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The AI race is heating up: what does this mean for design?


Although AI is a familiar term to most, only recently has it started to shape the way in which we work, think and design. With the latest developments at Google and Microsoft causing a stir online, we take a look at what two of tech’s major players are offering and what this could mean for creatives going forward.

Jack Gullen

Up until late 2022, AI generation was widely considered to be the act of typing in a few words or phrases to generate an image.

Example prompt used to generate AI images based of Seymourpowell work
Reference imagery used in MidJourney
Artwork created referenced from Seymourpowell 'Heston Blumenthal Sweet Trolley'

Whilst there is an entirely separate use-case for this functionality (one that is only going to grow!) 2023 has seen the rise of AI chatbots to distil information quickly and generate detailed analysis with minimal input from the user.

Both Microsoft and Google are heavily invested in this field, but the two tech giants take very different approaches. Microsoft have acquired a large stake in AI newcomer, OpenAI, and are now integrating this technology into their pre-existing software. Whereas Google are utilising in-house developed tools to progress their AI strategy.

Microsoft have announced their enhancement ofBing using OpenAI's capabilities

When OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November last year, Microsoft swiftly invested in the research and began to incorporate some of the services into a range of their own core products. In only a few months, we’ve seen demonstrations of OpenAI technology integrated with Bing, Edge and Microsoft Teams: most of which is now beginning to roll out to the wider public.

The new Bing search experience will provide traditional search results, but users also have the ability to interact with a chat-style interface, asking questions of AI to not only obtain information, but to carry out tasks such as drafting emails, summarising content and elaborating on previous search results. Whilst all of the information gathered can be collated by the user from a number of searches, the speed and simplicity of AI is changing how we search. In the past, for example, you may have searched for a recipe and identified the ingredients and cooking time before ordering your shopping. This may take 5-10 minutes. Now, with AI, you can ask all of this in a few messages, or even in one prompt! This is only one example of how AI can save time whilst extracting information in smarter ways.

Using a single prompt to plan a vacation

As OpenAI and Microsoft extend their partnership, we expect to see this feature set grow. Microsoft’s input is already building on the incredible work which already exists. One key advantage of OpenAI’s chatbot interface is that, through Bing, AI results have sources to support the findings: tackling misinformation and incorrect results by showcasing where a contact has been sourced.

Bard from Google

Bard is Google’s first response to the Microsoft news, where the company quickly announced their own internal AI developments. Despite years of research, Google are only just opening up their toolsets to trusted developers. Bard is Google’s own conversational AI. Like ChatGPT, it responds to questions from users and generates in depth responses. Although Bard is probably a necessary step to fight back against the competition, the risk for Google is considerable: redefining how we search fundamentally alters the core of their business. Searching the web is Google’s bread and butter and integrating AI chat into their process is a basic change in how the Internet is used by many people. In contrast, for a company such as Microsoft (which has a range of software offerings) the use of AI to search provides a powerful new feature.

Searching enhanced via Bard

Whilst both technologies are largely similar, Google has been a dominant player in the modern Internet. OpenAI, on the other hand, is a relatively new company, suggesting Google has far greater resources on which to draw. As Microsoft get involved, however, competition could be fierce.

Both Microsoft and Google have now become fully invested in their own AI journeys, with chatbots now informing how we interact with powerful language-processing models and knowledge banks. Whilst it remains to be seen who will make the most headway in terms of business growth and adoption, one thing’s for sure: 2023 is going to bear witness to some seismic changes in the AI landscape.

At Seymourpowell, we’re already using AI toolsets internally as part of our creative process, to facilitate collaboration and internal communication. But, as developments such as ChatGPT come to light, we are discovering new ways to save time, increase efficiency and enhance our designs in ways which simply weren’t possible before. It’s incredibly exciting.

We’ll have more to share over the coming weeks as to how AI is aiding us in our mission to make things better.
Jack Gullen is a Creative Technologist at Seymourpowell.