Are designers and writers obsolete now that AI can do their jobs?

For a bunch of you, yes. I’m talking to organizations who understand how AI writing and design tools work, know how to write a great query, have a strong sense of their organization’s brand and voice, and can edit what AI gives you to match your brand’s style and story. 

Did you get all of that? I got it all backward. To use AI well in your organization, you’ll need to: 

Be a great editor

If you can, take a crash Udemy course on editing for style, grammar, consistent logo usage, asset-based language, color contrast, consistent graphics, font usage, hierarchy, image usage, and meaning, consistent and readable patterns, unique iconography, and don’t forget web accessibility. Also, make sure you consider the publishing platform: print and web have different rules, as do many of the platforms we use every day. There has to be a course you can take for that in a day or two. 

Being a great editor also means you deeply understand who you’re writing to. You know things like how they think, what words they use, and how much attention span they have. 

Understand your brand’s deeply held point of view, personality, tone, and values. 

As a communications director, you’ll figure that out in one of two ways: 1) it exists already in a few-years’-old Word doc somewhere in your drive that your executive director wrote during (maybe one of my) a conference session where I told you just enough to make you dangerous or 2) you went through a whole research-based process with a branding firm or strategist to come to consensus based on a long-term vision and what people want and care about right now. 

Either way, I’m glad you have something to work with here. If it doesn’t exist yet and you want it, try to pull it together based solely on what you think your organization should be. I recommend writing down all the standards, rules, and styles you wish you had and just start using them. Then, make everyone give you their communications and Canva presentations and ruthlessly edit them to conform to your rules. That will go over well, I’m sure. 

Know how to write and refine an excellent query for an AI tool.

The best way to get a halfway decent result from AI is to know how to set up a query. I use AI tools when I write and design, and it takes me three or so times to get anywhere near a good outcome. This is true for tools in Illustrator (not great so far), Figma (meh), Elementor (okayish?), and Chapt GPT (Mmmmmokay). AI tools will only get better at reading our minds, so the more you practice, the better the outcome over time, right?

I use chatGPT a lot when I write. Usually, I write in a Google doc and get most of my ideas down. Then I get stuck and ask Chat to imagine that it’s X person or organization who likes X and needs to solve X problem; what would it say? Then it gives me some bland corporate speak, so I tell it to be funnier, shorter, or more mission-driven, or however I’m trying to sound. 

Now, I have a list of options, and Lina and I look at them together, eliminate half or so, write some new ones, take a break, write some more, and then give up and return to it the next day. Then, one of us will have a dream that gives us the answer or a spark of brilliance during a yoga session and add that to the pile. 

Then, we put our writing in a wireframe and change it all because the words look weird in the layout. And then we read it out loud and change it again. 

Then, we look at the SEO research we did before all of this and change it again. 

Simple.

Understand how AI works.

AI generation tools use algorithms and existing data to mimic a human mind. So, if you want an average result, especially for writing or graphics, use it with abandon. AI’s purpose isn’t to do the learning and creating for you; it’s to get you unstuck, give you ideas, and keep the words flowing so you can make them yours. It will give you ugly images and wrong answers, but collectively, it will be an OK, like a C+ result. So when OK is OK, and it is sometimes, go for it. 

You’re not going to get any new or unexpected ideas from AI. Those are going to come from you. 

I have better results doing some work on my own or with others, like drawing with a pencil, word association games, Googling crazy ideas, Pinteresting for hours, meditating, going for a walk, or doing something mindless with my hands so my brain can do its thing. 

So yes, AI will work for a number of people who can do all of these things or are OK with a C+.

I use it all the time. My favorite tool is Grammarly, which I use to edit everything I turn out. My writing process goes like this;

  1. Think of a catch subject, word vomit in Google Doc
  2. Run Grammarly
  3. Read and re-organize everything
  4. Ask Lina to edit it (she’s fantastic at this)
  5. Read it out loud so it sounds like what I’m going for. 
  6. Publish
  7. Quickly unpublish because I made a mistake
  8. Fix and republish

Ready for the future? It’s here! My biggest fear is that we’ll all sound the same, like our writing has gone through legal three times and come out like corporate nonsense. Then, we can all maximize our core capabilities, follow our true north, and realize our Q4 targets. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?

Or maybe AI will do everything for us. We’ll redefine the meaning of work, instill a healthy universal basic income, tax the rich, fix the planet, and all live happily ever after. 

Love,

Emily

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