3 Truths About Creativity in the Age of AI

What you should already be doing about the future

AI. AR. MR. Voice.

Bots. Beacons. Wearables.

Data. Big Data. Bigger Data.

Goosebumps, am I right?!

Recently, I was invited to a dinner party. At the bar, this guy rolled up beside me sporting tons of wearables. Three bracelets, a ring that blinked, and god knows what around his neck. Think Mr. T, but with less gold and more diodes.

Without inhaling, he started chatting me up.

Will Hall

"Oh, you work in voice? Sweet. I have this great idea for a new product. First, you download our simple app so we can geo-leash your wearables to our beacons, obviously…"

[15 minutes later…]

"After a fun onboarding questionnaire, our bot will recommend the best product for your needs. You can then use the intuitive voice feature to ask the product which color options are currently in stock…"

[30 minutes later…]

"Oh, and did I mention the biorhythms? Wait till you hear this…" 

I'm only slightly exaggerating. Unfortunately, most emerging tech "experiences" sound a lot like this painful conversation. Clunky. Bloated. Frustrating. Tech for the sake of tech. To create great experiences, we must find the humanity on the other side of the code. We have to meet people where they are and build technology that fits into their lives. 

Below are a few principles to consider when designing for these new technologies. Use them to make better products … and to be better dinner guests. 

1) Simplify
AI isn't like human intelligence; it's fundamentally other. As AI continues to develop, a new taxonomy of intelligence will be needed altogether. The mind is not an apt metaphor. Understanding the specific nature of AI will help you create more intuitive experiences.

Spoiler: You probably need to simplify your product.

Simplicity is key. We see this being played out among the early winners in these emerging technologies. Uber's Amazon Echo Skill allows you to order a ride and little else. Netflix's Google Home experience allows you to control playback but nothing else. Dominos' voice app only reorders your last purchase. These products provide only a handful of features at this time, but the specific tasks fit seamlessly into people's lives. Their effectiveness is found in what they don't do. Cut features and iterate toward simplicity. Your app is probably too big.

2) Think in Systems
Most Fortune 500 companies suffer from what I call "micro-site-itus"—the curious habit of creating hundreds of tech one-offs with seemingly no regard for the larger ecosystem. Fractured budgets. Legacy platforms. Corporate bureaucracy. There are tons of contributing factors to this phenomenon, but one-off thinking will hurt the effectiveness of your products.

An app is only as good as the technologies it speaks to. Your voice experience is only as powerful as the data it can access. And those technologies are meaningful only if they fit into people's lives on the other side. On their own, most emerging technologies are limited in their features. But when paired with other technologies, these touch points become much more powerful.

Think in systems. It's the guiding principle of AI, and the key to making rich digital experiences.

3) Embrace the Power of Now
The technologies that are in their infancy today will fundamentally change your business tomorrow. We must be restless, constantly asking new and better questions.

Take Coca-Cola, for example. The power of its brand is undeniable, but so much of its equity is visual in nature. How much of that equity will be applicable when the product is absent? When you order groceries by talking to your fridge instead of going to the store? Or if AI does the shopping for you? I'm sure they'll figure it out, but now is the time to build toward this future. It's already starting to happen.

Kevin Kelly, the former editor of Wired, calls these technologies "becoming," which sums up the emerging landscape perfectly. They're here but not yet formed. They're creating while still being created. Though we're in a constant state of flux, it's certain that these AI-driven experiences are only going to become more ubiquitous, accessible and relevant.

In the first boom of the Internet, the formula for disruption was simple: X + online!

When mobile and social emerged, the formula was similar: X + your friends!

The future of your industry, whatever your industry might be, is X + AI. Start exploring today, and embrace the power of now.

Will Hall is executive creative director at Rain.