If I Were Running a Startup, Would I Still Hire a Designer?

November 27, 2023

I’ve devoted a lot of time writing the subject of jobs, specifically those in the creative industry. I’ve been trying to determine if generative AI a threat to graphic designers and similar professions. I’m a professor of graphic Design and I understand that job prospects are currently bleak for entry level positions, and I’m trying to prepare my students for the road ahead. However, it seems like a great time to be an entrepreneur, and while I certainly lack the spine to start my own company, I wanted to consider for a moment if I were in those shoes, would I still hire a graphic designer?

Let’s assume I had a lot of drive and ambition, and wanted to cut costs in order to start my venture. While there are a ton of AI tools for business development, I could probably do a lot of those things with ChatGPT. Same thing holds true for all my messaging and copywriting if I were willing to spend a little time editing. There is even a custom GPT called ‘Logo Maker’ that asks a few questions and spits out a pretty good rough draft. It might have some typos, but it’s probably close enough to send over to someone on Fiverr who could finish it for $100 or less.

While we’re on the subject of Fiverr, why not checkout the roster of professionals who are already offering their services as AI experts in a variety of disciplines? AI artists has almost 16,000 participants, but AI websites has only 800. Not that I’m encouraging a race to the bottom by competing on price, but it’s good to understand what’s out there.

There are a dozen different AI Slide Deck tools trying to hook me on a subscription plan, but Google Slides and Powerpoint are both now AI enhanced so I could easily make my own Pitchdeck. If If I was willing to invest about 45 minutes of time, I could learn how to use Canva or Adobe Express and BAM! my social media strategy is taken care of. And while I don’t remember the names, I know there are a ton of AI tools for Web Design, Search Engine Optimization, Analytics, Ad Words, and so on. There are even tools that will assemble a video for me based on my blog post and upload it to YouTube along with a custom thumbnail…and I wouldn’t even have to write the blog post.

This is a bit of a stretch, and I’m sure some of those tools don’t work as well as their promotional materials claim, and I’d have still have to just hunker down and work a bit, but I’m sure if I were launching a startup, this is how I’d be looking at the problem and trying to figure out where I could save money and when I’d want to still hire a creative professional. While all the AI tools currently promise to magic your problems away, there still aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all by yourself.

If you are a freelancer, now is the time to be writing a manifesto of sorts, so you can communicate your value proposition and say, “I’m human, and can do this better”. You should also figure out where you can no longer compete and be familiar with some of these tools so you can either use them or advise your clients on them.

And if you’re a small marketing agency whose had the good fortune to charge for copywriting, and social media and presentation decks, you’re now about to be hit by a wave of new freelancers who want to use these tools and offer lower rates and faster turnarounds as they try to launch their careers. If you’re older, or savvy, you can hire these people, add your editorial expertise, and pass it on to your clients. However, there is probably a limited window for this, and just like the freelancers, you should probably clarify what you’re good at and where you add value.

So even though I have a background in design and this should be easy for me, I know that design is never easy and I would gladly pay a human professional to solve some of these problems rather than a mish-mash of disparate AI tools. Ideally I’d pay someone for some key messaging and branding that would include a kit of parts that could trickle down. But once I had that set in place, a lot of the maintenance stuff like social media and content strategy could certainly be automated.

To be honest, I have a strong DIY background and this would feel pretty hollow. I mean, it’s not real, or meanigful, or authentic, right? It has to be done by me. Maybe that’s why so many of my younger ventures failed. If AI tools can liberate us just a little bit and allow some delegation, perhaps that’s just enough of a time and cost savings to succeed. So while I would still hire a designer, I bet there are a lot of ‘boot-strappers’ out there who won’t and if you’re a designer you had be better be ready.

What I read this week to get here

If you’re a purist, or a holdout, or need a reality check about what’s becoming the new normal, you should read this article onZDNet about a Salesforce study revealing that 64% of Workers Have Passed off Generative AI Work As Their Own

If you’re actually in a startup and you’re making a tool that just piggybacks on ChatGPT, you’re probably pretty vulnerable and you should read this article about What Startups Need to Know About AI Heading into 2024. We’re about to usher in a whole new era.

If you’d like a longer read on this subject, check out The Rise of Generalists in the AI Era. The author states that many of will use a wide range of ‘assistant’ tools to complete a greater body of work, but we’ll still rely on our creative abilities and aesthetic judgement.

If you’re closer to the money end of things, you should read How Venture Capitalists are Using AI to Invest more Effectively. A lot of VC work is just data analysis and looking at hundreds of pitch decks and trying to pick a winner. Why not let an AI assistant do the grunt work?

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