Innovative Marketing Agency

When Tech Meets Art: Marketing Design Takes On AI 

In my role as a creative leader at PureRed, I’ve been given a front-row seat to witness the impacts of using AI for marketing initiatives. I’ve seen our marketing tech platform, PR1, help clients streamline their promotional strategies. And when combined with AI, this tool provides an even more efficient way of creating meaningful customer connections. 

Of course, predictive pricing, data enrichment and omnichannel promotion management are all well and good. (Okay, that’s an understatement — it’s pretty impressive stuff.) But as a designer, I’ve found myself curious: what can AI do for us agency creatives?  

As members of a field reliant on human artistry and ingenuity, where does AI, with all its generative capabilities and data-driven insights, fit within the marketing design landscape? 

It only makes sense that we start in the Stone Age. 

What Technology Does to Art 

Technology has been disrupting the design world since the beginning of art itself. Thousands of years ago, humans scraped rocks on cave walls, creating the earliest form of stone-on-stone etching. Creative expression evolved as our artistic tools became more sophisticated, with cave etchings replaced by bronze sculptures, woven rugs, intricate frescoes and oil paintings. 

Fast forward to the 20th century, and the advent of desktop publishing pushed waves of traditional typesetters and Rubylith artists toward new careers. Those who stayed in the print industry were designers who learned to use computers — not to replace their skills, but to supplement them. 

This shock-wave-to-new-normal cadence is at the heart of technology’s relation to art. New tech first disrupts a medium, then becomes core to it; in response, the medium then evolves to reach new horizons, and the cycle continues. 

Why Are So Many Designers Wary of AI? 

Historically, new technologies have provided artists with advanced tools for refining their crafts. In the world of desktop publishing, computers made traditional typesetting obsolete. But these computers couldn’t come up with their own ideas — they couldn’t innovate new layouts or designs. Those decisions still relied on the human controlling the computer. 

Today, however, AI-driven software like Adobe Sensei goes beyond supplementing human skill — it generates designs aligned with human objectives. With all its generative capabilities, AI is positioned to function less as a tool and more as a creative partner. Understandably, this has sparked fear that human creativity may be rendered obsolete. 

And AI poses further unique concerns for designers. Its use of web content as fodder for its analysis and output means AI is not immune from inheriting and perpetuating cultural biases (see Brooke Hopper’s efforts to create a family portrait using generative AI, which returned only images of all-white families).  

Artists have also registered complaints with generative AI toolmakers, claiming their art style has been replicated without permission. Concept artist Greg Rutkowski’s name, for instance, has been used as an image prompt for Stable Diffusion more than 100,000 times, resulting in a slew of inferior AI imitations. And until copyright law catches up with modern technology, there are no protections against machines taking original work and repurposing it. 

But for all these concerns, AI offers more opportunities for us designers to grow — both to hone our craft and to do better work for our clients. 

AI in the Creative Process 

Less Stiction, Faster (and Better) Ideas 

“Stiction” is what I call it when I get into a rut and ideas stop flowing — it’s like writer’s block for design. In moments of stiction, AI can quickly generate visuals, copy and references from which to ideate. Consider it rocket fuel for concepting — a shortcut through the brainstorming phase.  

What’s more, these tools can help creatives be freer in their ideation; less bound by existing walls or old ideas. They can encourage us to push designs further and try new ideas. 

Reduced Grunt Work 

AI has the potential to be the ultimate “work smarter, not harder” tool. For those very repetitive parts of the creative process, like resizing or reformatting, AI can get the task done in a fraction of the time it would take a human to do it. And more efficiency in the design process means more time for us to concentrate on the finer elements of our art. 

Expansion Into New Mediums 

AI will soon be able to render 3D shapes from 2D art. The transition from 2D element design to quality 3D model design is a very steep learning curve. (And if you’re like me, it might be a hill you’ll never fully scale.) But when AI makes this world available, many skilled artists will be able to unleash their creativity in three dimensions for the very first time. 

AI Still Needs Us 

It’s vital to remember that AI is expert at creative thought replication, not actual creative thought. At the end of the day, its generative ability is just a facsimile of our own collective human creativity, put through an ingenious filter and made more powerful. We should use it as an extension of — not a replacement for — human skills and creativity. 

AI’s Role at PureRed 

Here at PureRed, we’ve embraced AI as a tool to enhance our creative processes — and we’ve seen some exciting results. We use ChatGPT to add fuel to our concepting, DALL-E2 to jumpstart design ideas, and GliaStar to generate images that inform storyboarding. Each of these tools is used to inspire the humans who will ultimately produce the work we create for our clients. 

It’s important to remember that in our industry, we create ideas intended to move people to actions that will improve their lives. We care deeply about human behavior, attitudes and emotions. These are not things that AI “understands” (other than what it can glean and parse from data). While AI can help designers generate new ideas and solve problems, it takes humans to achieve real connections with other humans.  

At the end of the day, people are our biggest differentiator in the agency world — and AI can never change that.