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Art & Design Research

Should I Be Afraid of AI?

We aren't talking about Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), these tools are not our attempt at replicating human intelligence. These are just tools that rely on technological advances inspired by how the brain works. You've already been using AI tools for years, if you use e-mail, spellcheck, online translators, social media, image editors, smartphones, search engines, chess engines, virtual assistants, smart appliances, autopilot, finance apps, etc. 

Where to Start?

This guide will help you understand the variety of issues and opportunities related to AI, and is meant to prompt ideas for your own research and exploration.

To students: Jobs in your profession might not be replaced by AI, but people who can't use AI tools might be replaced by people who can!  Keeping up with advances in AI-enhanced tools will give you an edge in the job market.  Even if you don't use AI tools in your practice, this is likely to be a topic of conversation amongst professional artists for years, so it's important to have a basic understanding necessary to be part of the conversation.

To faculty:  It can be very beneficial for students to see how art professionals research technological advancements in their field.  Our students appreciate when I let them toss topics at me during a research demonstration, so they can watch how I troubleshoot and learn from my mistakes live. In that same spirit, you could just have a day where you say "let's figure this out together!"

How Professional Artists Use AI

Try following hashtags like #aiart #aiartwork #aiartcommunity #aiartist to see new examples of work being created by or with AI tools.


Here are some ways that AI technology is integrated into the tools you already use or have access to as current Lesley student/staff/faculty:

Professional Preparedness

  • Go to your favorite job advertisement website for your profession.  Include terms like "AI" in your search to see what kind of experience with AI tools and workflows are expected in your field.
  • There are a lot of click-bait or sensationalist articles and headlines, so be wary of articles claiming to know what the future holds.  Instead, look for data about what organizations and corporations are actually doing right now
    • For example, this Forbes article cites many different data sources, including an O'Reilly survey that found that "85% of organizations are using AI and (of these) most are using it in production; top three areas for AI use are research and development, IT, and customer service". They also found that one barrier to organizations adopting more automation is the skills gap that exists in job candidates.

Ethical & Legal Concerns

If an image-generating AI tool is trained using reference images from random creators on the internet, and these tools create a new work based on those reference images, is that a derivative work? Only a creator/copyright holder has the right to create derivatives of their own work, so we have to wait to see if the US courts decide that image-generators are creating new, transformative works (legal and copyrightable as a new work) or if they are creating derivative, or substantially similar (and therefor illegal) works.  

Information Literacy Lessons Taught with AI

There are information literacy lessons you can teach/learn, using AI tools:

  • The iterative process of using an AI engine like Chat GPT starts with providing a prompt and getting results, but then you start evaluating what's missing from the results to adapt the prompts and get better results.  This is the same concept librarians teach in lessons on the process of developing a search strategy. You should be evaluating your database/Google results to identify necessary tweaks to your search terms.
  • Enhancing your media literacy is essential in an age when much of the content we consume is meant to deceive or influence us.  It's easier to spot deepfakes, AI generated text, and AI generated images/video, when you've studied what they look like.  

Using AI Tools to Research

AI Tools can help you summarize articles, generate keywords, find visual inspiration, and create reference images.  Here are some examples of the benefits and limitations of different tools, but be sure to search the web for the latest free AI tools and any reviews/criticism of them before you use them, as it's a constantly shifting landscape.

Keyword Generation

  • The librarians at Northwestern tested out ChatGPT as an aid in keyword generationCheck out their results and their warnings about the limitations of the tool.

Article Summaries

  • Tools that summarize articles for you often come with a word limit for the free version of the tool, search the web for the latest list of "best ai tools for text summaries", for example, this scijournal list from February 2023


  • You've probably been using AI technology to translate text for years!  Google implemented a system that uses an artificial neural network to improve Google Translate in 2016. Check out this Brief History of Machine Translation.


  • Click through the slides below to see an example of how ChatGPT can assist in creating outlines, along with other research benefits and limitations


Research Meets ChatGPT by Jessica Condlin

How does it work?

Because this is a complex subject, it helps to find video series that offer multiple educational videos, scaffolded to teach you over time. For example, check out this CrashCourse video, which is the 3rd video in their AI series, and then decide if you want to start with video 1, or skip ahead, depending on your current knowledge of the subject.