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Design & Technology June 17, 2019

Reinventing the old to make it new

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This year’s focus of SxSW was on artificial intelligence, augmented reality, machine learning, conversational designs and the beautiful future that technology is supposedly offering us. And however cool this may all sound, it is also quite scary to think about the lack of human input the future might hold. Yet many of the speakers at SxSW didn’t feel the same.

Cut out the human touch

The lack of human input didn’t phase Paul Fu, Sr. Design Director of Alibaba Intl User Experience & Design. During his session “Redefin[ing] Natural User Interaction”, he showed the capabilities of Ali Baba Wood. Ali Baba Wood is a tool which, via machine learning, is able to generate different types of content, such as social content, video’s and stills, for nearly every platform. Take, for example, a live fashion show on a catwalk. During a show, using knowledge and data that said brand has provided about their target audience, this tool can automatically create the most relevant imagery and short clips for that consumer. Ali Baba Wood can create content that varies between imagery, stills vs video or can even select different music for content depending on the behaviour of the target audience. Brands can then use this content immediately.

The visual quality of the output isn’t top notch…yet. But many brands will still use Ali Baba Wood even if it’s in experimental phases. If you think about it, why not use that tool? It’s great stuff. You can now cut out the middle man (such as production agencies) and shorten the timing immensely between the time you create a brief for a client to when you can go live with the planned content. What isn’t there to like? However, the downside to this tool is the loss of human touch and creativity as machine learning will continue to evolve.

The new age of agencies

So, is technology all that scary? Not everybody agrees. And the spectrum of applicable technology is quite big as well. Nick Law, Chief Creative Officer at Publicis who had worked for over 17 years at R/GA gave a presentation “Creativity in the Age of Invention”. He spoke about the lack of change that the creative industry has experienced in the past since the last time something significantly changed in the industry was in the fifties. This shift put everyone on the same playing field instead of having one person designing entire campaigns by themselves. Moreover, he spoke about the fact that the advertising industry is clinging to a way of work that is outdated and proceeded to showcase his focus:

  • Creativity & Technology
  • Creativity & Organisation
  • Creativity & Innovation

Basically, what Nick is saying is: don’t be afraid of technology. You should actually embrace it. Technology is just another word for “something new”. Make sure that your company is structured in such a way that ideas or solutions for clients can be delivered on a multiple disciplinarily level (and not just via the art and copy guys) and continue down this path to get the best ideas. Don’t let a client push you back to the fifties by demanding art and copy present during a brief. If you think it will give the best answer on a brief, place a designer, social media expert or back-end developer (or even an intern) at the table. This way, the solution that is found in creativity will be different from the traditional way and you will be innovative. Varied and diverse skills make a more interesting melting pot of ideas and often give different solutions for a problem.

The Essence of SxSW

The big takeaway of SxSW? Don’t forget where you come from and what you stand for, but embrace the new and from there on out make it better. Sometimes you need to kill your darlings, opinions and thoughts and open your mind for the new (technology) and let it work for you to be more creative. It’s killing in the name of creativity.

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