Playing with AI – The HASTAC site banner journey! 

Like so many of us, I have been enjoying playing around with AI image generators and quickly ran out of all the free credits that DALL.E.  and Midjourney offered. I know that Designer friends have been integrating these images into the initial phases of the creative process to help generate ideas or storyboards as well. In the ever-evolving landscape of digital design, integrating artificial intelligence into creative processes has been a quick and energetic process. 

Recently, I wanted to update the banner image for the HASTAC.org website and decided to experiment with image generator(GPT) on ChatGPT.  It is a GPT, based on DALL.E images, specialized in generating and refining images with a mix of professional and friendly tones.

The process was not just about achieving a visually appealing result but also exploring how exact wording and abstract ideas blend to communicate with AI. 

After a few tries, this process reminded me of my experiences teaching design in an architecture department. Teaching design principles to beginners requires clarity, simplicity, and precision—qualities that are equally vital when “instructing” AI. I realized that effective communication, whether with students or AI, hinges on breaking down complex ideas into understandable elements. I ended up drawing from a design exercise that a professor of mine used in intro to Design for Us, which was basically a team exercise where we were trying to explain a design for a small space only verbally to our team-mate without giving them any visuals, the visuals we could only submit to the professor, then each team-mate would be in charge of presenting the design to the studio in the same way and answer questions. The goal was to paint a mental image that is as complete as possible and to be able to communicate it as thoroughly as possible. 

I have thought of this exercise a lot; when I was working as an architect, I relied on this skill a lot as well. The skill of explaining something visual that I was almost seeing in my mind, in a way that it was understandable is a complex task. I was getting the best responses from the image generator when I would use a combination of exact language (like exact color names) or the amount of white space an image has an abstract and open-to-interpretation language, like “symbolizing a network” or “ with light touches of orange.”

The Iterative Process of Designing with AI 

So the goal was rather straightforward: create a banner that encapsulates the essence of HASTAC.org’s mission and vibrancy. I used a simple description, and the balance between abstract ideas and precise language became crucial. I needed to articulate my vision so that AI could understand and execute, bridging the gap between human creativity and machine interpretation.

1st try:

Create a minimalist and modern graphic poster design featuring the word ‘HASTAC’ in a large, bold font at the center. Surround the text with abstract and geometric representations of connection and network. The design should use shades of blue and sunflower yellow to create a sophisticated and cohesive look that conveys trust, collaboration, and the interdisciplinary nature of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory). The overall feel should be clean, futuristic, and engaging, effectively introducing HASTAC as the world’s first and oldest academic social network to website viewers.

My initial instructions were based on broad concepts with a few specific elements. The result was intriguing but not quite what I had envisioned so I tried again and used a different prompt:

2nd try:

Create a horizontal graphic for a poster that introduces HASTAC,  use the visual language of minimalism and modernity. I envision a design that emphasizes connections and interconnectivity. The central element will be the word “HASTAC,” stylized prominently to catch the viewer’s attention. Surrounding this focal point, I’ll incorporate abstract representations of connectivity through sleek, geometric lines that suggest a network. This would reflect the connections within the academic social network but also reflect the interdisciplinary nature of HASTAC, bridging Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology. Use shades of blue, adding to the modern and sophisticated feel of the design. It can add some light touches of orange integrated too.  This color choice will also contribute to a sense of trust and calm, aligning with the collaborative spirit of HASTAC. The overall aesthetic will be clean and futuristic, with enough simplicity to ensure the message is conveyed effectively to website viewers. 

This was pretty close to what I wanted, so in the next iterations I focused on changes in coloring.I asked for an alternative with a black background (3rd try) followed by another alternative with a white background and less black in the image overall (4th try). The interesting thing about this version is how we can see one of the key features of working with these image generators that they are always somewhat inaccurate like how HASTAC is suddenly misspelled.  Despite that I still liked this version.

3rd try (left) and 4th try (right)

I also tried one last edit to the long prompt. The 5th try:

Give me an alternative design for the HASTAC poster, with the word “HASTAC” positioned on the right side of the image. Use a minimalist and modern aesthetic set against a white background, with white as the dominant color. Abstract representations of computer screens connected through sleek, geometric lines, suggesting a network, surround the word “HASTAC.” The color scheme of shades of blue with light touches of orange aims to convey the collaborative spirit and interdisciplinary nature of HASTAC in a clean, futuristic, and engaging manner.

After reviewing the results with our HASTAC team, we ended up choosing a version of the 4th try. However I think this small project proved to be interesting in several ways, it underscored the importance of language in AI-driven design. Also being informed by my design education and teaching experience was helping me facilitate a clearer dialogue. I am still thinking about the role of language and communication in creativity. 

What did you think about this process?

Which one of the images do you prefer? Should we change the image? Let us know! 

Have you worked on a design project with AI? Or have other professional experiences influenced your creative work in unexpected ways? Share your stories and insights in the comments below. Let’s foster a vibrant discussion about the future of design and AI.

I encourage fellow creatives to explore this frontier, considering how their unique experiences can shape the future of design. This blog post serves as a canvas for your thoughts, experiences, and visions for the future. Share your thoughts and add to this series Playing with AI! 

Parisa Setayesh

HASTAC Scholars Co-Director

PhD Candidate, Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

CUNY- Graduate Center

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