What Isn’t Going to Change

Responding to a world with AI

Discussion of AI is everywhere. Our clients are publishing articles. I was on a panel for the AMA last week to discuss what has changed in the last 30 years (what hasn’t changed?) and of course, the conversation came around to AI. We addressed the topic in our latest volume of The Issue, including an article written by AI with the guidance of Sarah Sampson, Senior Designer. It is correcting this article as I write it. There is no doubt it is having a huge impact on the creative industry, perhaps the biggest disruption we have experienced. So how can I sleep at night? It starts with my education.

I stumbled into attending Virginia Commonwealth University and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Not that my first-year freshman self would have agreed. But after settling in, I had the opportunity to study with amazing professors who gave me the foundation in creative thinking that I tap into every day. Richard Carlyon’s Visual Thinking class, Rob Carter’s Typography I, Graphic Design with Phil Meggs, and an incredible Independent Study with Akira Ouchi taught me the importance of research and ideation, the nuances of typography, and how to solve problems through visual thinking. Those experiences inform the decisions that I make today.


Quite possibly the most exciting part of a project is the research. Visiting the school—taking in the architecture, landscape, and people. Listening to how people talk about the school, listening for common threads, and synthesizing what we learn into a research report. Creating mood boards from a curation of our photography and additional research and from there developing a color palette. I can hear the AI lovers in my head saying but it can find common terminology, categorize imagery, and create a color palette. That could be fine. It is what is done with that information that won’t change.


Anyone who has worked at 2communiqué has heard me or my partner, Chris St. Cyr, say, “Pinterest is not research” (see Insight, “Inspiration vs. Plagiarism”). Well, that is more true than ever. If there is one thing that AI can do, it is deliver images based on prompts. If AI can do that you better make sure that your visual research is not about looking at what others have done. It is about taking the findings from the research phase and creating unique solutions. What font does that building make you think of? What color palette evokes a sense of place? What is the overall vibe that needs to be represented in the look and feel? Use AI to gather what has been done to make sure you do not replicate something that was already created.


Developing creative work is one aspect of what we do, understanding how and where to engage with the audience is another—the strategy of storytelling. Print, digital, and social media are all channels that have to be considered in today’s age of storytelling. Understanding the audience and their preferences to develop a targeted content strategy is imperative. We can utilize AI to gather data on the user, identify optimum engagement times, and share results but then what we do with that information is the human element.


Finally, there is the storytelling itself. I know that AI can be trained and can get smarter. But I truly believe that writers, photographers, illustrators, videographers, art directors, and designers play a crucial role in creating work that matters. Having a distinct point of view and a unique creative lens is what makes communications authentic and we need authenticity more than ever.