Design masterclass: It’s an exciting time to be a designer

Rather than be concerned that AI will put consultants out of business, it can be used to assist and collaborate for better outcomes, says Tim Smallwood FFCSI

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) is with us and here to stay. We can’t push back and hope for the best. As shown previously  there will be benefits and pitfalls but, by being in control, the consultant will be in a position to move to the next stage of their design consulting business. There will be many who are just too busy to think about anything further into the future than the next project. Then again there will be others who are concerned that clients will be able to plug into Maket or other Generative Design software and use ChatGPT to generate specifications and are no longer needed.

Well let me give you some encouragement, ChatGPT is just a language processing model  that regurgitates what is already available. Likewise, Maket and other generative design models use available information to tell you what you already know. Their benefit is that they do it infinitely faster than you can. In the end all these AI programs need the help of an imaginative designer to achieve a more than a routine design possibility; and clients for those sorts of routine projects don’t engage a foodservice consultant anyway.

The fact that these AI assisted programs are able to complete certain tasks much faster, means that there will be certain things that they are able to assist with, to the advantage of the consultant. They collaborate rather than initiate in the process of resolving a design.

To avoid being left behind, the consultant needs to be in control of the process of introducing AI into their design approach. The perfect solution will be a combination of generative design and language model AI algorithms. These will be informed by the unique design principles and values that define the reason why clients engage the particular consultant. In this way each AI assisted design solution will be unique to the consultants practice.

Refine ideas to meet the ideal solution

With the principals, values and project history in place, programs such as DALL-E2 are ideal for generating ideas. But these ideas still need to be validated and selected and, in the end, elaborated and curated by the consultant who will refine them to meet the ideal solution. In the same way, elevations and details are able to be AI generated, but again they will be typical rather than specific for the actual project and will require the input of the imagination and intuition of the designer to fully resolve. An AI language model can be effectively used to generate a services schedule by applying BIM data; but it will require final intervention to add unique or bespoke elements for completion.  The AI assistant can be used to review and give feedback on equipment and materials selection as well as inconsistencies with the brief or standards. In all cases assisting in the completion of the project or assignment.

So now you have a new and essential member of staff in the office, an avatar. Making such a contribution to the team, rather than just be an anonymous algorithm or acronym, the AI assistant can integrate into the team by being given an identity. Certainly, a name, but also an image and characteristics that will help the design team as well as clients to see the AI assistant as a positive contributing team member.

I would like you to meet Tilly Talbot who “works” in the office of Studio Snoop, a Sydney based furniture designer. Tilly was introduced at the Milan Design Week as the world’s first AI designer. She collaborates in many ways including by assisting in making educated decisions on materials and processes.

I am confident that, rather than be concerned that AI will put consultants out of business, AI can be used to assist and collaborate for better outcomes. It really is an exciting time to be a designer: AI, bring it on!

 “Tilly Talbot” 

This article was authored by Tim Smallwood and was not generated by ChatGPT

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