For World Creativity and Innovation Day last year, we discussed what creativity means to some of the Vixen Labs team. Rich described new ideas that impact others while Jen emphasised that there is no universal definition of creativity.
This year, we wanted to return to the theme from a different angle: creativity in an age of AI, LLMs, and GPT. A nuanced topic, for sure – one we knew our Head of Creative, Claire Medcalf, would be more than happy to chat about.
DEFINING CREATIVITY IN AN AGE OF AI
Going in with the big question first: what does creativity mean to you, Claire?
Oh, we’re straight to it! I think the answer really depends on whether we’re looking at ‘creative’ as a mindset or a skill.
I really do believe that everyone is – or can be – creative. We should all be able to express ourselves through our chosen hobby or artform; it’s important for humanity. It’s not (necessarily) about the end result, but more the creative process. We can explore ideas, make a mess, have fun, create something of outstanding beauty, or not… and every part of that process is completely valid.
However: creative quality is the hill I will die on. When creating products for clients (or rather, our client’s end users) the expertise that goes into the project, and quality and craft of the end result, is essentially our duty of care. Ideally on a project, you want a range of skills from a range of experts, each bringing their years of training and wealth of experience into the product, making it the best it can be.
“THE EXPERTISE THAT GOES INTO THE PROJECT, AND QUALITY AND CRAFT OF THE END RESULT, IS ESSENTIALLY OUR DUTY OF CARE.”
Working within the creative industry, to me, is about concept and craft. It’s that great idea meeting a human need in a refreshingly simple way, while being beneficial for the brand – and then how that idea becomes a reality.
For example, anyone can make a Powerpoint presentation. Not everyone knows grid theory or typesetting. It’s not about perfectionism; it’s about standards, skill sets, respect for your teammates, and doing right by the brand.
HOW AI TOOLS INTERACT WITH CREATIVITY
It seems like every day a new or iterated generative AI model is launched. How do you think these tools help us to be more creative?
I love this question. And I think ‘help’ is the key word here. I’m already seeing AI aid all sorts of processes at Vixen Labs. Sometimes when you’re hit with a creative brief, or literally any task, getting started can be the hardest bit. It can be daunting – whether that’s due to the enormity of the task at hand or maybe some pesky self-doubt – so you delay just cracking on with it.
AI gives us simple answers, quickly. (Side note: I heard someone on the tube describe ChatGPT as ‘Google WhatsApp’ which could not be more perfect.) With a little back-and-forth collaboration with your AI of choice, we have a springboard from which to begin.
These models can even serve as a confidence boost. We’ve all seen those LinkedIn posts saying “don’t worry, look: AI is rubbish, the outputs are boring, it’s not going to take your job as a creative”. Let’s hope! But we can still use AI outputs as scaffolding, helping get that terrible first draft out the way, super quickly. No shade.
“WE CAN USE AI OUTPUTS AS SCAFFOLDING”
My advice to creatives looking to make more use of generative AI tools for creativity would be to look at where to free up your time and energy. Automate or quicken repetitive, must-do tasks so your capacity for creativity is widened. For example: changing the tense of a piece of writing, or transforming first person to third person.
And definitely listen to those saying you have to work on what you put in, to get something great back. Like a good brief, a good prompt is worth its weight in gold.
And the flip side of that question: in what ways might generative AI restrict creativity?
In the industry, I think the restriction will lie with those that can’t see the difference between an initial AI response from a bad prompt, and the work that’s of the highest standard including all the tips and tricks of the trade.
As creatives, we have a responsibility of quality control for our clients. So while we absolutely need to keep a critical eye on designing the best prompts, what’s more important is knowing how to handle the outputs.
There is also the danger that AI restricts us in a wider creative sense. Thanks to the pandemic we’ve seen a shift from collaboration to isolated working – personally, I think there’s a danger of AI making silos even stronger. I can almost hear the “I’ll just get ChatGPT to do it” messages ringing out in Slack channels across the world.
Of course, we can be creative by ourselves. But sometimes, especially on a big project, the true breakthroughs only arrive as a result of getting a group of humans to work together, in all their messiness and unpredictability. We make something larger than the sum of its parts.
PROGRESSING CREATIVITY IN AN AGE OF AI
Do you think there’s something about being in the midst of a tech boom that, in itself, boosts or stalls creativity?
At the moment I think we’re experiencing more of a creativity boost than a stalling. From what we’re seeing, conversational and generative AI is having much wider adoption than the last few buzzwords that have floated through the creative industries (hello Metaverse and NFTs) and that’s clearly because it’s easier to grasp and has little to no barriers to entry. It’s easy to use, and feels miraculous, like we’re actually in the future we’ve seen in films. In fact, AI is magic – a slant embraced wholeheartedly by Canva.
There genuinely is a buzz right now. I can see how excited we all are at Vixen Labs, amongst so many great talents across the industry, to test and stretch the possibilities. That comes with an almost necessary creative boost: to try it and see, to be in the process, to analyse outputs, to share and discuss. And, of course, any new platform or technology which encourages different ways of doing things is going to boost creativity.
On the other hand, there is the threat of it stalling creativity. Or, at least, taking the joy and ownership of the creative process away from humans. As a creative, there’s no better feeling than going through the rollercoaster that is the creative process to be rewarded with something you’re proud of at the end.
I’m wary of AI overwhelm: of there being so many uses and models that people bury their heads in the sand. When the use of new tech is taking off like this, industries that move fast in particular can feel pressured to constantly innovate, do the next big thing; to set trends, as well as keep up with them.
Part of World Creativity and Innovation Day is about encouraging “multidisciplinary thinking”. People at Vixen Labs bring skills from all sorts of backgrounds and previous roles. How might we leverage generative AI internally?
Multidisciplinary thinking is so important. You’re going to come up with something far greater if you can foster expertise and wisdom from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds.
A successful digital product needs strategy, UX, creative, design, project management, client services, and more, to all be valued equally. It is how project teams communicate, collaborate and compromise that determines if you walk away feeling proud of your shared output. When it goes right, it’s an absolute dream.
“IT IS HOW PROJECT TEAMS COMMUNICATE, COLLABORATE AND COMPROMISE THAT DETERMINES IF YOU WALK AWAY FEELING PROUD”
So how we leverage it is around using AI as a tool to make our team stronger, rather than a replacement.
We’re already exploring how it can be most beneficial to us as a brand and an agency. One way we’re doing this is with our weekly generative AI sandbox session, in which we come together, work on trial projects using AI tools, and discuss the processes and outcomes.
I’m sure we’ll keep you posted with any developments that come from our discussions and experimentation.
Brilliant – thank you for your thoughts, Claire.
If you’d like to chat with the team about what AI can be doing for your business, get in touch.
We created the image at the top of this article with Midjourney V5 using the prompt: Corporate stock image depicting a person creating art with expertise, quality and craft, dark background, high contrast , 8K, photo realistic, wide range of colour, neon aesthetic.