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A Russian AI graphic designer fooled clients for over a year



In some areas AI is now reaching human-like levels of performance, and one of those it seems is graphic design, an industry worth over $1 Trillion a year.


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Someone called ‘Nikolay Ironov’ had been doing cool logos for cafes, barbershops and bloggers all year long. And the funny part? “Nikolai” is actually Artificial Intelligence (AI) and, just like the popular Reddit blog that people also thought was written by an actual human, no one knew “he” was in fact an “it.” It’s also yet another example of how some of the work that AI’s creating is as good as the work created by actual human professionals. And it’s only going to get better from here on in so if you’re worried about AI coming after your job, well, you might want to think about finding new ways to futureproof yourself.


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The Artemy Lebedev design studio created a neural network capable of creating its own designer logos. The AI was being developed in strict secrecy by a team of computer wizards working in isolation. The AI itself was only known to the rest of the design bureau as Nikolay Ironov which is  a pretty ordinary Russian name.



“He” even had his own profile on the studio’s website. His face was, likewise, completely engineered from scratch by the AI, using a composite of the team members’ faces.



For an entire year, the AI was busy creating logos for actual clients using the company’s “express design” offer, which implies a fixed rate of 100,000 rubles, or circa $1,440, but without the option for repeat designs or edits. Among the clients were cafes, a barbershop, ‘pelmeni’ eateries, craft beer pubs, as well as high-profile YouTube bloggers who later criticized the designs, still unaware they were dealing with a computer.


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Years of algorithm-designing experience was put to work in creating the fictional Nikolay Ironov, according to the design bureau. Meanwhile, the neural network has the capacity for free decision-making. According to head developer, Roman Kosovich, even he can’t always figure out the logic behind the AI’s process, which always makes for interesting results!

“Ironov can effectively undertake real, commercial tasks. He’s available 24/7, doesn’t get sick, or get ‘writer’s block’, while continually evolving and solving creative problems in a matter of seconds. And, most importantly, offers absolutely unique takes on design solutions,” Kosovich is cited as saying on the project’s website.

According to the studio, Ironov’s advantage over other – human – graphic designers is that ‘he’ doesn’t look to others for ideas – meaning, he doesn’t use past experiences – including international awards, or even his own experience – as a baseline for new designs.


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“This important historical step is a reflection of the move toward commercial automation of creative processes,” the studio claims, and as AI gets better at creating its own synthetic content, which includes everything from art, books, and music, to games and videos, you can expect more stories like this in the future not less.

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