony’s abilities, and ChatGPT can enhance your team’s capabilities. But just as Tony still relies on his human expertise and creativity to save the world, your marketing team should continue to rely on their own skills to resonate with the right audiences and create truly effective campaigns.
Garbage in = garbage out
The capabilities of these tools are quite difficult to comprehend as they are only really limited by our potential to ask the right questions.
“…the emergence of “prompt engineers” indicates the importance of creating the right prompts to unlock the full potential of AI tools…”
Just like calculators, they can only provide the correct answer with the right input, called prompts. The emergence of “prompt engineers” indicates the importance of creating the right prompts to unlock the full potential of AI tools.
AI tools present real risks of biases, such as generating discriminatory content and spreading misinformation. As responsible users of these tools, we must be aware of this and be sure to evaluate any responses provided. The CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, recently acknowledged inherent bias in the tool and assured users that they’re working to improve the default settings to be more neutral.
Plagiarism, relevancy, and factual inaccuracy
AI tools pose a risk of plagiarism and factual inaccuracy. An astronomer recently called out Google’s AI chatbot Bard for making a factual error in its demo. But everyday users may not realise that the output generated by the tool is not original, leading to unintentional plagiarism. You can take measures to avoid this, for example, by including a request for sources of any facts and figures as part of your prompt.
“…everyday users may not realise that the output generated by the tool is not original, leading to unintentional plagiarism…”
The relevancy of information can also be brought into question. While writing this, ChatGPT has only been trained on data from September 2021.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) impact
Google’s guidelines favour genuine, relevant, and reliable content. AI-generated content may struggle to meet these guidelines. This means that sole reliance on AI-generated content might negatively impact your website’s ranking on Google.
Using AI tools raises ethical concerns around data privacy, bias, and deception. These tools collect vast data through web scraping – sometimes without explicit consent. So regulations and policies must be implemented to ensure AI tools are used ethically and responsibly.
The future of AI tools
It’s worth remembering that AI tools are an emerging technology, so there are plenty of limitations to consider. But by using them as a starting point to generate ideas and assist workflows, businesses can largely mitigate these drawbacks.
AI is not the enemy. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. As AI technology continues to advance, it’s becoming increasingly clear that tools like ChatGPT will play a crucial role in the future of business, with those early movers able to leverage an unfair advantage over their competitors.
Oh, and if you’re curious whether I used ChatGPT to help me write this…
View image in blog here.
Pre-seed and seed investment are both early stages of venture capital funding for startups. However, there are some key differences between the two that are important for entrepreneurs to understand.
Pre-seed funding is typically the very first round of funding for a startup. It is used to cover the costs of developing a prototype, conducting market research, and building a team. This type of funding is often provided by friends and family, angel investors, or accelerator programmes (such as SETsquared Bristol). The amount of money raised in a pre-seed round can range from a few thousand pounds to a few hundred thousand pounds.
Seed funding, on the other hand, is the next step after pre-seed funding. It is used to further develop the product or service, conduct more extensive market research, and scale the business. Seed funding is often provided by angel investors, seed funds, or venture capital firms. The amount of money raised in a seed round can range from a few hundred thousand pounds to a few million pounds.
So, what’s the difference?
One key difference between pre-seed and seed funding is the level of risk involved. Pre-seed funding is considered to be higher risk because the startup is still in the very early stages of development and may not have a proven track record. Seed funding, on the other hand, is considered to be lower risk because the startup has a working prototype, a team in place, and some traction in the market.
Another difference is the level of control and ownership that the investors have in the company. In pre-seed funding, the investors typically have less control and ownership in the company because the startup is still in the very early stages of development. In seed funding, the investors typically have more control and ownership in the company because the startup has a proven track record and is further along in its development.
Ultimately, pre-seed and seed funding are both early stages of venture capital funding for startups. It’s crucial that you know what stage you’re at and therefore what to ask for and what the implications are. Even if you get pre-seed investment it’s useful to also consider how seed investment will be different, if and when you go for it.
At Gravitywell, we love working with enthusiastic startups and can help with prototypes, pitch decks, MVPs, conceptual work and investment advice. If you’d like to discuss how we can take your idea to the next level, get in touch.
Neil Berry – Head of Development at Proctor + Stevenson
What does a back-end developer do?
The core of my work as a Back-End Developer, is of course writing code using the framework or language for the task or project. But there’s more to it than that.
On any given day, I might be building out a feature to an established application or altering how something works to provide better value to our clients. I may be investigating a scenario that is leading to undesired outcomes on the application and then proposing a solution to the team or client.
Or sometimes I’m tasked with thinking about how best to address a business need with an established system – either using a solution Proctors has previously created in a new context or using something entirely new.
Solutions we work with at Proctors are based on Drupal, Symfony or AWS and across the lifecycle of a project, a back-end developer will work closely with all parts of Proctors Technology.
There are also times when we’ll work directly with our clients to understand their needs or demo how progress is going.
Watch video here.
What does a typical day look like at P+S?
A typical day is a good mix of collaboration and focus time. That can be in the office or remote, thanks to our hybrid flexible working policy.
Usually, we’ll have a brief check in with the project team we’re working with. Then there’s either a follow up with some team members to discuss a specific aspect of the work, or I’m head down working on a feature until lunch.
If I’m in the office, I’ll join everyone in the canteen – especially if it’s a pop-up lunch day or (even better) one of our monthly pre-paid lunches. If I’m at home, I may take a long lunch and go for a run or catch up with friends.
My afternoons vary depending on the day. Sometimes I dive back into working on a feature, or sometimes there’s an internal workshop or meeting with a client to talk through a piece of work.
It could also be that the day is set aside for planning and estimating forthcoming work, or training. This is in support of the training roadmaps that are set out based on the goals discussed with the leadership team.
Working with clients
We work with marketing departments across various industries. And while most have similar needs, they all face unique challenges. It’s up to the development team to craft bespoke solutions that work for them.
We have some complex systems that require varying skillsets and experience so working as a team and sharing knowledge can be crucial. In some cases, we find a solution we’ve used in one project that might lend itself well to another. This is why it’s important to build simplicity and flexibility into our solutions to help us manage time efficiently, rather than starting from zero each and every time.
Why Proctor + Stevenson?
Proctor + Stevenson is more than a company people work for; it has a real sense of community. There’s a strong support network so if you ever need to talk to someone, there will always be someone to listen. On top of that, P+S have some great initiatives. From our weekly Wednesday quiz nights to our Friday socials and even pop-up lunches, there’s always something fun going on to get involved with.
There are also plenty of charity fundraising events and other community projects we get involved with which is fantastic. And we host the annual South West Design and Digital Student Awards which is a great way for students to kickstart their career in the industry.
And it goes further than doing good for people, we also have a number of initiatives surrounding our sustainability, and we’re currently working towards our B-corp certification.
These are just a few of the ways Proctor + Stevenson works to be a positive environment for employees and clients alike. Everyone is incredibly friendly and always happy to help each other out, it’s genuinely a really welcoming community of people.
If you’re interested in working with us at Proctor + Stevenson, check out our careers page to see if any of our opportunities suit you.
Count is a collaborative data tool that aims to go beyond insights and bring data into decision-making.
Count’s previously simple SQL notebook had evolved into something unique. They approached Fiasco Design with the challenge to bring their brand in-line with their vision for an ambitious platform that could transform how product teams make data-driven decisions.
Too often data platforms are branded for a technically-minded (often male) audience. Count wanted to turn this on its head. The design challenge therefore was to help reposition the brand by creating a visual identity that would open up the complex world of data analysis.
Fiasco’s identity for Count draws on the ‘aha’ moment when data insight can totally change the perspective on a problem or solution. It’s the concept of seeing something familiar but in a completely new light.
Overlapping shapes emulate the process of bringing different data sets and perspectives together. Much like Count itself, it’s about bringing together information in a way that presents the whole picture and allows teams to make more empowered decisions.
The new identity needed to work seamlessly across marketing communications, as well as the platform itself. Online, a set of styles and elements were developed to weave the brand into the product, creating a more seamless customer experience.
“The Fiasco team were fantastic to work with. We gave them a tough brief and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. They worked with us side-by-side through the brand process and then helped us deliver vision in digital form.” – Ollie Hughes, CEO, Count.
You can view the full case study here.
Young creatives in Bristol have until 16 December to apply for one of the most unique and cutting-edge creative industry courses found anywhere in the country.
Earlier this year, Access Creative College joined forces with Condense and LocalGlobe to create a fully funded Metaverse Development Scholarship Programme, with the aim of bringing more diversity into the tech industry.
With the last few places now available on this course, young Bristol creatives have until the application deadline on 16 December to be a part of a technological and cultural revolution that is changing the landscape of live events.
Within this programme, scholars will be given the knowledge and skills to allow them to create truly live events in real time, as 3D video (also known as video 3.0). This means that, with the aid of either a VR headset, smartphone, laptop, desktop or even augmented reality glasses, people could enjoy a much more immersive experience of, for example a music concert, from the comfort of their own home.
With content itself streamed into gaming engines such as Unity and Unreal, the potential now exists to create entirely new and engaging live experiences within augmented and virtual reality setting and redefine the parameters of live events.
Jason Beaumont, Access Creative College chief executive, said:
“We’ve seen examples, in recent years, of performances taking place within virtual settings, but these have all been essentially pre-recorded and pre-programmed. What we’re talking about here is a revolution in the way we not only create live content within AR and VR, but the way that content is received by the public.”
Condense believe that the ceiling for this kind of technology is truly limitless and that while performing artists are including virtual performances within tours, there are no technological limits to scaling up this proposition into major events such as entire festivals and even major sporting events.
James Tong, Condense’s head of people, added:
“This kind of technology, and educational programmes like this, have the ability to open up the world of live events and culture to an even larger audience. Imagine the ability to attend something like Glastonbury or the World Cup without ever having to leave your home. Not to just watch a recording, but to be able to witness spectacular events and performances in real time, as if you were there.
“This really is a game-changing concept, its not about replacing live events with a virtual counterpart, far from it. In fact this is a means of making live events way more accessible and immersive and it gives event organisers and performers something new and different to think about when their planning tours and events.”
The programme is open to anyone, regardless of their academic background, existing qualifications or experience in the tech industry. By attending this 12 week, intensive, and fully funded course, students will have the opportunity to harness this potential and be part of the bleeding edge of AR and VR technology.
Scholars will learn Digital Graphics; 3D modelling, photogrammetry and textures; Realtime VFX; Plugin integration, in game/ venue scaling and enhancing virtual worlds; Enriching virtual worlds; Interactions, spatial sound, player movement and networking basics.
Successful applicants will also receive a college accreditation and certificate, hands-on experience with the latest technologies and techniques, real world industry skills to support the next step in your career, high level of exposure to local employers, a potential career with Condense and £1500 bursary, dependent on learner performance.
Applications for the course are now open here.
UWE Bristol has unveiled its new immersive Sound Shower experience at Bristol’s Cribbs Causeway and Cabot Circus. Showing a mesmeric snapshot of campus life, the film was created by Skylark Media.
Filming took place at the university’s Frenchay campus and city with the support of student contributors. Multiple locations include the Atrium cafe, Centre for Sport, student union, library, as well as at the Arnolfini in the city centre.
Stephanie Lee, Marketing Communications Manager at UWE Bristol says, ‘This is a really exciting film project with Skylark Media where we’re creating a film for a specific sound shower unit which will sit in Cabot Circus and Cribbs Causeway shopping centres to promote the university and bring campus life to the people of Bristol, so they can get a real immersive experience and sense of what it’s like to study here on our campuses.’
Skylark Media MD Jo Haywood adds, ‘For a unique out of home experience, we came up with a fully immersive concept using an Insta 360 camera on an extendable pole. It sits within the stitch line which then becomes invisible in post-production. The result is a fully immersive film that mimics a FPV drone – flying around from location to location or locking into subjects for detail. Diegetic sound is added in so that the viewer can eavesdrop into those private moments.’
You can experience UWE Bristol’s immersive Sound Shower at Cribbs Causeway or Cabot Circus this month.
The tech industry is fascinating from a brand perspective. Its growth has been so fast, disruptive and organic, with so many quickly expanding start-ups, that it has barely had time to pause and draw breath, let alone ponder what role brand might have to play in its future. When your numbers are good, something like brand scarcely seems to matter. Most companies have thrived despite, rather than because of theirs. But the hour of reckoning may be near.
In all industries there comes a point when it isn’t enough to have a great product or service to build a successful business. Knowledge spreads and grows. What once was groundbreaking rapidly becomes standard, imitable, improvable… the marketplace crowds and alternatives proliferate. Your ability to communicate your difference and your real value becomes ever more important as competition intensifies. Which is what makes the current situation in tech, digital and data analytics so interesting. With a plethora of similar-looking brands that use familiar language, the sector has evolved into a homogeneous playing field. The overwhelming sense is that everyone looks and sounds extraordinarily similar. That, for the wise, presents a far bigger opportunity than a few more lines of groundbreaking code.
It’s easy to see how things have come to be the way they are. All that mattered at the outset was the innovation. Companies started small and agile. Many really struggled to keep pace with their own success. Brand was often lumped in with digital marketing, handed to less senior people to take care of, and frequently seen as superficial – “just a logo” – and therefore low priority. The great thing about digital marketing from a digital company’s point of view? It’s easy to measure. Brand, which is bigger in every way, less so. All this is understandable: companies had people to hire, products to develop and customers to deal with. Even many who understand the importance of brand have simply put it off.
But now the situation has evolved. Many of those companies that started with two or three people now number twenty or thirty or substantially more. Now internal purpose, morale, discipline, decision-making and behaviour weighs heavier: bigger overheads, bigger clients, bigger responsibilities… each new step carries greater implications. How do you keep this ever-growing number of people together as a meaningful entity? Who exactly are you, as an organisation? What do you actually stand for?
The questions keep coming. How will you thrive consistently in the tech big battleground that is the fight for talent, when demand outstrips supply? What’s going to make high quality people choose you, instead of a close rival, for their next job, so you can maintain the high standards of the work you do as it scales up? Your good name and future business rests on it. And how, when you know that your product is better than your lookalike rivals out there, are you going to convince potential customers of that? How will they know who to believe? What’s going to get you the market share your innovation undoubtedly deserves?
Decisions going your way is the answer to these questions – and all of the great myriad of micro-influences that lead to that. But it’s easier said than done. The science of decision-making is fairly well documented. We’re not such rational beings as we’d like to believe, with up to 90 percent of the choices we make based on emotion… and later post-rationalised. This is just as applicable to tech as it is to buying chocolate in the supermarket or choosing a house. Instinctive decisions are made before we even know it ourselves. And this is where a brand – when it’s done well – comes into its own.
A brand isn’t simply a logo, a strapline, colours, imagery, fonts – it’s the sum of how all these are orchestrated, plus the behaviours and feelings that this leads to. It’s the whole experience of your organisation at every moment it has contact with someone. It’s the sum of every gesture and action by every employee as well as every facet of every piece of communication. A smart brand is alive to possibilities not just online or through marketing but anywhere there is engagement or the opportunity to bring its big core idea to life. Why can’t you make someone smile when they least expect it, in – say – the company car park for example? A brand is how you make your customers (and your own people) feel, which influences their behaviour towards you. And that’s why it’s a key strategic tool. The right thinking now can shape big, big decisions later. This is not a slap of paint.
To return to the tech sector in particular. It tends to be the case that tech companies focus intensely on what they have developed. It’s what they know, it’s where they feel comfortable. But what do they – or you – really know of the person who says yes or no to you, the key decision-maker with the final word? Or of what goes into that decision? Are you sure the technology itself is even within the grasp of this individual? Does it even need to be? Perhaps what matters for them is simplicity, ease of use, an instant sense of reliability and effectiveness: impact. Often, it’s not until much further down the line that verification of the tech offer is sought – usually by someone else, long after the important decision has been made. It’s no coincidence that so many tech businesses only thrive when they become human, literally, in the form of a meeting or presentation. If that’s the only time your “brand” is alive – then you don’t have a brand at all.
The fact is that many businesses in the tech sector focus their communications around dry, technical language set against a visual backdrop of technology cliches or familiar-looking process diagrams. Whilst it might be a necessity to articulate the nitty gritty of a technology, platform or service somewhere, this is often given priority at the expense of the wider, more human and beneficial story. Complexity stymies simplicity. Many businesses are missing the opportunity to connect their brand with customers in a much more powerful way.
So what can (great) branding do for you:
— Revolutionise credibility
— Influence the big decisions people are making about your company
— Improve your talent acquisition
— Support your business strategy
— Radically alter morale and engagement internally
— Increase business leads and new business / revenue
— Inform strategic decisions
— Bring stability and reassurance through demanding times
— Drive IPO or sales valuations higher
— Change the future.
Lately, it seems that creatives everywhere have been doing double takes as AI-powered tools start to seep into mainstream media. With DALL-E creations hot on the heels of graphic designers and free copywriting sites like Jasper looming over busy marketing teams, now’s not the time to stick our heads in the sand. Instead, we want to find out whether this new wave of computer-controlled craft is really a cause for concern – or if we can make it work in our favour.
First things first: When talking about AI potentially replacing us creatives, it’s worth examining what creativity really means. Albert Einstein defined it as “seeing what others see and thinking what no one else ever thought.” Many, including a lot of us here at saintnicks, are in agreement, viewing creativity as inventiveness, as our inherent ability to use imagination to originate something new. In fact, the Cambridge English Dictionary’s definition of creativity is “the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas.” This human ingenuity is difficult to replicate – and the reason why icons like Beethoven, Maya Angelou, Matisse, the Wright brothers, or Wes Anderson are so revered.
On the contrary, others (like Steve Jobs, for example) view creativity from a more practical point of view. Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.” That implies creativity is just a skill that can be learned and developed over time using reference points as inspiration. If humans, therefore, only build on what they have learned and what others have done in order to be creative, then it’s easy to argue that AI, too, can be creative. Because that’s essentially what AI does – it takes existing information (data) and, using clever algorithms, generates fresh, new content. But we’ll get to that a bit later.
In the defence of creatives, I believe there’s more to it. Sure, creativity is original, inventive, ingenious – maybe even learned. But it’s also intentional. It’s emotional. It’s contextual. As a copywriter, for example, I’m able to write with foresight and intuition. I know that an audience is likely to prefer one tagline over another, or laugh at a certain word, or be touched by a speech, simply because I share the same human experience as the people I’m talking to. I’m sentient. I consciously want my readers to feel something, I can intend for my words to elicit a response.
As humans, our thoughts, our memories, our physical sensations and the environments that surround us play huge, important parts in our lives. It’s our creativity that enables us to make connections between these things. When we create art – and I mean art in its loosest sense here, i.e. anything that’s an expression of creativity – we are either trying to discover something about ourselves, make sense of the world, affect our audience or express our thoughts and feelings. We have an innate human desire, an urge to create something meaningful.
A machine can’t do that. It doesn’t have the capacity for free thinking, nor does it have emotional intention. It can’t look at its audience and think, “I want my art to make you laugh or cry, I want to start a discussion around this topic, I want to comment on the state of the world.” Even the smartest AI can’t independently create art with meaning.
So, how can AI still be a threat to creatives if it can’t have an intention? Well, let’s look at the world of visual art for a moment.
Those who recently attended Glastonbury Festival may have crossed paths with Ai-Da, an artist who created portraits of the four headlining acts during a live painting demonstration. Although ‘live’ may not be the right word for it. You see, Ai-Da is a robot. The world’s first ultra-realistic artist robot, in fact. She uses cameras in her eyes, AI algorithms and a robotic arm to draw, paint, sculpt and perform poems. For years, she’s travelled the world, displaying her artwork in galleries, talking about her experience as a humanoid artist. You can even follow her on Instagram.
While, at first glance, Ai-Da could be mistaken for something from the year 3000, the AI she uses to create her art is quite simple. Allow me to get a bit technical here. You see, there are two different types of algorithms that can be used to create images through AI. The first one is Neural Style Transfer – where AI applies the style of one image to another. The Mona Lisa recreated in the style of Kandinsky. A photograph of an avocado re-styled as Warhol’s pop art. A pencil sketch turned into a Picasso. In order to function, the Neural Style Transfer needs both images as reference points to create its final product. This is what Ai-Da does, too. Using her ‘eyes’, she receives a reference image which she then replicates in her own, pre-programmed style. To really wrap your head around it, you can think of Neural Style Transfer as a fancy Instagram filter. Still with me?
Then there’s Generative Adversarial Networks – or GAN, for short. Unlike Neural Style Transfer, GANs can create original images from scratch. Well, sort of. GANs work by predicting an outcome based on a certain prompt. Using a set of data, they generate new examples that could plausibly fit in with the original data. So if the dataset is Van Gogh’s 900 paintings, the GAN would generate a new original image that looks like it could fit into a Van Gogh collection.
The results of GAN are pretty successful. So successful in fact, that, in 2018, Christie’s became the first auction house to offer a work of art created by an algorithm – which sold for a whopping $432,500. The artists behind Edmond de Belamy, as the artwork is called, are French collective Obvious. Using a dataset of 15,000 portraits from WikiArt, painted (by humans) between the 14th and 20th century, Obvious’ GAN created a new piece of art depicting a somewhat-blurry gentleman.
DALL-E is currently not available to the public – but the concept quickly took on a viral life of its own when Boris Dayma, a machine learning engineer, created the more accessible DALL-E mini (now called craiyon). Trained on much smaller amounts of data than DALL-E, craiyon’s machine learning improves day by day based on information inputted by its millions of users. For now, the resulting images are, at best, suited to meme culture – but as these technologies develop, it’s easy to see how they could become a part of everyday professional life. Print ads, book covers, blog headers, social posts, stock imagery, web content… the possibilities are endless. So where does that leave us?
I think the answer lies within the execution. All of these technologies, from DALL-E to Jasper, rely on prompts. They require us – the humans – to do the big thinking before they can switch on and start churning out their art. And it’s within the prompt that true creativity really lies. It’s not the machine that came up with the idea to have steampunk teddies go grocery shopping, it’s the person. The prompt satisfies both our aforementioned definitions of creativity – it requires imagination, and an ability to come up with something original, but it also requires a connection to be made, as Steve Jobs said. AI is the executioner, the maker, but we are the originators, looking at things differently, thinking up unimaginable things. To find the perfect image, you need to provide the perfect prompt. If AI can’t originate, then we creatives are still needed.
Now that we’re safe in the knowledge that AI, for the time being, isn’t going to come for our jobs entirely, we might even be able to look at how it can enhance our work and make us better. As OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman described it in an interview with the New Yorker, AI can – and should – ultimately just be treated as “an extension of your own creativity.”
In agency life, a lot of time can be wasted during the original concepting phase when all you really want to do is spit-ball ideas and get your clients’ reaction. Tools like DALL-E can be a great help to you if you’re short on time but want to present a few visuals to illustrate an idea. Even if it’s just a word on a shop front or a puppy wearing a hat. It gives a lot more power to the “What if?” when suddenly that question can be answered in minutes, rather than having to mock it all out on photoshop for hours. Plus, you’ll never have to trudge through a stock image library ever again.
One of the most remarkable features of DALL-E is its ability to make edits to an image it has already created. Want to see what a flamingo would look like inside of the pool rather than next to it? Just tell DALL-E to move it around. Boom. Little tweaks that can take up annoying amounts of time can be executed with a few verbal prompts.
Writer’s block can be one of the most debilitating experiences for someone whose livelihood depends on how many words they can get down in an hour. AI tools like Copy.ai can act not only as a timesaver when deadlines are looming but also serve up inspiration when you’ve been staring at a blank page for far too long. Using a link, a couple of words or a simple description, Copy.ai can generate headlines for Facebook, brand mottos, meta descriptions and more. It even lets you rewrite existing text in a different tone. The output is never final-product worthy and definitely needs a human eye – and hand – to finish it off for a client, but it’s a great tool for getting that pesky first draft out of the way. Full disclosure: I actually used Copy.ai myself recently to come up with some alternatives for a Call to Action button – and it worked a treat.
So, there you have it. Whilst AI might come off as a bit of a scary, magical beast at first, it can actually serve as a handy little tool to keep our creative juices flowing. And no, I don’t think it will be replacing our creative team anytime soon. We’re far too much fun in the office.
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