The Must-Have AI Platform for Designers

This robot isn't optional

Hello Hello! It's so good to have you all here.

And a big welcome to our newest subscribers! Our community has TRIPLED in size since our last email. ❤️ We're grateful to have everyone with us as we ride this AI rollercoaster together.

It has been another incredible week in the era of AI. The 'godfather of AI' quit Google to speak publicly of the dangers ahead. Italy reversed its initial ban on ChatGPT. The White House moved to address AI related concerns with a blueprint of an AI Bill of Rights. And the CEO of IBM said they expect to stop hiring for jobs that AI can replace.

There is so much that we are not able to control in regards to this AI journey we're on. However, like everything in life, what we can control is our reaction. We’re choosing to focus on doing what we can now, to learn quickly and adapt to a changing environment.

Today, and in the coming weeks, we'll turn our attention to some of our coolest new colleagues: the AI-powered platforms and tools that will revolutionize how we do our jobs.

At a Glance

  • 😱 Don't be fooled by smoke & mirrors

  • 🤖 Meet ChatGPT

  • 🤯 Interactive user personas!?

  • 🤑 Skip learning about ChatGPT at your own peril

  • ☑️ Poll: Tell us what you want, what you really really want

Don't waste your time

Unlike many newsletters and listicles available online, we are approaching Unicorn Snacks differently.

Our goal isn’t to tell you about every single new AI product that is launching, or list off 25 bullet points of how you can supposedly use these tools to improve your life.

We want to share in-depth explorations of the ones that we think are revolutionary and worth your time.

There are plenty of gorgeous demos and slick mockups of “coming soon” platforms. And hundreds of new plugins and apps dropping every day that claim to use AI to solve your problems. Resulting in even more articles and listicles of what you can supposedly do with these tools.

But we’ve found that many of these articles and blog posts parrot each other, and seem to suggest consensus around the best tools. But if you look under the hood, kick the tires, and take them for a test drive, many don’t deliver on their promises for one reason or another.

There’s a LOT of garbage out there.

For instance, we took the Ando plugin for a drive. It plugs directly into Figma, had 29.1k users, and claims to be the “AI Co-Pilot for Designers.” It promises to generate images, icons, and 3D renders from texts and image prompts.

Knowing what’s possible in other image generators, these results were of shockingly poor quality. The images it generated from a simple prompt asking for a sleek, futuristic water bottle were malformed, strange, and otherwise unusable.

Side by side comparison of a water bottle rendered by Ando versus Midjourney

Prompt: A sleek, futuristic water bottle

While we fully believe that it’s just a matter of time until companies with the right resources and talent will be able to deliver on many of these promises, there’s still a lot of smoke and mirrors going on right now.

Why do we believe that? Because we’ve been following the development of AI design tools for a couple years now and we’ve seen their progress over time. If we use image generation tools as a benchmark, the early results started out wonky and then quickly became exceptional. And the speed at which the tools are improving is increasing.

Two images side by side. The left image shows Ai-rendered handshakes with too many fingers, extra joints and more. The caption reads ‘Jokes in 2022’. The image on the right depicts a well-rendered human shaking hands with a slick white robot. The caption reads ‘no joke in 2023’.

Truth is, AI image generators still struggle with hands, but they are getting better and better at a shockingly fast pace (Meme Source)

(Side note: We are trying hard here not to read into the fact that when we asked Midjourney for an image of “a handshake between a human and a robot”, the first 11 images came back as a handshake between two robots…)

We’ll do our best to help you navigate this ever-changing landscape and know which tools are worth your time to learn.

A Quick Intro to ChatGPT, by ChatGPT

The first robot we want you to meet is ChatGPT.

We asked ChatGPT4 to describe itself to a group of designers (yes, the “4” matters. More on that later):

"Hi, I'm ChatGPT, an advanced AI language model developed by OpenAI. I've been designed to understand and generate human-like text. I'm here to help you with tasks like answering questions, generating content, and offering suggestions, making it easier for you, as designers, to work more efficiently and creatively in achieving your goals."

We also asked ChatGPT4 to write a prompt to generate a portrait of itself.

A screenshot of chatGPT. The user prompt reads ‘Please create a prompt that I can give to an image generator to create a self-portrait of yourself, chatGPT.’ The lengthy response from chatGPT describes itself has a humanoid robot with a sleek, futuristic design and friendly eyes.

Prompt by author, answer by ChatGPT4

Next, we put ChatGPT’s prompt directly “as is” into Midjourney, a powerful image generator. The plain language that the prompt is written in isn’t optimal for getting predicatable image results, but in this case, the goal isn’t control over the image so much as exploration. (We’ll do a deep dive on Midjourney in a future post.)

The results were stunning:

Two generated self-portraits based on chatGPT’s suggested prompt. The lefthand image shows a brightly-coloured friendly robot surrounded by abstract art suggestive of digital technology. The righthand image depicts an aggressive-looking robot, staring at the viewer against a dark background.

Contrasting “self portrait” results underscore humanity's concern for whether AI is good or dangerous

We said that the “4” matters in ChatGPT4, and it does. The latest version is only available on ChatGPT Plus (currently $20/mo), but it’s well worth it. It’s ability to reason, summarize concisely, and be more factual has drastically improved from version 3.5.

OK, now that you’re properly introduced, let’s get on with telling you why we chose to share a text-based platform ahead of all the other more visually-oriented options.

Why ChatGPT is THE must-have AI platform

When it comes to your new colleagues, ChatGPT is definitely Employee of the Month.

Apparently, many HR departments agree. If you're looking for work, then knowing how to use ChatGPT can give you a competitive advantage in the workforce.

A recent poll of US business leaders showed 92% of companies that are currently hiring want workers with ChatGPT experience; and 30% said the need is urgent. The top business areas looking for ChatGPT skills include software tech and marketing — two sectors that commonly employ designers.

Currently, employers seem to be either clamouring for workers with ChatGPT experience or banning it over fears of sensitive information being leaked. Don't rule out the tech due to the bans though. The upsides are so great that it's a problem that is sure to be solved in one way or another.

The reason it’s sought after is the million and one things ChatGPT can offer — many of which can be helpful to us designfolk. Some offhand examples include:

  • Summarizing meeting notes or user interview data

  • Providing an overview of an industry, such as competitors and customer segments (note: its information isn’t up to date though, so confirm and supplement with your own research)

  • Generating copy for UI, or suggesting ideas for icons and illustrations

  • Creating compelling ideas for memes (see item #3 in this article) and other social content

  • Writing or editing cover letters, resumes and networking emails

  • Debugging your code, or walking you through a technical tutorial, like using a specific API

While it's clearly impossible for us to cover all of this at a deep level in this email, we wanted to give you a taste for the range of what's possible and then dive more deeply into a topic relevant to most designers: user personas.

But before we get into that, we want to tell you something very important that most articles and news sources out there seem to be skipping over…

The fine print

The range of what's possible with ChatGPT sounds amazing. And it IS! But it's not quite as straightforward as it sounds.

Plenty of blogs and breathless articles make it sound like ChatGPT (and all AI systems) magically produce effective design solutions given nothing but a simple text prompt — just like making a wish!

ChatGPT has built-in biases, for example, and it also tends to just make stuff up. To get results that have professional integrity, you have to learn to collaborate with these systems more mindfully.

A detailed illustration of a young woman in a design studio repairing a mechanical robot that is half-assembled on her desk

From DALL•E 2 to ChatGPT, it takes time to fine-tune your robots for the task

OK, it’s time for us to prove to you why ChatGPT is worth your effort. Let's dig into the details of creating interactive user personas!

Interactive “user personas”!? Yes, please!

You might not think that a text generation engine like ChatGPT could help you conduct UX research, but earlier this week, we worked with it to create interactive user personas based on our favorite target audience: Designers!

Take a deeper dive with us now, and learn how priming ChatGPT with your own data can open up new avenues of additional user research, right inside of ChatGPT. It's fascinating stuff!

An image of a UX persona, showing a photograph of a young man with glasses and facial hair, beside a caption that describes the persona as “David”, a 32-year-old male with dark brown hair, green eyes, glasses and casual attire.

Image by Midjourney, description by ChatGPT4 based on real user insights

What’s next?

Before we sign-off, here’s another sample of ChatGPT4’s handiwork. It was “prompted” by Suzanne’s aunt and uncle, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. 

They are a serious power couple and NYT best-selling duo who have been kicking ass in the sci-fi and fantasy genre for years, writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation, penning books with William Shatner, and helping to envision and plan theme parks for Disney Asia.

A generated image of The Terminator from the Terminator movie franchise giving a thumbs up gesture to the camera

Hasta la vista, baby!

P.S. What would be of most value to you?

One last thing: we want your input!

As you can imagine, testing the capabilities of these tools and sharing what works and what to avoid takes copious amounts of time. And we’re also being asked to create workshops, presentations, mentoring sessions and more.

Help us prioritize what we focus on by responding to the poll below. Or just hit reply and send us an email with your thoughts. 🤟

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