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Is design a human practice?

Sagi Haviv is a partner and designer at Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv. He has built his reputation by designing for the Library of Congress, CFA Institute, Harvard University Press, Conservation International, Women’s World Banking, and the US Open.He presides over the Graphic Design Jury at D&AD Awards 2019.


I recently came across a headline in Creative Review from a couple of years ago that read: “Can AI design a better logo than you?” It’s a shocking thought. Is our creative work as designers replaceable? Can our work be summarised as a series of programs and patterns?

Programs are already being developed that can generate all kinds of images in response to defined parameters. Templates are getting better, image recognition is more accurate, and processing speeds are faster—if our discipline is merely to receive parameters and a design problem to solve, then a computer can naturally come up with a solution. However, I don’t think that’s all that our profession is.

The main reason that I’m not worried about machine intelligence replacing the designer has to do with what it takes to get a great design adopted and embraced by the client, especially in the case of identity design. Clients don’t always know what they want or what they need.

A design project always reflects the relationship between the client and the designer. When we get a new assignment, we always ask to meet in person with the person in charge. That’s because we know that there is a very good chance we will need to leverage a relationship of trust later on in the process. Designing a great logo is only one step in an often long and complicated process of convincing decision-makers of its merit. The personal human connection we make with an art director, a CMO or a CEO is the only guarantee that the project will end with a significant mark in use.

Take for example the new identity we just created for Animal Planet. Under incredible leadership — Global President Susanna Dinnage and marketing VP Pablo Pulido — the channel set out to reinvent its programming and extend the brand into digital applications worldwide. When we spoke to Susanna and Pablo, we received pretty final marching orders. Susanna said: “No elephants. Elephants represent the natural history aspect of the brand that we’re moving away from.” And Pablo said: “we should be a green brand—that’s how people know us.”

History of Animal Planet identity

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