Can you spot the difference?

Is it just me or has the world turned into one big game of ‘spot the difference’? You know those two cartoons that sat side-by-side in the comic section of the newspaper? They looked identical until you stopped to take a good look. Only then you could spot the differences.

It seems the whole world is playing spot the difference.

The retail trade are angry about a new breed of knockoff purses so good they’re fooling even the most well-trained eye.
The pharmaceutical trade are cheesed-off at chemists peddling generic medicine rather than name-brands.
And now it’s our turn …  creatives are aghast AI generated text and artwork are replacing originally-generated content.

Now we’ve got clients asking… can I spot the difference?

It may be useful to establish a ‘proof of humanity’ word, which your trusted contacts can ask for, in case they get a strange and urgent voice or video call from you. This can help assure them they are actually speaking to you and not a deepfake / deep cloned version on you. 
A statement on my socials

Is AI a threat to designers?

I’m not in camp-hysteria, mainly because I’m old enough to have lived through many stages of design democratisation.

Computers democratised typesetting.
Software democratised paste-up.
Digital cameras democratised photography.
And most recently, Canva democratising entry-level design.

Each step of this computerisation has equipped non-designers to design.

The difference is human-skills.

When I started we were briefed by the client, decamped to the room of smoke and mirrors, then returned to present final concepts (beautifully rendered with coloured markers). There was no transparency.

Now we work openly with designers transparently sharing what we know, to help them collaborate with their clients, sharing what they know.

The more collaborative, the more co-creation and the less we work behind closed doors, the more clients will be able to tell the difference between us and AI. They’ll be there when decisions are made and copy is written.

The best tool for the job

Pragmatism says we should use the best tool for the job. As designers we’ve embraced each of the software developments as they’re released to the market because they’ve made us more productive. Each one has made our life easier. So the question is: how does AI help us do our job better?

How can we intentionally use it to augment our role?
How can we lean in to see how it can work with us ethically?

We all want to work less hours but be more productive.
We need processes and systems to contribute to making that change.

The first step is to be aware of the limitations.

Amazon scrapped its AI hiring tool because it was biased against women
Googles’ AI created a secret language humans can’t understand
Microsoft’s AI chatbox became a racist, sexist monster in less than 24 hours

So AI can go wrong – but is has the potential to do good.
Besides, there is no ‘if’. AI is here, and it’s developing at a great pace.

Using AI wisely.

Many designers are using AI to start a process, to avoid the white sheet of paper. They’re using it to start a brainstorm, as a thought partner. It’s very possible to present a concept or synopsis and ask for a critique.

Just be mindful:

  1. ChatGTP doesn’t know how to say ‘I don’t know’. It will deliver, but may not be accurate.
  2. There is no transparency around the datasets behind AI, so there is potential for AI to be trained on biased or unethical datasets
  3. AI is powerful, but it can’t critically reason, yet.

So the problem we have trying to mindfully assess whether the content given is helpful, relevant or complete seems insurmountable. The dataset is so large and the modelling so opaque, we have no basis on which to critically reason or make ethical decisions around the content.

This may be a may be a short term problem, but right now, it is a problem.

How can you tell the difference? Or more importantly, how can we help our clients tell the difference?

We can continue to use skills that are uniquely human like creativity, empathy, and critical thinking.

We can connect the dots – analyse information – using empathy and critical reasoning – two attributes we know AI is without.

In short, we can be more human.

That means in the research phase:

  • Seek out real people with real characteristics and attributes instead of making up personas.
  • Get out of the building to observe life instead of conducting desktop research.
  • Ask open-ended questions of real people instead of emailing surveys.
  • Report on research in a workshop, or in a video, as an audio recording or as a diagram or infographic – anything but a long form document.

In the design phase:

  • Run pre-mortums to discuss opportunities with real people rather than emailing a reverse brief.
  • Connect the dots and defend your design decisions by using empathy and critical thinking.
  • Base designs on relevant input from real-world case studies.
  • Discuss opportunities using hand drawn layouts/scamps/sketches instead of finished-looking photoshop mock-ups.

And in the production and post production:

  • Workshop feedback sessions rather than ask for an email or marked-up PDF.
  • Run post-mortems with the creative team and the client to talk through future possibilities.

So what?

There are many resources documenting the range of AI tools available to designers. This article isn’t one of them.

It’s an article saying AI is here, and it’s staying. It’s the next step – albeit a large step/jump in design democratisation.

The only way it can replace designers is if we continue to sit behind computers and act less human.



I’m grateful for our monthly Design Yak breakfast discussions, especially the last two that dived deep in AI; and Portable‘s recent webinar Designing with ChatGTP – both invaluable. As is the constant flood of articles on LinkedIn – too many to list but easy to access with #hashtags.

Want to continue the discussion? Email Carol. Want more info like this? Subscribe below. (And tell your friends 🙂

Carol Mackay

Design Business Council : business advice for creatives.
We help designers build better, stronger, more sustainable, businesses.

Design Business Review is Australia’s only online design management magazine. It’s professional development information written specifically for Australian designers by Australian designers. Best of all, it’s free.

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About Carol

After 30+ years running a design studio, I accumulated a pretty special network of fellow designers. One thing most have in common: a need for more information about the ‘business’ side of design. Most are impatient with any task competing for time spent doing what they love – designing so they wanted more info about how to work more efficiently and effectively.

Not me. I love that intersection between design and business. I built a career working with Ombudsman schemes, the Emergency Services sector and the Courts. My special power has always been an ability to use design to translate the difficult to understand or the unpalatable message.

I now use exactly the same skills with creative business owners. I translate the indigestible into bite-sized chunks of information. I share insights, introduce tools and embed processes to help others build confidence business decision-making skills. More confidence makes it easier to grasp opportunities. More confidence makes it easier to recognise a good client from the bad.

Outside DBC I have mentored with Womentor, AGDA and most recently with The Aunties.
And I’m a proud board member of Never Not Creative. Ask me about internships 😉

Always happy to chat, I can be contacted here.


For a short while, an archive of my design work at
My current work can be viewed at and

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