Those of us in the branding industry have seen several emerging trends that appear destined to integrate permanently into the way we do business. These trends are as far-reaching and diverse as businesses embracing purposeful brand activism, to the ever-growing rise of artificial intelligence in branding strategy and execution.
Friend or Foe? Artificial Intelligence and Branding
New developments in AI, such as automation and machine learning, have already creeped into the world of brand strategy and design. Through a quick analysis of user preferences and tastes, people are using AI to analyze a user’s design style and suggest appropriate fonts and logos. It’s not hard to see the appeal: automated branding takes minutes rather than days, and costs a fraction of what a human designer would charge.
Some now fear the next stage–that using machines to design and implement branding will put human designers out of work. This sort of debate isn’t new. But, despite similar protests in the past, today all sorts of automated services, from self-checkout counters at grocery stores to electronic toll booths, are commonplace.
Conversations as well as services are becoming increasingly automated; even Facebook has introduced bots that can book you a car and order you food, and Amazon’s popular Echo can automate basic tasks in your home. Given this trend, should designers be worried?
Not really. While concern in the business world may have some merit, the use of artificial intelligence for branding is decidedly different from typical examples of machine labor. While it’s true that self-checkout counters might eventually replace human cashiers, automated branding does not replace designers, nor is it likely to. Instead, automated branding opens up doors for startups and small businesses that otherwise wouldn’t have the budget for good design. And as automated branding fills this niche, designers–who could incorporate AI into their own design strategy–could benefit.
The Democratization of Branding
Well-designed branding should not be the exclusive domain of the biggest and most successful companies. Both the gig economy and the automated creative industry are now providing opportunities for small players to get a leg up in their respective fields. As is the case with hiring freelancers from sites like Task Rabbit and others, automated design providers allow humble businesses to enjoy quality work with limited budgets. Considering the kinds of expenses new businesses face, anything that helps them achieve financial independence is a good thing.
And startups aren’t the only businesses that will benefit. Automated branding companies like Tailor Brands service everyone from soccer moms making logos for team uniforms to kids who create branding for gaming clubs. They also service freelancers, dog walkers, and people pursuing their dreams after work. Sure, machine-created logos are used for traditional marketing purposes. But, they’re also amping-up your neighbor’s hobby baking business or social media profile. It’s likely these are things that users wouldn’t have hired a professional designer to do anyway.
Coexistence Is Key
Our insistence on snappy logos – through automation, if necessary – actually says more about marketing than competition. Talented web designers still have more work than they can handle. At the same time, the projects that they don’t choose to engage, or the budgets that they will not entertain, can still benefit from an attractive and professional website.
The growing popularity of automated branding doesn’t mean society has lost its appreciation of quality art or respect for the creative minds behind it. On the contrary, automated branding represents an increasing need for design, not just by the most successful companies but by smaller businesses as well. This democratization of brand logos simply shows that we care more, not less, about the need for good design.
The creative industry certainly isn’t in danger of disappearing. Companies with the resources to do so will continue to combine human designers with automated design, while individuals and small businesses will have an opportunity to use compelling branding while saving on costs. The shift toward automation isn’t about a decreasing need for designers; it’s about an increasing preference for good design.