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AI in the Workplace – How will it change the design landscape?

Jesse Cruce

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken the world by storm, especially since the release of AI Chatbot ChatGPT in late 2022. For those who have somehow managed to avoid this highly discussed topic, AI is defined as the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs.

An article by Bloomberg digs into how architects are employing text to image AI, like Midjourney, into their field of work. It sites Chantal Matar, the head of a London design studio, who is using Midjourney to “play with the notion of fluid architecture” and researching how to bring its creations into 3D form. AI does possess the ability for real-world application in design. A separate piece by Valispace on the topic of AI within all sectors of engineering says, “Engineers are utilizing machine learning algorithms to enhance production operations, minimizing downtime and improving efficiency.”

TBG associate Jesse Cruce is one example of AI being used professionally, having incorporated Midjourney into the early phases of design during character imagery and conceptual idea brainstorming recently on a few projects in our Houston office.

Midjourney is a generative AI program, which Jesse explains simply as “taking text descriptions and turning them into images.” He compares it to going through magazines and cutting out pieces of pictures and putting them together to create something new. Jesse first learned about AI while surfing YouTube and stumbled across a video on the topic of Artificial Intelligence. It didn’t take long for him to realize the potential of AI within the design field.

One factor that certainly contributes to the popularity of AI is its uncomplicated mode of use and intuitive user interface. For Midjourney, users enter a prompt – a description of the image they want it to generate, following the command /imagine. Midjourney will then generate a thumbnail with four variations of the prompt and users can fine-tune from there. ChatGPT, a large language model which operates as a chatbot, is another simple interface which provides a space for users to input a prompt in the same way you would ask a person a question and will generate a response based on the information the model was trained. Initially, ChatGPT was trained on text documents including books, articles and web pages. It is now being trained on the human interactions with the program as well to fine-tune how it responds to queries and ultimately deliver better results. ChatGPT can be used for seemingly unlimited types of tasks. Just a few examples of its capabilities include accurate language translations, summarizing emails, meetings and articles, writing code in various programming languages, and generating schedules or preliminary work plans.  It can be used by anyone with an internet connection for free.

“Midjourney can be part of the creative process and assist in putting different ideas together,” he says, “and our Houston office has already started incorporating the tool on projects.” When Googling imagery for setting a mood or style, employing Midjourney can be equally as beneficial – it’s just like any other tool.

The above image is an example of how Jesse used Midjourney during the early stages of design for a bee-themed play structure. He included specific requests for the play structure’s design in his prompt, which generated the four images that can be seen.

Selecting the circular arrow button, bottom right, generates four unique images using the same prompt, without trying to directly emulate any of the previous images.

The above image features the result of adapting the original prompt and guiding the iterations to an image that represents an idea believed to have merit and could be used in a character imagery board or a conceptual option that might be presented to a client.  With any computer aided output, it is always important to have a human touch to illustrate and explain how the output actually fits into the purpose and goals of the project.

Many people fear that Artificial Intelligence will one day take jobs from humans, but when it comes to TBG’s scope of landscape architecture and planning, Jesse isn’t worried. He says, “AI isn’t going to communicate between the client and a designer and an end user.” Put simply, the relationship between a client and designer can’t be replaced by AI. They are more valued at a wider lens because inconsistencies are revealed when you start to zoom in. Jesse adds that Midjourney “can do some funky things with anatomy when you add people,” which is especially significant in a field that’s human-centric. Seeing generated images of people with six or more fingers, or significantly more teeth than should be able to fit in a person’s mouth are just a couple obvious examples. These inconsistencies are quite evident in any human-made objects as well. Buildings will sometimes resemble impossible shapes as if a tribute to an MC Escher illusion. The closer you look at the generated images, the more you can see the details of that image are not quite accurate. This is why thumbnails for character imagery are a great entry level use scenario since these images are typically included for a feel or theme rather than the specific details of what is being shown.

AI (while present since the 1950s) has rushed onto the scene within the past couple of months and made enormous progress to the point that it is not just a cool new tool. It will (and already is in some industries) be integrated into normal business practices and will become norm, not the exception to how companies and industries will operate. The world is constantly changing and evolving but keeping up with these changes – leaning into technological advancements – not only promotes best practices but is crucial to ensure that we’re not left behind.

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI) ? | IBM
Architects Embrace AI Art Generator Midjourney – Bloomberg
Examples of How Engineers in Different Industries Use AI to Address Tough Engineering Challenges | Valispace