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IN SESSION - AI — creative tool or existential threat?

*Image credit: Portraits by Jessica Helfand.

Adrian Shaughnessy, Jessica Helfand and Michael Horsham came together to investigate the role of artificial intelligence in the production of creative visual work.

Is AI a revolutionary tool with transformative powers leading to enhanced creativity? Or a mechanism for replacing artists and designers with parasitic software creating a landscape of cloned, culturally biased, and regurgitated expression?

As students and creative professionals in art and design increasingly embed AI functionality in their work, what are the creative, ethical, and practical ramifications?

The three renowned speakers from the visual arts weighed up the pros and cons.

Interactive polls with over 300 participants informed us that 57% of the attendees think that democratically-elected governments should be more active in regulating AI, 27% were undecided, whereas 16% voted against governments having an active role in regulating the use of AI.


The Voice of the Artist in the Age of the Algorithm

The Next Rembrandt

Boris Eldagsen and the Sony AI Kerfuffle

An Interview with Boris Eldagsen

Unesco ethics and AI


Adrian Shaughnessy

Senior Tutor, Visual Communication MA

Adrian Shaughnessy is a graphic designer, writer, publisher and educator. He has written, designed, edited, art directed and published numerous books on design. He has been interviewed on television and radio and lectures extensively around the world. He is a tutor in graphic design at the RCA. Shaughnessy co-founded the design group Intro in 1988, an early pioneer of digital technology in design. He left in 2004 to set up Unit Editions, in partnership with Tony Brook and Patricia Finnegan. To date the company has published 50 titles (www.uniteditions.com). In addition to writing for many of the leading design journals, Eye, Creative Review, Design Week, Print, Idea and Etapes, Shaughnessy has also written for The Guardian, and was a regular contributor to the design blog Design Observer. A book of his essays and journalism (Scratching the Surface) was published in 2013. For a few years, he hosted a weekly radio show, “Graphic design on The Radio”, on Resonance FM.

Jessica Helfand

Artist, Designer, Writer

Jessica Helfand is an artist, designer, and writer. She grew up in Paris and New York City, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Yale University where she taught for more than two decades. A founding editor of Design Observer, she is the author of numerous books on visual and cultural criticism including Design: The Invention of Desire (Yale University Press, 2016), Face: A Visual History (MITPress, 2019) and Self Reliance : Twelve Essays (Thames&Hudson, 2021). The first-ever recipient, in 2010, of the Henry Wolf Residency at the American Academy in Rome, Jessica Helfand has been a Director’s Guest at Civitella Ranieri, a fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation, and the Artist in Residence at Caltech.

Michael Horsham

Writer, Associate at Tomato Collective

Michael Horsham, is an RCA alumnus who has spent the last few decades working as part of the renowned Tomato collective, and as an independent thinker/maker and doer. Michael’s work has spanned commercial art, installations, advertising, branding and naming, as well as music and writing. Michael has always written, the latest iteration is Hello Human (Thames and Hudson 2022) an exploration of the history of visual communication with special reference to the coming influence of machines and machine learning.

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Executive Education