The artist Sol LeWitt was famously controversial because he created instructions for how to apply his art to the walls of galleries and museums—students and staff followed his direction to create patterns of lines and colors. Sometimes the artist wasn't even present, which made people ask if it was his art at all. I’ve had very similar conversations with designers about automation and AI being applied to design. There’s a belief that if a human expert isn’t hand crafting design or an interface, then it’s not really being designed.
Let’s move past the question of who or what “designs” an interface. We’ve reached a point where there’s too much complexity in digital experiences and too much design work needed to ignore the need to turn to automation.
The promise of the internet was about giving everyone access to the systems and knowledge that were otherwise impenetrable or unknowable. The democratization of information and access really appealed to me. This promise, however, can’t be realized if people literally can’t navigate across their digital lives—the apps and sites that are part of their daily lives.
There’s a belief that if a human expert isn’t hand crafting design or an interface, then it’s not really being designed.
I’ve spent most of my 20+ year career building digital tools for Fortune 100 companies and leading digital transformation and design programs for large brands, agencies, and startups. For me, it’s always been about the power of creating meaningful experiences that enable brands to connect and collaborate authentically with global audiences.
During my career my colleagues and I have seen how even the most principled designers and developers have to prioritize the audiences most valued by the companies we work for when designing websites, mobile apps, and other digital systems. Using methods like Design Thinking and Story Mapping helps build empathy for certain audiences, but the processes inherently marginalize disadvantaged communities by creating Customer Experiences that may be inaccessible or alien to them. What’s more, these methods do not scale to the nearly infinite set of individual needs regular people have in their day-to-day digital lives.
Digital designers and developers are increasingly equipped with tools that automate parts of the process of creating Customer Experiences. Using these automated tools will allow us to create ever-more personalized interactions for a wider range of audiences. But this scale comes with some risks – automation can scale up both our best intentions and our biases, known or unknown. It is critical that we have the standards and frameworks to allow businesses, governments, and other organizations to create those compelling, individualized digital experiences without marginalizing anyone.
So we recognize the problem and understand the implications. We believe that automation and AI-powered design are the solution. That’s why we started ExperienceFutures.org.