The HUGE Issue with using AI for Product Design

An AI robot looking to camera

At D2M, our exploration of AI in product design is a journey filled with learning and adaptation. While AI offers exciting possibilities, integrating it alongside traditional design methods presents unique challenges.

Our approach is not about replacing human creativity but enhancing it with AI’s capabilities. As we navigate these new waters, we encounter challenges that test our adaptability and ingenuity. For a deeper dive into how we are embracing AI in industrial design, check out our video here.

In this article, we explore the balance between technology and human talent, using AI to expand our creative horizons and address the evolving complexities of product design.

Embracing Diverse Talents in Design

The team here at D2M are a tapestry of diverse talents and skills. Each designer brings unique strengths, whether conceptual thinking, technical detailing, or aesthetic styling. However, it’s natural that nobody excels in every design aspect. This diversity is not a drawback but a rich source of collaborative creativity.

Some of us shine in ideation and conceptual brainstorming, effortlessly dreaming up innovative product ideas. Others have a knack for the nitty-gritty of technical design, understanding the intricacies of materials and manufacturing processes. Then there are those whose forte is visual communication, translating ideas into compelling sketches and renderings.

Not every designer is a master illustrator. This variation in skill sets is precisely where AI becomes invaluable.

AI: The Digital Enhancer

AI is a digital enhancer for those who find sketching challenging. It takes our rudimentary sketches and transforms them into polished, detailed illustrations. This capability is incredibly empowering. It allows every designer to visually communicate their ideas with clarity and sophistication, regardless of their sketching prowess.

In this way, AI acts as a great equaliser, ensuring that all voices and ideas get the same opportunity to be seen and understood in their best light. It allows us to focus on our strengths, knowing that AI can support us where we need it. As a result, our design process becomes more inclusive and democratic, where the merit of an idea is not limited by the ability to draw it perfectly.

The integration of AI into our design process creates a collaborative synergy. It bridges gaps, enhances strengths, and ensures that every member of the D2M team can contribute their best work. AI doesn’t replace our skills; it amplifies them, allowing us to push the boundaries of what we can create as a team.

Case Study: The Woodpecker Bird Feeder

A project for creating a bird feeder exclusively for woodpeckers started with a simple observation: the market needed more specific products catering to the unique feeding habits of these birds. Determined to fill this gap, we turned to AI, leveraging tools like MidJourney and ChatGPT to bring this concept to life.

Utilising AI to Bring Ideas into Reality: Our initial steps involved inputting various prompts into MidJourney, focusing on bird feeders, natural materials, and designs appealing to woodpeckers. The responses we received from MidJourney were diverse, giving us a broad spectrum of concepts to consider. To refine these ideas further, we engaged ChatGPT to enhance our prompts, leading to even more targeted and relevant outputs from MidJourney.

Experimenting with Sketches and Blending Techniques: We shifted our approach, recognising that we needed to steer the AI closer to our vision. We started with rough sketches of our idea for the bird feeder and then utilised MidJourney’s blend tool. This tool allowed us to merge our sketches with AI-generated images that captured the style elements we admired. The results were exciting; the AI-generated outputs were close to our concept, showcasing stunning visual quality and a level of detail that surpassed our initial sketches.

Confronting the AI’s Limitations: But there was a problem – we realised the AI’s limitations in generating genuinely original ideas during this creation process. Despite producing visually striking designs, the AI essentially remixed existing internet content. This was evident when we found similar designs existing on various online platforms.

This case study underlines a crucial aspect of using AI in product design: AI is a potent tool for visualisation and refining ideas. However, it won’t replace the need for original human creativity and innovation. The Woodpecker Bird Feeder project exemplifies how AI can accelerate and enrich the design process at D2M while highlighting the importance of human oversight and originality in creating truly unique products.

Utilising the Blend Tool for Enhanced Visualization in Product Design

In our Woodpecker Bird Feeder project, the blend tool in MidJourney proved instrumental. We combined human ingenuity and AI sophistication by merging our rudimentary sketches with AI-generated images. This blending transformed our basic ideas into visually stunning illustrations, showcasing a level of detail and polish that would have been time-consuming to achieve manually.

Broader Applications of the Blend Tool

Beyond the Woodpecker Bird Feeder, the blend tool has found numerous applications in our design workflow:

  1. Concept Evolution: We’ve used the blend tool to evolve product concepts iteratively. For instance, in designing ergonomic kitchen tools, we blended initial ergonomic shapes with various material finishes, visualising how different textures and materials would impact the product’s look and feel.
  2. Style Exploration: In a project focused on consumer electronics, we utilised the blend tool to explore different aesthetic styles. By blending basic product shapes with varying styles of art and design languages, we could quickly visualise how the same product would appear in minimalist, futuristic, or retro styles.
  3. Contextual Visualisation: The blend tool allowed us to place our products in various outdoor settings for outdoor furniture designs. Blending product images with different environmental backgrounds helped us understand how the designs would interact with and complement their intended surroundings.
  4. Feature Integration: In developing a line of sports equipment, we used the blend tool to integrate innovative features into existing product designs. For example, blending images of traditional equipment with advanced materials or new ergonomic features helped us visualise the potential improvements in functionality and user experience.
  5. Colour and Pattern Variations: The blend tool also assisted in creating different colour and pattern variations for various fashion accessories. By blending base designs with various colour palettes and patterns, we could quickly generate multiple variants, aiding in decision-making for final production choices.

The blend tool in MidJourney is more than just a feature; it opens up creative possibilities. It enables us to prototype and visualise ideas rapidly, pushing the boundaries of traditional design processes. We continue to explore the blend tool’s potential, harnessing its power to enhance our creativity and bring our design visions to life with unprecedented efficiency and clarity.

Navigating AI’s Limitations and Embracing Human Creativity in Product Design

Our foray into AI-assisted design, particularly evident in the Bird Feeder project, brought us face-to-face with a crucial realisation: the boundary of AI’s creative capabilities. Our initial excitement about the unique design AI helped us formulate was tempered when we discovered that the concept was less original than we believed. This discovery highlighted AI’s inherent nature of synthesising and remixing existing internet data to produce designs.

This insight underscores the irreplaceable value of human creativity in the design process. AI, as powerful as it is for visualising concepts and developing features, cannot imitate the depth and originality of human thought. We view AI as a tool to catalyse and enhance our creativity, not as a substitute for it. Our designers are tasked with the essential role of infusing AI-generated concepts with originality and innovation.

The synergy between AI’s capabilities and our designers’ creativity forms the bedrock of our design philosophy. We use AI to inspire and broaden our creative horizons, enabling us to explore a broader range of possibilities. However, the critical step of transforming these AI-generated ideas into innovative, unique, and market-ready products remains firmly in the hands of our skilled designers.

The lesson from our bird feeder project is clear: AI can open doors to new visual realms and possibilities, but the human designer navigates these realms with originality and purpose. As we continue integrating AI into our workflow, we do so with a renewed appreciation for the unique contributions of human creativity. Our designers are not just operators of a tool but are the essential drivers of innovation, ensuring that every product we design stands out for its originality and ingenuity.

Harnessing AI as a Partner in the Art of Design

Our journey with AI in product design has been discovery, collaboration, and balance. We’ve embraced AI as a potent ally, a tool that significantly augments our design capabilities. It speeds up the initial stages of design, allows for rapid conceptualisation, and opens up a world of visual possibilities that were previously time-consuming or challenging to achieve.

However, our experiences have also illuminated the limitations of AI, particularly in terms of originality and practical application. This understanding has reinforced our belief in the indispensability of human creativity and technical expertise. At D2M, AI does not replace the designer; instead, it serves as a collaborative partner, enhancing and enriching the design process while leaving room for the crucial human element of creativity and innovation.

AI tools like MidJourney and ChatGPT have become integral in our arsenal for efficiency and their ability to expand our creative horizons. Yet, the human designer remains at the heart of transforming these AI-generated concepts into innovative, unique, and market-ready products. Our designers use AI as a springboard for inspiration, refining and enhancing their original ideas, ensuring each design retains its uniqueness and practicality.

As we continue to navigate the era of technological advancement, we are excited about AI’s prospects. We are committed to exploring the potential of these tools while upholding the values of human ingenuity and creativity. In our hands, AI is more than just a tool; it is a collaborator, a partner in the art of design, helping us to push boundaries and realise visions that were once just dreams.


How does AI enhance the product design process?

AI enhances product design by offering rapid concept visualisation, generating diverse design options, and providing data-driven insights. It aids designers in exploring creative possibilities efficiently and can also assist in optimising design elements based on user feedback and market trends.

Can AI replace human designers in the product design process?

No, AI cannot replace human designers. While AI can assist in the creative process by offering new perspectives and speeding up specific tasks, innovation, emotional intelligence, and contextual understanding in design require the human touch.

What are the limitations of using AI in product design?

The limitations of AI in product design include its reliance on existing data, which can limit originality, and challenges in understanding complex human emotions and cultural nuances. AI also requires guidance and oversight from human designers to ensure relevance and practicality in the design outcomes.

How do designers balance AI and human creativity in product design?

Designers balance AI and human creativity by using AI as a tool to augment their skills, not replace them. They leverage AI for tasks like data analysis, pattern recognition, and basic layout designs while relying on human expertise for creative direction, problem-solving, and making nuanced design decisions.

What future advancements can be expected in AI’s role in product design?

Future advancements in AI’s role in product design include more intuitive and collaborative AI tools to understand better and predict user needs, enhanced simulation capabilities for virtual prototyping, and AI-driven personalisation in design to cater to individual user preferences. Additionally, AI might play a more significant role in sustainable and inclusive design by optimising materials and production processes.

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