New AI Skills for Creative Professionals

August 21, 2023
Career Development

AI isn’t entirely new to the creative industry. A few years ago, The North Face used IBM’s Watson to design a successful eCommerce experience for customers.

What makes this time different? New AI tools are more accessible, and they’re also evolving by the day it feels like.

Agencies have been watching and making some notable investments in next-gen AI. This means you’ll see more job postings asking for AI skills.

What will some of those skills be?

We’ve been reading, listening, and talking to our friends, clients, and leaders in the creative industry to understand where they’re investing in AI and what they’ll be looking for in candidates.

Some skills are new, while others will take on new importance to the nth degree.

Where is the investment going right now?

The first significant area agencies are focusing on is efficiency. The time between tasks in the creative process is one key target.

Diageo recently experimented with AI at a global meeting of Smirnoff leaders workshopping ideas. Their AI tool could “immediately visualize 10-50 versions of each concept…live-optimize them with consumers and then test them.” In their words, AI compressed weeks of work into one day.

Not only that, but the speed of AI also allowed them to explore more concepts than were otherwise possible before.

Another exciting example of improving efficiency centers around storyboarding and creative direction.

Some agencies use generative AI to develop near-complete storyboards before shoots to prevent miscommunications and conflicting visions the day filming begins.

What skills will companies need?

The most general skill creative and marketing professionals will need is “prompt engineering” or prompt design. This basically means that you know how to detail a request or question to an AI tool that will provide you with the desired result.

Let’s say you’re a Marketing Manager with little graphic design experience who wants to create a chiaroscuro-like contrast in a social visual. You’re working with an AI assistant. How would you phrase the prompt to get this kind of effect?

What about augmented reality and virtual reality - next on the list of skills set to integrate more closely with GenAI?

Companies are already imagining new ways of bringing AR to OOH, Print, and Online advertising with the help of AI.

How should AR and VR designers prepare for these developments?

If generative AI can render multiple AR design options based on specifications such as cultural sensitivity, the environment (Times Square vs. a beach boardwalk), energy limitations, and so on, designers will select the best design and spend time refining or adding “soul” to the project.

Designers will need a thorough grasp of the sensory processing with which people interact with reality and AR.

For example, what are the best audio and visual cues to bring people through an AR experience?

That human perception is equally relevant to virtual reality. How will peoples’ senses experience lighting, textures, audio cues, movements, depth and scale?

AI can assist in designing these environments and deliverables. It’s up to designers to fine-tune them based on their knowledge of composition, color theory, typography, audio design, animation, modeling, and, most importantly, human sense.

With this expansion of new AI tools, agencies will be looking for a superb technical infrastructure and someone to manage it.

This person will keep the marketing, creative, and brand departments aligned and ready to deploy the AI tools needed to execute a project.

Finally (for now), we come to content labeling and meta-tagging.

As agencies and brands generate AI assets and new forms of content, they’ll need to trace “where it came from, what was manipulated” and watermark it.

This is especially important for agencies that need to protect their clients legally.

AI as an assistant

As many others already have, we wanted to reaffirm that AI won't replace the “human touch” creative professionals bring to advertising and marketing.

It can’t create the same nuanced sensibility for lighting, shadow, grading, and color harmony that designers do.

The same holds for copywriters. When Diageo used Kantar’s Link+ to test Guinness’s “Surfer” ad, Link+ recommended they correct the copy’s grammar, which would’ve reduced its creativity and effectiveness.

Renato Fernandez of TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles put it well when he said, “AI needs a creative director.”

It’s how creative professionals direct AI that will make the difference between candidates as these tools gradually play larger roles in the creative process.