Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Patrick Collister: AI. The genie’s out

Patrick Collister, NDA’s monthly creative columnist, is the Curator of The Caples Awards, Editor of Directory and a friend to

I’m supposed to write around 750 words for this monthly column but today I just want to show you stuff.

It’s generative AI. 

Take a look below and be amazed by what some people are doing with it.

I use the word ‘people’ rather than ‘designers’ because the way Midjourney, Dall-E and Adobe Firefly work is you write commands which they then turn into images.

You can have the artistic skills of Guy the gorilla and produce pictures of astonishing polish. 

This was what I got when I asked Shutterstock to depict “an old dog learning new tricks”:

Not very polished, I admit.

Partly because it was my very first attempt at generative AI. Partly because the software itself has come on in leaps and bounds in the last few months.  

The pace of development is incredible.

Less than a year ago, agency 10 Days was using generative AI to produce Gucci-themed concepts like this:

Within months, designers were producing mashups of infinitely greater sophistication. 

That’s what generative AI does brilliantly. It mashes up. 

If you accept that a creative idea is nothing more (and nothing less) than a new combination, what Midjourney lets you do is experiment with a never-ending series of combinations. For a while, mashing up shoes and brands was a thing. Doc Martens and McDonald’s, Nike and Tiffany.

Similarly, mashing up Star Wars has been a theme. All you do is ask Midjourney to take the characters and imagine them in the chivalric garb of mediaeval nobles and hey presto:

Want to see what famous footballers look like as sculptures? No problem:

I’m not sure what the commands here would have been but something along the lines of: imagine this photo portrait of a man as Cerunnos, the Celtic god of vegetation and trees. Oh, and make it 3D please. Sculptural.

Take a mouse, a fashion brand and cheese-inspired clothing and you get:

It just blows me away, what anyone can do. Anyone. 

Lars Bastholm is a writer. Not a designer or an art director. And he’s produced a hilarious book, ‘Animals on the Verge’, illustrated entirely by Midjourney. (HERE.)

You don’t need to be the sharpest pencil in the box to see what the effects of this are going to be on advertising. 

You can generate video in the same way. Type in a few commands and bish, bash, bosh, there you go – your new TV commercial made without an agency, a production company or an actor demanding repeat fees. 

Of course, there are problems.

The millions of images the software tools use have been scraped from online sources including Getty Images, Shutterstock et al. These guys are not going to stand by idly watching their businesses get trashed. 

And there’s the issue of fakery, let alone deep-fakery.

Most of the images being posted are designers having fun. Vladimir Putin in a forest modelling outdoor wear, Donald Trump in a forest modelling a summer suit. 

Michael Gove working in an Amazon warehouse, Jacob Rees-Mogg as a dustman.  

Again, it’s not difficult to see how truth will be an early casualty in this rapidly approaching future. 

But my purpose today is not to worry about AI. There are plenty of others out there doing a fine job of it. No, I just want to share the sense of wonderment I get when I look at some of the absolutely incredible images being made. 

For instance, here is how Kevin Russell celebrated National Rat Day (it exists) on April 4th and World Redhead Day (yes, it exists too), May 26th

And, finally, here are some of the illustrations to the books he’s writing by Australian creative director Matt Batten. (More here). 

Elon Musk and others say we should be putting AI on pause but the genie is out of the bottle. Ain’t no-one going to get it back in. 

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