‘AI + Design’ mini-symposium April 3

Sam Fox School, McKelvey Engineering explore artificial intelligence and creativity

Liam Otten 
Kory Bieg, Housing Blocks, 2022. (Image courtesy of the artist)
Kory Bieg, Housing Blocks, 2022. (Image courtesy of the artist)

Recent breakthroughs in generative artificial intelligence — the branch of AI that can be used to create images, audio, video and other content — have the potential to reshape the fields of art, architecture and design.

But for professionals already working in those areas, that potential remains largely theoretical. “Current image generation models are eye-catching and impressive, but are designed for a general audience,” says Krishna Bharat, a distinguished research scientist at Google. “Adapting them to fit the needs of design professionals will require a fair bit of technical innovation and input from domain experts.”

On April 3, Bharat will deliver the keynote address for “AI + Design.” The afternoon-long symposium — organized by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis — will explore the current state of AI technology, the future of AI-assisted design and the implications for design practice and training, among other topics.

“Faculty in AI can help to shape the emergence of advanced creative technologies,” Bharat said. “In the process, they can also invent the new curriculum to prepare our students for the coming technology revolution. 

“Ultimately, our goal should be to harness the power of AI to inspire human creativity and empower the design professionals of the future — not to replace them,’” Bharat added.

Kory Bieg, Sponge Housing, 2022. (Image courtesy of the artist)

Tools, skills and interfaces

Events will begin at 12:30 p.m. with welcome remarks from Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School and E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts.

“Among creative professionals, conversations about artificial design can spark both fascination and trepidation,” Colangelo said. “This symposium aims to get past the hype and the sensationalism to grapple with AI’s real capabilities as well as the sorts of tools, skills and interfaces that will allow designers to harness its best potentials.”

Following Bharat’s keynote address, the symposium will continue with “How to Create with Creative AI,” a conversation featuring Sam Fox School alumnus Kory Bieg (AB ’99), founder and principal of OTA, an architecture and design firm, and Ian Bogost, the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor and director of film and media studies in Arts & Sciences, as well as a professor of computer science and engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Constance Vale, assistant professor and chair of undergraduate architecture, will co-host a session, with visiting assistant professor Matthew Allen, on “The Machinic Muse: AI & Creativity.” Jonathan Hanahan, associate professor of interaction design, will lead a panel on “Human-AI Interaction: Designing the Interface between Humans and Artificial Intelligence.”

Concluding the afternoon will be remarks from Aaron Bobick, the James M. McKelvey Professor and dean of the McKelvey School of Engineering.

“Mound With Computer,” an AI-generated image from “Edgelands” by Jonathan Hanahan. The series explores the increasing tensions between the natural world and the infiltration of electronic waste. (Image courtesy of the artist)

Organizers and registration

“AI + Design” is organized by the Sam Fox School and McKelvey Engineering, with support from the Ralph J. Nagel Dean’s Fund.

The symposium is free and open to the public. All events will take place in the Kuehner Family Court in Anabeth and John Weil Hall on WashU’s Danforth Campus. A reception will immediately follow, at 4:30 p.m., in the Weil Hall commons.

For a complete schedule and list of participants, visit samfoxschool.wustl.edu.

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 165 full-time faculty, 1,420 undergraduate students, 1,614 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

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