The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Markus Edgar Hormess & Adam Lawrence 'The Designing Machine: How AI is Changing the Creative Process'

John Carter
May 3, 2023
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Markus Edgar Hormess & Adam Lawrence 'The Designing Machine: How AI is Changing the Creative Process'

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Episode shownotes

I attended Teaming with AI in Nuremberg recently with two of the most awesome designers that I know, Adam Lawrence and Markus Edgar Hormess of WorkPlayExperience. I caught up with them to discuss the event, what we have learned and where we see the short and medium term impacts of AI on the Design and business processes.

Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Gerry Scullion: Adam Marcus, I'm delighted to have you again on the podcast. Can't get with to you guys. You're, you're on it. This is probably your fourth time I'd say. And this is a, you'd definitely been on it a couple of times with, and we were doing the Doing Design podcast, um, but I'm over Nuremberg and you've set up this conference with Florian Bailey.

[00:00:29] Gerry Scullion: Um, called teaming with ai. So where did this come from? Um, you know, how did the conversation start about setting up this, this event? Cause it's an UN-conference. Maybe we'll talk a little about the difference between a conference and an UN-conference in a minute. Maybe Adam,

[00:00:45] Adam Lawrence: like most of our ideas, it came from Marcus, so.

[00:00:49] Markus Edgar Hormess: Well, thank you. Um, yeah, well, I, I. We started using AI tools in our work like, uh, two or three years ago when, when the first kind of, uh, [00:01:00] language models popped up, um, and we were using them. Just to augment some of the tasks that, you know, we had in design. So like specifically around prototyping, generating Hmm.

[00:01:14] Markus Edgar Hormess: Uh, taking a concept sketch and, and, and reworking it into a little advertisement to test it with users. That's something that these tools were really good at from the start. And. Then of course you use it, you know, in the global Service jam work that we do like in non-profit work where you don't have too many resources to kind of, you know, get some stuff done, you know, to, uh, do a little text for this or that.

[00:01:39] Markus Edgar Hormess: And, uh, so, so we played around with this stuff, but then as, as things accelerated last year mm-hmm. Um, I got talking more and more also, uh, with Florian. Um, and they were starting to use that in their, actually in their agency work. Mm-hmm. And so we got talking more and more, [00:02:00] um, how we can apply that and, and really reset the way we work in design using these tools and, and what the impact was.

[00:02:06] Markus Edgar Hormess: The problem was that every time we talked, a new tool would pop up. Yeah. And suddenly, you know, yeah, there was little helpers, but then these tools. We're getting better and better or scarier and scarier. Ev the, the situation was changing all the time. So we were saying, wow, this, this is an interesting situation right now.

[00:02:28] Markus Edgar Hormess: The potential is there, there is also, um, we need to see what works and what doesn't work. Mm-hmm. You know, and maybe, you know, fans off the, the scary parts. Yeah. Uh, at the same time, this is not a situation where you can turn to an expert and say, Hey, How's this gonna pan out? Because we know from, from areas in history where there is massive change.

[00:02:52] Markus Edgar Hormess: Yeah. The experts, a lot of them were wrong, and it's absolutely. Super hard to tell which ones [00:03:00] of those experts today are the ones that you know. Yeah. Who do you ask? Where, where do you start? And, uh, that's not because you know they're bad experts, it's just because the world is changing and it's a complex problem.

[00:03:11] Markus Edgar Hormess: Yeah. So it's really hard to tell how things pan out.

[00:03:13] Gerry Scullion: So, Adam, can I just ask you like the, the difference between a conference and an nonconference and both of you, I've learned so much from you, from just working alongside you for a couple of years. Great facilitation, amazing facilitator skills that I've learned from you.

[00:03:28] Gerry Scullion: You're really strong on prototyping and stuff, but what was the outcome that you were hoping to achieve by creating. Teaming with ai.

[00:03:36] Adam Lawrence: Well, part of it is what you're talking about in the, in the second part of that is ai. Marcus talked about that. There's also teaming, you know, we work in organizations, most of us in some kind of collaboration.

[00:03:48] Adam Lawrence: It might be inside the organization or externally, co-creating with our users, with our customers, with our partners, and so on. So there's a human element to this as well. And I come from theater and we're very, yeah, we are very. Interested in [00:04:00] human co-creation and how much that involves our bodies and so on, as well as just our minds and our keyboards.

[00:04:04] Adam Lawrence: So we thought what would fit that kind of explorative situation where you are going into a situation where there are no experts. You know, we could have a, there are four thinkers certainly in this, but there's, it's, it's happening so fast that you have to just try stuff. Mm-hmm. Also to develop not just an, an intellectual, but an emotional.

[00:04:27] Adam Lawrence: Relationship to what's happening. So we want a situation where people can try stuff and an UN-conference is, the idea is it's a conference where the agenda happens on the day. Yeah. So rather than talking about what was, what was interesting four months ago when you set the agenda, which in this world was be a.

[00:04:42] Adam Lawrence: It's just wildly different here. People came along today and we had a session yesterday as well online, and they would actually suggest, I want to do a session on this. And that means I, I have some thoughts or some knowledge about this I want to share, or it means I'm really curious about this. I know nothing about it, or it means I [00:05:00] want to try something.

[00:05:00] Adam Lawrence: And we're really pushing that last part. So we're having sessions running throughout the day. We made a, a really quick. Agenda of sticky notes on the wall and people are deciding, I'm going there. I'm going there. They're even switching between sessions if they want to at points. Yeah, so onConferences SO'S called Bar Camps or Open Space Technology, I think is a fantastic format for free exchange, especially when something.

[00:05:24] Adam Lawrence: Is being explored.

[00:05:25] Gerry Scullion: Okay. One of the things that I, I realized when I get into Newbury yesterday was the outcome of the event was, apart from knowledge exchange, you want to create a white paper that sits alongside the work that we're doing here. Why is that

[00:05:39] Markus Edgar Hormess: important? Well, I, I believe the conversations are great, but a lot of the, um, A lot of people can't be in the room.

[00:05:50] Markus Edgar Hormess: Mm-hmm. And this is a starting point. Yeah. As I said, you know, yeah. We do this as a conference because, and, and I'm conference, sorry, uh, [00:06:00] because, uh, You can't plan this because stuff is changing so rapidly. That also means right now is the time where we have to prefer what some people call knowledge flows over knowledge, stocks.

[00:06:11] Markus Edgar Hormess: So we have to put ourselves into a flow, into a river where knowledge is created about this new subject. Okay. I understand. And we need to. Be closer to people. We need to build that community. And so this is a starting point for us. So certainly, we'll, we'll do more activities and we'll have to do more activities.

[00:06:31] Markus Edgar Hormess: Maybe there's a second iteration or third iteration of teaming with AI as an nonconference. There might be hackathons, there might be chams, there might be just normal, you know, more, more podcasts around this topic. Absolutely. Yeah. Just to, to kind of get it out there. And also, um, Being aware that, you know, you certainly haven't heard all the voices that are needed to be heard.

[00:06:54] Markus Edgar Hormess: Yeah. Um, this, were was a one group of people. There are other groups of people that need to reflect that and [00:07:00] a traditional medium, like a white paper where you put in some thesis, say, you know, is this where it's going? So maybe that white paper goes out also with a question mark and as an invitation, To react to it and then, you know, kind of, I love that.

[00:07:18] Markus Edgar Hormess: Start that conversation

[00:07:19] Gerry Scullion: you mentioned there about the service jam and like that's been going for, is it 10 years? Uh, 12 now. 12 years. 12 years. And you mentioned there about, you know, how AI's been used in the jam for a number of years. How have you seen it recently? Cuz it's, it's changing daily at the moment.

[00:07:36] Gerry Scullion: Like what, what are the, what's happened in the last year in particular from Open AI opener up chat, three p t. How have you seen it been used in the recent sham?

[00:07:46] Adam Lawrence: I think one of the main differences, just accessibility. Yeah. I mean there's all kinds of different tools and so on out there, but the chat interface of something like chat, G P T is just so accessible.

[00:07:58] Adam Lawrence: Yeah. That people are not scared of it [00:08:00] anymore. We can nearly all type of question. Whereas things before were, were scary or weird or too techy. Uh, and and that's not cool or whatever. Yeah. Or cool to a certain type of person. So I think just that general accessibility that I can pull up my phone even and I can put something in there quietly while we're discussing a thing and saying, well, here, yeah.

[00:08:20] Adam Lawrence: Here are six things we could talk about. Yeah. Yeah. Or, or, or here, here's the design for the first step. And we're seeing. In Jams, as in, in our other work that that's what this does is that acceleration function. You still need to have your discernment, your your, your judgment, your purpose Yeah. Around this before and after this, but it's just that, that extra iteration that goes really, really quickly and gets you your basic structure in a jam situation of working fast.

[00:08:49] Adam Lawrence: That's very, very helpful. Yeah. It can lead to complexities which you then have to deal with. Yeah. Because you get so much, so quickly. Mm-hmm. But that's another challenge of working in fast formats. [00:09:00]

[00:09:00] Markus Edgar Hormess: The fast is also something that a lot of people react to, not necessarily in a positive way. Mm-hmm. Because, um, understanding doesn't all, you know, understanding takes time.

[00:09:12] Markus Edgar Hormess: So, Just because I've got a list of 10 potential pain points doesn't mean I understand these pain points and what they imply. Um, however, getting there actually buys me time to, to deal with them. And there is a few parts of, of that whole equation that, you know, you can't outsource to a machine that is empathy.

[00:09:33] Markus Edgar Hormess: How, how you can't outsource empathy. You, you can't also pass on empathy. Mm. You know, it, it comes from, from experience. So hopefully, Speeding up other tasks gives us the more space for these meaningful

[00:09:47] Gerry Scullion: things or human interactions. Yeah, I just wanna, I know this is a short episode that we're doing here at the moment cuz we're all busy with the conference, but many people probably don't realize that Adam's background is in psychology and uh, [00:10:00] Marx's background.

[00:10:01] Gerry Scullion: Is as a physicist. So you're, both of you have got some unique perspectives on what this might look like in the future. When you combine both of your skill sets, what does it look like in your eyes, Adam, and then Marcus, in terms of the next six months as this rolls out, where do you see it going? What does it look like for the role of a designer and a facilitator?

[00:10:23] Gerry Scullion: How do you see it's gonna work?

[00:10:25] Adam Lawrence: I don't know. Uh, it depends. No, I mean, I think it's, it's very hard to know, and I would almost say that uniquely at the moment because it's very hard to keep up with literally what's being announced from, from day to day. It's almost hard, harder to say what's happening in the next six months as it is say what's happening in six years from now.

[00:10:46] Adam Lawrence: Yeah. But I think you mentioned psychology. I'm really curious, and this may sound very esoteric, I'm very curious about when do we start seeing these things as minds? When, when do [00:11:00] we start seeing them as, as beings, as things that might one day have rights? Yeah. As, as, as, as personalities and as people.

[00:11:09] Adam Lawrence: Yeah. And that may be decades away. Um, it may be less, but I think it's something that's gonna happen because, you know, touring tests are flying outta the window now. Marcus,

[00:11:21] Markus Edgar Hormess: I would say, you know, the similar thing as Adam, you know, we, we don't really know where this is going. What we do know, however, is that some of the problems, um, that we need to tackle and that we need to run experiments around.

[00:11:36] Markus Edgar Hormess: Mm-hmm. So in a, in a way, focusing on the change just drives you nuts. But focusing on the questions that are underlying this change, they don't change so much. And then we just need to run experiments around them. And, um, I mean there is a, there is a few kind of tangents that, that I see that are. That might happen very [00:12:00] quickly or already happening.

[00:12:01] Markus Edgar Hormess: So that's easy to project, is we will see an influx of new tools and interfaces that package, that kind of core capability that we see in chat G p T, uh, you know, packaged now in a more structured interface with buttons, with different ways. We, we try today, for example, we try to set up a, a system map using chat G P T and.

[00:12:23] Markus Edgar Hormess: It just swamped us with potential stakeholders and their relationships and, you know, so we, we could query everything. It was a heap of information and that needs to be, you know, we need tools to, to, to catch that stuff and, and, Keep up with it and the, the stickier notes we used didn't do that for us. I know.

[00:12:41] Markus Edgar Hormess: Yeah. So, uh, yeah, go on. Adam.

[00:12:44] Adam Lawrence: Just a, a quick side thought on here. Um, I think what's important to think about in times of acceleration, like this is also what stays the same. Yeah. You know, I've, I've got a friend and I understand it, she goes to tech conferences dressed in medieval clothes and [00:13:00] says, what's not changed?

[00:13:01] Adam Lawrence: Yeah. What has not changed since a medieval period. Because there are some things that are still the same through all humanity. We still need human contact, we still need movement. We still need faces and so on to see to lesser and more extent based on your, based on your preferences, but it's still a thing that we will need.

[00:13:18] Adam Lawrence: This is not at the point yet where it replaces that, yeah, we still need purpose, we still need ethics and so on. So let's think about that as much as we think about what's changing.

[00:13:29] Markus Edgar Hormess: Yeah. At, at the same time, you know, it's looking at the design, one of my Hopi things, the design process itself. Yeah. It, this might change a lot and in a good way because right now, um, it iteration is often not played that well.

[00:13:46] Markus Edgar Hormess: You know? Absolutely. You see that in some of, some of the studies. Yeah. And the, so. The tools allow us to go from, after we identified an issue or, or, or a need. Yeah. To support us with [00:14:00] ideation. And quickly prototyping something in minutes means there is a dissolvement of this kind of, oh, is that a face notion?

[00:14:08] Markus Edgar Hormess: Maybe I shouldn't call this a face. This is also why. Yeah. That's an activity and they keep in, you know, coming as, as we need them. Um, and so let's go back and forth. Between these things are actually back and forth, but you know, just always see, okay, now if that's the need. What kind of ideas does that open up quite instantly and then see are there any new questions that throw us up?

[00:14:31] Markus Edgar Hormess: But wouldn't it be

[00:14:32] Gerry Scullion: really nice in the design process if we focus more on implementation and actually getting the stuff into the hands of people quicker and actually using that? I think there's been an awful lot of naval gazing in the design industry for the last 10 years, and it can really help shape that conversation, reshape that conversation.

[00:14:49] Markus Edgar Hormess: There is, um, this is super interesting, becau because I believe this, these technologies help, um, a team that has an interest or a pain to do [00:15:00] something about this. Yeah. Because today, how is it today? You know, I have a problem. I'm a parent, you know, I, I've, you know, someone, um, Has an idea of what to do for better learning tools for the kids, wherever, but they need maybe a technology person to help them do this.

[00:15:17] Markus Edgar Hormess: Yeah. But, you know, AI and a lot of other technologies now enable anyone who has a problem to actually go far further by building something the, the themselves on the Yeah. Um, than any time before. Mm-hmm. And so this I see as a, as an opportunity. Yeah. And. Because if I need to convince someone who doesn't have that problem to help me is always a big step.

[00:15:43] Markus Edgar Hormess: True. That adds a lot of initiatives. So in that, in that way. But there's

[00:15:48] Adam Lawrence: also a danger, isn't there? I mean, you're talking about the importance of implementation and doing and so on. And even before we get to implementation, one of the things that we are always pushing for our, our, our book is this is services I'm doing.

[00:15:59] Adam Lawrence: [00:16:00] Yeah, yeah. Um, get Out. Get on the street, see things, build experiments, build 'em in reality, yeah. Our designers love their labs. Yeah. We love to, we love to stay in where it's not raining. We have to bring people to us, you know, test them in control conditions, all this kind of stuff. Yeah. But that is not real.

[00:16:18] Adam Lawrence: No. And the, one of the dangers of, of one of the, of the, the, the seductive sides of AI is that I can do. Very good sort of vicarious research and so on from my keyboard. And a disc is a dangerous place from which to try to understand the world. And so I hope that we can use this to, as Mark said before, make time for more of that stuff.

[00:16:39] Adam Lawrence: Make time for more of the important stuff and not to replace it. Yeah,

[00:16:42] Gerry Scullion: absolutely. Last question, like, you know, we all train in specific areas of design, um, with the growth and the hyper growth that you've seen AI over the last. Six months probably, uh, or so, like it seems to have grown exponentially. It's gonna change how we [00:17:00] train the material.

[00:17:01] Gerry Scullion: Like the material's gonna change already. Whether I, when I was going through that design process workshop with yourself and Stephy, I was like, oh my God. Some of the, some of the stuff that I'm teaching that I've researched in the last six months, It's probably not gonna be relevant in the next six months or 12 months.

[00:17:19] Gerry Scullion: How do you see, like this is service design doing, which is still the best service design course in the world. Folks, if you want to get your hands dirty, totally go to How do you see that evolving with AI in mind?

[00:17:33] Adam Lawrence: Nothing we're there yet. Um, and I think there's another little collision here. Um, This could get complex.

[00:17:41] Adam Lawrence: So let me try and sort of break it down. A lot of designers, especially the service design, focus very much on the tools. Yeah. You know, they focus on the maps, you know, the journey maps, the, the personas, this kind of stuff. And stakeholder maps, stakeholder maps, all these kind of things. And they're super useful tools, but one of the.

[00:17:58] Adam Lawrence: Most important things about those [00:18:00] tools is that usually the conversation you have while making the thing is more important than the thing itself? Absolutely. Yeah, because it's the mental processes and the team mental processes you go through to create that thing, which are the crucial part. That's the learning that takes you forward.

[00:18:10] Adam Lawrence: Yeah. And I can imagine we're making, we're emphasizing that more in future. Yeah. Because it's too easy to say to the ai, make me a journey map, and it provides you, I mean, there's great software that does this for you, and that can be super, super useful. Mm-hmm. Yeah. But then you've not made the mental steps you need to take.

[00:18:27] Adam Lawrence: And the empathic steps you need to take behind that. Yeah, true. So I could imagine this might be a thing that we've talked even more about that where are shortcuts not useful?

[00:18:36] Gerry Scullion: Yeah. Okay. That's awesome. Yeah, totally agree.

[00:18:38] Markus Edgar Hormess: Marcus, you want to Yeah. Yeah. I, I think on the, on the tool level, tools might change, but there is a certain logic and, and why are we doing research?

[00:18:48] Markus Edgar Hormess: Hmm. Why are we doing ideation? Why are we doing prototyping? Yeah. And how do we plan for these activities? Yeah. How do we structure them? How do we line them up? [00:19:00] Mm-hmm. And I think that is something, yeah, it might also change through ai, but the basic principles of how these things work. Mm-hmm. This is also the main part of the book.

[00:19:10] Markus Edgar Hormess: And it turned out, you know, it's, it's not that tool level. Yeah. And, and we always say, yeah, that's a. That's a first selection that we mentioned, but there are so many others that are good and depending on the project that AU might fit in. And now the AI might help us use the principles that are outlined.

[00:19:26] Markus Edgar Hormess: Yeah. Um, actually generate some new tools Okay. That are more fitting because it's easy. To adapt now.

[00:19:32] Gerry Scullion: Absolutely. Yeah. Well look, Adam or Marcus, as always, it's brilliant to have you on the podcast. You're easily two of my favorite people on the planet, let alone just on the podcast. If people wanna follow both of you, um, I'll put links to your link LinkedIn, try saying that you're probably not so much on Twitter anymore.

[00:19:50] Gerry Scullion: Adam's still on Twitter. Um, is there a newsletter for people to sign up? So if they want to find out more about the teaming ai. Uh, on conference, if there's gonna be a version [00:20:00] two of it, how can they sign up to that? Yeah,

[00:20:02] Markus Edgar Hormess: it, it will be on the website te teaming with ai. Okay. Awesome. We'll find all the, all the information there.

[00:20:08] Markus Edgar Hormess: Okay.

[00:20:08] Gerry Scullion: Listen, thanks so much for your time and congratulations and another brilliant event folks. Thanks for

[00:20:12] Markus Edgar Hormess: coming. Thanks. Thanks for having us.

[00:20:15] Gerry Scullion: So that wraps up the two episodes that I recorded at the teaming with AI event in Nuremburg recently. And as you can see, we as change makers are about to experience change like we have never seen before.

[00:20:26] Gerry Scullion: Our advice is to start learning, start playing, start exploring with ai, and of course we will be helping you keep up to date little things related to the craft of design on AI as well. Here at this is eight A few thank yous. I want to thank Florian, who fed and watered me from our incredible two-star Michelin restaurant in Nuremburg restaurant is called ets.

[00:20:47] Gerry Scullion: And yes, we have an episode with Florian coming up soon. I'm talking about ets. As, there's an awesome story there about how they've used service design to design incredible experiences to look forward to there [00:21:00] folks. Thanks also to workplace experience for inviting me and the podcast along to the event, and all the wonderful people that I met learn from at the event.

[00:21:08] Gerry Scullion: I felt truly honored to be here and be there, should I say? And it was a privilege to share space and learn from everyone. Learn more from by visiting. Team and visit. This is CD to listen to our incredible back catalog of over 200 plus hours of free human-centered design material on our website.

[00:21:26] Gerry Scullion: Thanks for listening.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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