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To be slightly reductive, we can divide the work we do here at Cognito into words and pictures. We’ve elsewhere covered the potential impacts and new opportunities opened by text-based generative AI. But we’ve failed to properly explore what’s happening around images. 

Here we speak to our Associate Creative Director Adriano Nunes to see his perspective on these rapidly emerging technologies, and how they might work in a professional and corporate context. 

You’ve been working with computer-based design tools for more than a decade. What’s different about this particular moment? 

Since I graduated from university back in Portugal I’ve always had access to the most innovative tools which allow me streamline design processes and put my most insane ideas into visuals. This can be a poster, an infographic, a website or even animation. Now we are living in exciting times (controversial for some) where AI is redefining the way we creatives generate images and even art. This is not just from a conceptual point of view but also impacts delivery time, freeing up time to focus on the most important stages of a creative process: creative thinking, strategizing, and team brainstorming.

How do you feel about something like Adobe’s Firefly, which promises to add pieces to pictures based on text based inputs?

Adobe also recently launched their own AI image generation tool to compete with Midjourney and Open AI. The big difference is that with Adobe Firefly we can generate any type of imagery and bring our creations to any Adobe app to further and/or manipulate it. Whilst most AI tools focus on a single functionality based on what you type, Firefly users can, for example, change the mood of videos, add new visual elements to illustration and even remove or replace complex backgrounds from images. 

Another important factor is that the source of information to generate these images comes from a dataset of Adobe Stock and not from film franchises, large proprietary brands, and individual artists as some image generators do, enabling Firefly models to be both creator-focused and safe for commercial use.

What do you think is the responsibility of a designer or creator to disclose tools used in the process of creating an image?

I’m a true believer. These tools will be part of any agency in the next couple of years, either to generate images, streamline processes or even help us upskill. But we must be mindful of how they are used and in what context to make sure our clients’ information is always protected and that the quality of the visuals we generate is tailored to the brief and in line with clients expectations and brand identity.  

Where do you see the most opportunity for new technology to help your team – is it more around quantity or quality?

I’d say quality. By supporting us producing specific images in a fraction of the time, it makes the production processes more efficient, allowing the team to spend more time working on the real problem of the project and how to best solve it. 

What would you say to someone who is considering switching from professional, bespoke image creation to simply using something like Midjourney? What are they missing out on?

Authenticity! Let’s not forget that tools like Midjourney are trained to learn from different sources and these sources are often images of well established artists, designers, photographers, and illustrators. What these tools do is to extract visual elements from those authors and generate new images based on their work. Therefore, the ethical concerns and the loss of the human touch and personal connection that are often present in “handmade art” will be at risk. 

What potential tool are you most excited by? Where do you think these technologies should go next?

Adobe is continuously improving their software and with Firefly I foresee more agile, quicker image and video manipulation. This will allow us designers to produce the most variety of assets for the different marketing materials faster, design more unique visuals and have fun doing it!

Adriano is Cognito’s associate creative director in London