midjourney AI

Will lighting designers be replaced by AI?

Is that a scandalous enough proposition to start this post with?

Automation via machine learning is a scary topic to many, with the belief that route, repetitive jobs are at risk of machine replacement. Of course “white collar” professionals love to believe that they bring something so creative or irreplaceably human to their professions that they can’t be replaced, such as doing early-stage conceptual design work.

But suddenly, that cozy sense of safety through one’s artistic ego is collapsing as AI-powered generative networks, trained to perform artistic style transfer, are rapidly producing stunning – STUNNING! – creative pieces of art. And it is clear that this technology will quickly storm into architectural design and visualization.

One such example is MidJourney. For a primer on Midjourney, check out this concise post by Jelmer Boskma. Take a browse through MidJourney’s Twitter feed for a feast of gorgeous, mind-bending artworks.

It is nearly impossible for most people to grip what an “accelerating rate of innovation” truly means. Technologies such as live rendering and machine learning have been slowly evolving over years – but following exponential growth curves – and are now reaching that explosive point of the curve when dramatic changes go mainstream. As such, it is incredibly difficult for even the most tech-saavy people to comprehend that these lush artworks were generated by algorithms, not humans.

Much of the early experimentation with AI generated art has been focused on character, scenographic and traditional artistic compositions, but there have been a few pieces that really look like architectural or theatrical lighting. Below are just a few examples I collected from Midjourney explorations:

A view interior visualizations by Pier Paolo:

Some artworks by Jelmer Boskma:

Some pieces by Nicolas Collings:

Check out these stunning architectural pieces from Anson Cheung, and be sure to read his piece Will an AI Take Your Design Job?:

“Futuristic skyscraper, solar city, at dawn, architectural rendering, inspired by Zaha Hadid, atmospheric lighting”

I’m sure you’re saying that is all well and good for mood board style pieces of concept art, but certainly AI will never take over technical drawings…right???

Ummmm…I’m not so sure about that either….check out this piece from WeavingWithGAN who tried “fiery dragon as an architectural sketch” as the input:

It is obvious that as these AI generators progress, they will move from 2D to 3D generation. Artists like Refik Anadol are already using machine learning for stunning, dynamic 3D artpieces. Once 3D environments can be generated, they can be combined into something like Unreal Engine or Unity for live 3D experiential interactions, design alterations, etc. Or perhaps into something like BIM to add dimensions and those pesky architectural construction details.

So to return to my original proposition: Will lighting designers be replaced by AI?

Of course the reality is no, they won’t be replaced – someone has to deal with the clients, reps and contractors!