At OFFF last month, there were a few people who talked about using AI, specifically image generation with things like Midjourney, to aid them when they were creating art. Aside from a few stupid experiments with ChatGPT, I’d pretty much written off using AI to do anything particularly helpful, but thought I’d give it another crack.
There were three areas where I thought it could help: giving me a starting point for gig posters, helping take some of the pain out of social media for event promotion, and giving me a base for a class I’m teaching on design systems. Well fuck me if it didn’t help immensely on all three of those…
Creating illustration via Midjourney
First up the gig posters: I’m not an artist. I have never put the time or effort in to learn proper art techniques, so most of what I do from an illustration point of view is to trace, borrow and copy. I feel shameful saying that, and I’m not talking about plagiarising here, but I can’t freehand draw figures, scenery or perspective to save my life, so getting a reference photo from unsplash or something helps kick me off with a lot of linework… I also have a tendency to never give myself enough time to effectively do anything (hello ADHD), so sometimes the creative well is a bit dry.
I’ve been using Midjourney to help with prompts, mainly for gig posters, and it’s been glorious. I can generate visual ideas with a super simple idea, and also have the room for happy accidents. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel when it’s really close to the Midjourney stuff and using it relatively wholesale, because, hey I created the prompt that created the picture, so technically I’m not ripping off someone else, but then again, it’s probably pulled from a relatively small pool of sources… I don’t know. Anyway, it’s been pretty cool to play with an inject a bit of life into my scrappy process. Here’s some examples:
Using ChatGPT to create social media posts
Next up, the posts. I’ve started promoting shows again (here are a couple that are coming up), but one of the things that is super time consuming is scheduling posts to make sure that you keep reminding people that the shows are coming up. It’s mind-numbing, run of the mill shit that is the bread and butter of putting something on - “Hey - come to our show and buy a ticket wooo”. I’d like to think that there’s room to be creative, but considering I cram my life full of shit and don’t do this as a job, it’s pretty hard to carve out time.
So after seeing a TikTok, I thought I’d give it a crack… I fed in the most bullshit, wordiest prompt I could based off of the original TikTok, which was this:
“I want you to act like a social media manager. I need you to create a social media post for the following platforms: Twitter and Instagram. This post needs to promote our event, Darkest Timeline Disco, which is a queer and DIY indie disco, with a live performance from the band "Slash Fiction" and is happening on June 22 at Signature Brew Haggerston. It needs to highlight how much fun the event is, and create a sense of fomo. I need you to focus on making it aesthetically pleasing, on brand, eye-catching, and a little click baitey. I need you to capture the attention of current followers and new ones. I want this post to be creative, unique and have some witty fun.”
And here is the output:
Twitter Post:"Get ready to dance the night away! The Darkest Timeline Disco is back and better than ever! With live performances from the amazing band Slash Fiction, this queer and DIY indie disco is the place to be on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston. Don't miss out on the fun! #DarkestTimelineDisco #SlashFiction #QueerIndieDisco #SignatureBrewHaggerston"
Instagram Post:"Ready to have the time of your life? Join us for the Darkest Timeline Disco! This queer and DIY indie disco is happening on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston, with a live performance from the amazing band Slash Fiction. Get ready to dance, sing, and have a blast with us! Trust us, you don't want to miss this event. #DarkestTimelineDisco #SlashFiction #QueerIndieDisco #SignatureBrewHaggerston #DanceParty #DIYDisco"
Next up I wanted it to create me a calendar for the next month of posts, so I fed it this prompt - “Based on this post I want you to continue and create a content calendar with the same parameters, ensuring each post is varied and interesting, counting down to June 22. I need 3 posts a week for two months. The posts should alternate in focusing on different aspects of the event, including the DJs, the band "Slash Fiction", and bringing together the queer community.”
Aaaaand it outputted this:
Week 1:Twitter Post: "We're kicking off the countdown to the Darkest Timeline Disco with our amazing DJ lineup! Get ready to dance the night away with some of the best queer DJs around. June 22nd can't come soon enough! #DarkestTimelineDisco #QueerDJs #DanceParty"Instagram Post: "It's official! We're thrilled to announce that @slashfictionband will be headlining the Darkest Timeline Disco! Get ready for an unforgettable performance on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston. #DarkestTimelineDisco #SlashFiction #IndieDisco #LiveMusic"
Week 2:Twitter Post: "The Darkest Timeline Disco is more than just a dance party - it's a celebration of the queer community. Join us on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston for a night of love, inclusivity, and good vibes. #DarkestTimelineDisco #QueerCommunity #Inclusivity"Instagram Post: "Get ready to dance to the beat of some of the best queer DJs in the city! Our lineup is packed with talent and ready to keep you moving all night long. June 22nd can't come soon enough! #DarkestTimelineDisco #QueerDJs #DanceParty"
Week 3:Twitter Post: "We're counting down the days until the Darkest Timeline Disco! Join us on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston for an unforgettable night of music, dancing, and good times. #DarkestTimelineDisco #IndieDisco #LiveMusic"Instagram Post: "What's a disco without some fabulous outfits? Start planning your look now and get ready to strut your stuff on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston. We can't wait to see what you'll be wearing! #DarkestTimelineDisco #DiscoFashion #DIYDisco"
Week 4:Twitter Post: "Get to know our incredible headliners, @slashfictionband, before they take the stage at the Darkest Timeline Disco! Their unique blend of indie rock and electronic beats is sure to get you dancing. #DarkestTimelineDisco #SlashFiction #IndieDisco"Instagram Post: "We're all about bringing the queer community together at the Darkest Timeline Disco! Get ready to connect with like-minded people and make new friends on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston. #DarkestTimelineDisco #QueerCommunity #Inclusivity"
Week 5:Twitter Post: "The countdown continues! Get ready for an epic night of dancing and good vibes at the Darkest Timeline Disco. We can't wait to see you on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston. #DarkestTimelineDisco #DanceParty #GoodVibes"Instagram Post: "We're all about supporting local talent at the Darkest Timeline Disco! Our amazing DJ lineup features some of the best queer DJs from around the city. Get ready to dance to their beats on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston. #DarkestTimelineDisco #QueerDJs #LocalTalent"
Week 6:Twitter Post: "Have you started planning your disco outfit yet? From glitter to neon, we want to see it all on June 22nd at Signature Brew Haggerston. Get ready to shine! #DarkestTimelineDisco
Now, there are a few issues with this. One, they obviously got a lot of the details wrong and goddamn there’s hashtags everywhere, but I genuinely think with a little bit of tweaking this could provide a good basis to save a ton of time in creating these kind of posts. I think this was the least impressive, but still a pretty decent place to start.
If only it could automatically schedule them too…
Using Notion AI to create snippets of a lesson
Finally, one that actually helped me in my day to day job. I’m currently teaching a bunch of folks about design systems from scratch. It involves covering off A LOT of different areas. All of these areas I have a fair whack of knowledge in, but not all of them I’ve written down before, and I’ve been a bit time and cognitive function-poor these last few weeks. So, I thought I’d give Notion AI a go to help take the drudge out of pulling in some definitions.
I asked it to give me definitions of a federated and a centralized design system team, and it outputted these:
“A centralized design system team structure involves having a dedicated team responsible for the design system that is separate from other design teams in the organization. This team is responsible for the development and maintenance of the design system, and works with other design teams to ensure that the design system is being used effectively.”
“A federated design system model involves each design team having its own design system team, which is responsible for the development and maintenance of the design system for that particular team.”
The federated one is a bit off the mark, but was still a pretty good start. I then asked it to list out the pros and cons of each:
Some potential advantages of a centralized design system team structure include:
- Consistency: Having a dedicated team responsible for the design system can help ensure consistency in design across all products and teams.
- Efficiency: A centralized team can work more efficiently and effectively than separate design teams, as they can focus solely on the design system.
- Standardization: A centralized team can establish and enforce design standards more easily than separate design teams.
However, there are also some potential disadvantages to a centralized design system team structure, including:
- Siloing: A centralized team may become isolated from other design teams, which can lead to a lack of collaboration and communication.
- Lack of context: A centralized team may not have the same level of context or understanding of specific products or teams as those teams themselves.
- Slower feedback loops: A centralized team may experience slower feedback loops, as they may not be as directly involved in the day-to-day work of product teams.
Some potential advantages of a federated design system model include:
- Contextual knowledge: Each design team's design system team has a deep understanding of their specific product and team, which can lead to more effective design solutions.
- Collaboration: A federated model can foster greater collaboration and communication between different design teams and their respective design system teams.
- Flexibility: A federated model can be more flexible and adaptable than a centralized model, as each design team's needs and priorities can be taken into account.
However, there are also some potential disadvantages to a federated design system model, including:
- Inconsistency: A federated model can result in inconsistencies in design across different products and teams, as each design system team may have different approaches and standards.
- Duplication: A federated model can lead to duplication of effort, as each design system team may be working on similar components or patterns.
- Lack of standardization: A federated model may not be as effective at establishing and enforcing design standards across the organization as a centralized model.
To be honest, I was pretty impressed with these answers. Yes, I had to tweak, add and delete a few in there, but it was a good way to confirm the things I already had in my head, and save me from having to write them down.
Then as a test, I thought I’d see how effective it would be to write an audit workshop plan…
Workshop Plan: Running an Initial Audit on Your Design System
- Understand the current state of your organization's design system
- Identify areas for improvement in the design system
- Prioritize and plan the next steps for improving the design system
- Product managers
- Access to the organization's design system documentation
- Whiteboard or flipchart
- Sticky notes and markers
Introduction (10 minutes)
- Welcome participants and explain the purpose of the workshop
- Review the objectives and agenda for the session
Current State Assessment (60 minutes)
- Divide participants into small groups of 3-4 people
- Assign each group a specific area of the design system to review (e.g. style guide, component library, design patterns)
- Instruct each group to conduct a review of their assigned area, looking for strengths and weaknesses in the current state of the design system
- Have participants record their findings on sticky notes and place them on a whiteboard or flipchart
Group Discussion (30 minutes)
- Facilitate a group discussion to review the findings from the current state assessment
- Identify common themes and areas of consensus among the groups
- Discuss any areas of disagreement or conflicting feedback
Prioritization and Planning (60 minutes)
- Have participants work together to identify the most critical areas for improvement in the design system
- Use the feedback gathered during the current state assessment to guide the prioritization process
- Have participants create a roadmap for addressing the identified areas of improvement, including specific action items and timelines
Conclusion (10 minutes)
- Recap the key takeaways from the workshop
- Thank participants for their time and contributions
- Share the findings and action plan with relevant stakeholders
- Schedule regular check-ins to track progress on the action plan and make adjustments as needed
I mean, it’s pretty generic, but also pretty spot on. Especially considering an audit is something that you will probably need to tweak based on your needs.
Again, I’m not sure how I feel about this because there are definitely some areas where it spits out absolute nonsense, but it also feels like it takes a lot of the drudgery and thinking time to create common, easy, useful things in your day to day work. I think my biggest concern is that it also takes away the thinking steps so that existing patterns and systems can become easily entrenched because of a kind of network spreading effect. The more people use it, the more it feeds its own results into the learning model, the more it reinforces that whatever it creates int he first place whether it’s right or wrong.
There’s still a lot of ethical implications to consider
It’s been interesting to have a look at how AI can streamline a lot of my processes, but there are still so many ethical considerations to be made when it comes to using AI in day to day work… There’s the self-perpetuating propping up of existing systems of discrimination. There’s the fact that this could be a new industrial age, which in an ideal world would herald an age of leisure, but in reality will probably cause mass unemployment and widen the wealth gap. There’s the fact that this technology is being driven and shared by VC backed companies, which probably means that the benefits won’t be seen by lower socio-economic or less privileged groups. There’s also the environmental impact. There’s also simple things like redefining plagiarism, IP, and ownership.
Basically, there’s a lot of shit to figure out. In the meantime I’m going to go back to creating nightmare fuel on Midjourney.