Designer Survival Guide In The Coming Era Of AI, ChatGPT and Midjourney

Dear designers and futurists, I know this time is not like any other time. I am sharing my experience and thoughts on the use of AI in design, gathered from all the experts I have met in this industry. 

Thank you for reading. I am sure there will be something exciting to take away in the end.After spending more than a decade in the design industry, my fascination with AI generative tools grew exponentially since 2015 with the release of DeepDream,

 a computer vision program by Google. Back then, nobody worried about whether this program would replace artists — as the images that DeepDream created were far from being commercially viable or aesthetically appealing.However, things quickly changed in 2018 when some fascinating work was done with GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks). Christie’s sold an AI-generated portrait for $432,500, beating estimates of $10,000, making history in the process. The portrait was beautifully done and almost looked like a real piece of art.

 Around that time, designers, artists, and painters began to express concerns about how powerful AI tools could become and how secure their jobs would be.

The question also haunted me over and over: as a designer and a creative worker, would I be replaced by a robot one day? And if that happened, what should I do?

In 2018, the Design and A.I Lab of Tongji University released the Design Artificial Design Report which was read by more than 1 million people. The viewpoints expressed in the report are not just about how machines can replace human designers, but also about the dialectical relationship between design as a discipline of humanities, cultures, societies, and imagination and the evolution of machine intelligence.

I was deeply inspired by this report and had the opportunity to meet the founder of Design and A.I Lab of Tongji University, Dr. Ling Fan, the following year. In 2019, he visited San Francisco with the Lab’s 3rd Design Artificial Design Report, and I had the honor of organizing the conference and sharing this amazing report with more than 200 people in San Francisco.

If all of the above was justsome “fun moments,” the release of Chatgpt and Midjourney are truly game-changing moments.

But don’t be afraid, designers and artists. I have put together some of my thoughts after discussing them with amazing people in the creative industry, and I’m sure it will be helpful for our current situation, whether it’s frustrating or exciting.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on 200 years ago.

Can you imagine how shocked the art industry was when photography technology was invented in 1822? Soon, cameras replaced many skilled painters and artists who drew portraits and documented events. Many of them lost their jobs to this tiny black box. Yet, it also creates 100 times more jobs, such as photography, art director, commercial producer, and the entire film industry in the following 200 years and pushed our art industry into a new era.


We saw a blooming of modern art movements:

Impressionism (1870- 1880)

Post-impressionism (1886–1904)

Fauvism (1905–1907)

Expressionism (1905–1907

Cubism (1908- 1914)

Futurism (1909–1944)

Dadaism (1916–1924)

Surrealism (1924–1950)

Pop (1950-)

As you name it.

Yes, cameras took the job of artists to transform images from the world onto canvas. However, artists began to use this tool to create something more abstract, poetic, spiritual, and ultimately, the technology of photography liberated humans from the cage of reality and started a journey to imagination and humanity.

The same is happening today with ChatGPT, Midjourney, and other AI tools.


I know how powerful ChatGPT seems and how silly it can make me feel sometimes. The arts created with Midjourney are incredibly beautiful, and I love them so much that I almost cry. However, I’m also scared of how this tool could fit into our workflow and replace many of us. I do believe that this day is not far away, it could be next year or even next month.


But if we use it well, it could empower us with a power we could never have imagined, and this could be the most exciting moment for all creative people.

When Adobe Photoshop and 3D rendering programs were first released, they caused panic and faced resistance, but within a year or two, they became common tools.

AI is no different — it is still just a tool, and those who are skilled and powerful don’t have to worry about AI replacing them. In fact, it will become a boost for the entire industry.

Midjourney generate designs

However, designers who only know how to “make things pretty” are at a greater risk. AI, especially painting AI like Midjourney, excels at creating beautiful drawings.

In AI testings, it has been found that the performance in terms of emotions and details are still bit poor. Even with a detailed prompt, the resulting picture still has a sense of patchwork.

For instance, if AI were to draw a room and convey a mother’s love for her daughter through the placement of items, the degree of use, and other factors, it would struggle to tell the story effectively. AI cannot create entirely new and unique things like an H.G. Giger creation, in my understanding. The area where designers surpass AI is not in their ability to draw well, which is the most fundamental aspect. The truly valuable things for human designers are our humanity: empathy, imagination, and creativity.

What will happen to us? What shall we do?

I believe that soon AI tools will liberate our hands. As designers, we will begin a new round of competition among brains and creativity

AI will impact the design and creative industry at all levels, and the most vulnerable area is commercial illustration, which can be easily learned. However, all aspects, including UI, original painting, 3D modeling, and more, will also be affected.

The actions for designers to take are to learn more, learn fast, and learn everything. To absorb and maintain enthusiasm for things, read books, watch documentaries, and learn about history, the military, and other areas of knowledge.

In the next three to five years, there may not be as many low-end entrepreneurs because if their output cannot keep up with AI, they may easily be eliminated by the industry.

AI, such as ChatGPT, is currently partially free. However, as it becomes more integrated into infrastructure in the future, it is likely that commercial companies will have to pay higher fees, and the cost comparison between AI and labor will dynamically change. Many big tech companies are researching how AI can run through their workflows. If it becomes mature enough, a batch of layoffs may occur to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Not only designers, but programming, copywriting, and other industries will also be impacted. However, from another perspective, if there is creativity, it may be an era in which ideas can be better realized.

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