AI and its potential impact in design education

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While industry gets to grips with what AI might offer product designers, the next generation is already embracing these tools, writes Claas Kuhnen. But will AI erode traditional design skillsets or will it enhance them?

There’s great anticipation surrounding the current development of artificial intelligence and its potential impact on our creative world and education.

Naturally, there are valid questions being raised: Is AI a valid tool to use? What are the ethical ramifications? Is using AI considered cheating? What is the impact on students?

While it’s important to address these concerns, it’s equally crucial to embrace the positive aspects of AI and its ability to revolutionise teaching, learning, and established creative workflows.

It’s true that AI technology is continuously improving, but it is still far from being a complete substitute for human creativity and expertise.

AI // A valuable tool?

As a design faculty member with a focus on exploring and implementing new technologies to enhance workflows, I view AI as an exciting and valuable tool. It’s essential students learn how to utilise AI and leverage its potential benefits.

Design is a service-oriented field that relies heavily on a thorough process. The ability to produce work efficiently and costeffectively enhances competitiveness.


Design is not merely about making art. As an educator, my role is to equip students with a strong foundation and provide them with tools that make them competitive in a rapidly changing landscape.

Today, with the enhanced accessibility and functionality of 3D modelling and rendering software, designers can simultaneously design and explore various options with unprecedented precision.

Nevertheless, as software capabilities expand, the time saved by using AI may diminish due to increased attention to detail. This is where image-based AI and chatbot engines prove incredibly useful.

While results may not always be perfect, AI consistently excels at providing rapid visual ideas and stimulating students’ creativity in surprisingly short timeframes

Design, as a service-oriented field, thrives on exploration, discovery and variation, all of which require time. However, students today face time constraints due to various factors, including rising tuition fees. To address this, I have begun implementing AI as a tool during the concept development phase in my courses.

By leveraging AI, students can prompt the engine to develop interesting material surfaces, engage in conversations with chatbots to explore design considerations for low-cost medical products, and quickly generate visualisations from hand sketches or basic 3D models. While the results may not always be perfect, AI consistently excels at providing rapid visual ideas and stimulating students’ creativity in surprisingly short timeframes.

One student even highlighted that AI allows them to delegate tedious manual work, freeing up valuable time to focus on the creative aspects of design.

This is a significant breakthrough, because as humans, our brainstorming processes often rely on familiar patterns and recycled ideas. Platforms like Google and Pinterest, which students typically rely on for mood boards and inspiration, are biased and tend to tailor results based on past inquiries.

Unique outcomes

In contrast, AI engines offer unbiased and truly unique outcomes. Also, AI empowers students to bring envisioned visual images to life, liberating them from the constraints of traditional image searches.

Image-based AI engines are also very useful to help beginner students to achieve higher-quality work for presentation purposes. Specifically in foundation courses, this is valuable because it helps build confidence among students while their software proficiency is not strong yet.

Excitingly, image AI engines are gradually integrating image editing capabilities. Users can mark areas for refinement and generate new content stylistically aligned with the existing image through text prompts and brush inputs. This represents a revolutionary improvement over traditional image composition workflows.

For fields like interior design and architecture, the ability to expand existing images, previously a painstaking task, can be accomplished in a matter of seconds.

Amidst all this excitement surrounding AI, it’s crucial to maintain a realistic perspective. AI will not replace us; rather, it accelerates the pace of design exploration.

However, to make the most of AI, a strong design foundation remains essential. Thus, I firmly believe that AI is not an adversary in academia. Instead, it offers an opportunity to create a more modern teaching and learning environment, preparing students for the future. Inevitably, AI will become a ubiquitous tool, so it is essential to educate students on its optimal use, starting now.

By embracing AI as an invaluable asset, my students in the upcoming semester will develop persona profiles, mood boards, and quick concept renderings in significantly less time than before. This modernised approach will provide them with a forward-thinking education and equip them with skills that align with the reality of the industry.
(Note: This article was ChatGPT-adjusted by its author.)

About the author:

Claas Kuhnen is an assistant professor for interior and industrial design at Wayne State University, focusing on a modern and interdisciplinary approach to digital 3D design methods and technology.

On Twitter, he’s @claaskuhnen


This article first appeared in DEVELOP3D Magazine

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