“Humans at the Helm” — What Gen AI Means for Creative Professionals
March 24, 2023
Find this piece as published in its original format here.
TL;DR: Generative AI is democratizing creative capabilities for small businesses. That will make the creative landscape more competitive. AI tools can empower creative professionals to achieve more powerful results and stand out in the competitive landscape when used in tandem with human creativity, a concept we call “Humans at the Helm.”
There’s no doubt that Generative AI is fundamentally changing the creative process. As machine learning models get better at manipulating and synthesizing huge amounts of data, machines can now do many things that previously required human creativity.
There’s been a lot of speculation and concern about what this means for creative professionals, the creative process, and creative itself. As a creative technology company full of creative pros, we’ve spent many days and nights studying what’s out there, discussing the future, and exploring the new tech. Working with thousands of businesses and doing extensive AI-powered creative work ourselves (check out our experimental AI-generated movie: The Frost), we’ve come to believe that the effects of this wave of new tools will be far more empowerment than replacement. For non-professionals, this looks like democratization of capabilities. For creative professionals, we’re calling it “Humans at the Helm”.
The Great Democratization
Generative AI dramatically lowers the barrier to quality creative, acting as an agent of democratization. Most businesses in the world are small, and until now they’ve lacked the resources to make quality creative. Even small businesses that were “in the game” and making some forms of creative often looked flagrantly small-budget and unprofessional.
Generative AI is changing that dynamic. Already, it takes only a few minutes and a few dollars to make quality content, no experience required. That’s unlocking access to quality creative for millions of businesses — great news for SMBs that often just need to get their message out in a professional form without getting pulled away from running their business.
The Rising Tide
As more and more small businesses discover their newfound creative power, the volume of quality creative in the world will balloon. Content that looked obviously “local” will be upgraded, and millions that had been mostly silent will start sharing their message. That is no small thing — as of 2022, the US Census Bureau reported that over 90% of US businesses have under 20 employees.
That means that all creative will be subject to a much more prolific and competitive landscape. What once stood out will become ordinary, and brute force tactics (e.g. SEO content) will become obsolete.
Staying On Top: Humans at the Helm
When it comes to creative work, some leaders see dollar signs in generative AI — not in the opportunity to do more, but in the chance to cut costs in human labor. The effects described above make clear that a cost-cutting approach is short-sighted. The boost from AI tools will indeed allow fewer people to do the same amount of work, but the same work won’t lead to the same results. The rising tide will drown you out.
The good news for forward-thinking businesses and creative professionals, is that for every task that Generative AI replaces, it also opens up a new capability. The great power of creative people is of course their creativity, and these new capabilities offer more than enough opportunities for that to shine. Through many hours of exploring and creating with AI tools, we’ve seen that a creative person can do meaningfully new, unique, and captivating things. By embracing AI tools, creative teams can produce work that continues to stand out.
At Waymark, we call this “Humans at the Helm”: rather than compete against AI, creative teams can work with it to achieve more powerful results.
In the coming months, we’ll be continuing to explore Generative AI’s impact on creativity in depth. From the opportunities to the challenges, we’ll share our findings on how to make the most of AI advances and avoid being swept away by the rising tide of content. The future of creativity is an exciting and fascinating frontier, and we look forward to continuing the journey with you.
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