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Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen on AI and Design

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Professor Design Engineering and Design Methodology at Imperial College London takes us to the frontier between engineering and art

Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen on AI and Design
When it comes to the cutting edge of artificial intelligence and design, you could do worse than talk to Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen. As an academic her work takes her to the intersection of science, engineering and art. At next week’s Production Social event in London she’ll be exploring the potential power of AI as a tool to support design and creativity. We caught up with her to find out more.

LBB> You head up a joint MA/MSc course on innovation, which marries art and science/engineering. It seems like it nurtures just the sort of thinking that will allow a person to thrive in the future… How did you get involved?
This was part of my role at Imperial and very much reflects myself- where maths, engineering and art where part of my A- levels. Global Innovation Design (joint with the Royal College of Art) – and the Design Engineering courses that I am part of, embrace design in a very broad sense with a technological foundation, creativity and a strong understanding for human experience.

LBB> Education and academia seem intent, however, in separating arts/humanities and science/engineering… why is this and is it likely to change?
There is increasingly a number of initiatives globally which are integrating arts/humanities and science engineering- design is clearly a bridging discipline. We see many of the traditionally art based university beginning to move towards STEAM- bringing STEM subjects into their courses. This reflects the dominance and hype of disruptive technologies such as AI.

LBB> Why do you think AI has been slow to catch on in the design world?
Design is described as ill defined, where many solutions are possible, and an unclear process to achieve the solutions. Areas that are well-defined are much easier problems for AI.

LBB> What are the most exciting AI applications that you’re seeing in the world of design?
Most of these are in the area of generative design, and an increasing interest to generative forms.

LBB> In the future, how do you see designers interacting with AI? 
Through the designs they can create and also tools to support them in dealing with complexity. The new generation of designers and creative technologist will be increasingly skilled to understand how to deal with big data, and AI, increasing the products/ services produced, leading to more customised products and services. At the same time tools that incorporate AI can be used to automate parts of the design process.

LBB> I’m personally really interested in creativity as a process in the brain– do you think that we will ever get to the point where AI can replicate human creative thinking? Is that even desirable? Or is it more likely that AI tools will support human creativity?
We strive to use AI to go beyond human creativity- a lot of research is taking place to understand how reasoning (in humans) takes place for creative design tasks, which can provide a theoretical platform for replicating humans. AI tools could provide inspiration and as I see this, in the near future this will not replace designers but part of the process.

Production Social will take place on Tuesday October 3rd. For more info head here.

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