Making a Creative Partner Out of AI: Q&A with Craig Dobie of Applied Design
by Jordan P. Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling
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As Co-Founder and Creative Director at Applied Design Works, Craig Dobie brings a wealth of experience to the table, having contributed to high-profile projects for esteemed organizations such as the Braille Institute, CleanLogic, National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Citi's sponsorship of Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Games, the World Trade Center Redevelopment, and more. Projects like these are often completed by many who participate in a creative pipeline of ideation, refinement, and ultimately execution. With the emergence of tools like Chat-GPT, folks like Craig are learning how to implement and integrate AI tools into that process.
BrandStorytelling caught up with Craig to discuss his point of view on leveraging tools like Chat-GPT to expand and refine initial creative ideas and how AI interfaces can be implemented as valuable tools in a project's journey to completion:
Tell us more about Applied Design Works - what inspired its founding?
We founded Applied Design on the premise of being experts with a beginner’s mindset. Every project has its own dynamics that are best approached with an open mind while simultaneously drawing upon past experiences (but not too much). Our most impactful work typically has its origin in a realization that occurs in the middle of the project and is born from continuous curiosity. Rather than racing to a preconceived conclusion driven by experience alone, we follow a journey of discovery and exploration toward more meaningful outcomes.
Can you break down the many facets of what Applied Design Works offers brands?
Firstly, we are practitioners–we love rolling up our sleeves and getting into the nitty gritty. Whether that is doing management interviews, writing research questions, taking field measurements, wordsmithing headlines, pushing pixels, going on press, or editing video. We create across many different industries, for a wide range of audiences, and in most channels.
We are a multi-disciplinary design studio that helps businesses reshape their brands and experiences. We offer a wide range of services, including:
We help businesses develop and implement strong brands that resonate with their target audiences. We work on everything from brand identity and messaging to visual design and brand strategy.
We create engaging and memorable experiences for customers and employees alike. We design physical and digital spaces, as well as touchpoints like signage, packaging, and websites.
We develop innovative and user-friendly products. We work on everything from ideation to prototyping to launch.
We help businesses develop creative strategies that align with their business goals. We work on everything from marketing campaigns to content strategies to social media campaigns.
What kind of brand clients do you work with? Can you speak to any recent work examples?
At first glance our clients look like an eclectic group of companies with not much in common. However, the thread that unites them is ambition. They have a clear business vision that we help them achieve through branding and design. Clients such as NYU Langone Health, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Cleanlogic, the New York MTA.
Given what’s gone on this year with the explosion of AI interfaces and discussion of their use in the workplace, where do you stand on these tools and using them at work?
Generative AI is very useful to us. We are all for it. In fact, we use it a lot more than we had initially envisioned we would. Perhaps it is our inquisitive nature that drives us to use it more and more. We are constantly finding new useful ways to integrate it into our process. AI excels in a few realms and is surprisingly disappointing in some others. We gave up the idea that it will give you THE answer almost immediately and discovered that it is a great assistant and even a pretty good creative partner. On a practical level, we use it to save time summarizing information into easily understood concise content. If you are an expert on the subject at hand, you can gauge the reliability of the output, and if it contains any hallucinations or not. On the more creative side, we often use AI to bounce around ideas or fool around with changing the tone of content we have already written—sometimes deliberately taking it to interesting extremes to see where it leads. We almost exclusively use AI for inspiration and ideation, rarely as part of the finished product.
What did your project workflow look like before AI? What does it look like now? Can you speak to the differences, if any?
To be honest our work flow looks almost exactly the same as it did before. Some aspects of our work can be done much faster using AI with the output being very similar to what we would have created with our own time and effort. We appreciate those time savings very much and have come to rely on them. When ideating, AI is simply another mind in the room contributing to the creative process.
How productive do you find the results you get after prompting ChatGPT?
The results can be great, terrible or just plain unhelpful. Using AI is a skill all unto itself. It is quite rewarding to write the kind of prompt that gets good results. In many ways, creative prompt writing has become an art form.
How important do you feel it is to still employ human checks on AI results and why?
Very. Just because something generated sounds convincing, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t completely invented with little or no basis in fact. We tend to use ChatGPT for more evocative responses and Google Bard when we are looking for something that relies on information. We always fact check the accuracy of everything that we may later need to rely upon.
What advice would you give other brand creatives and experts looking to implement AI tools into their workflow?
Be open minded and use AI in many ways to find where it fits in your process. Write your prompt from the perspective of a subject expert. Try different tones in your prompts. I’ve been surprised by how well AI responds when I take a demanding but encouraging Creative Director like tone to my prompts.
About Craig Dobie
By using different media and approaches, Craig Dobie has strategically communicated important messages to the public. Taking into consideration utility and experience, he strategically communicates messages and meaning to an audience. As a co-founder of Applied Design, Craig created, manages, and implements brands in both Europe and the United States. His understanding of how to identify and articulate a brand’s essence stems from years spent in key creative positions at Landor Associates, Addison, Interbrand, and Wolff Olins. Applied’s distinguished and expanding client list includes Westfield, MTA, The Central Park Conservancy, NYU Langone Health, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Pfizer, and Council on Foreign Relations.
Craig’s work has received international critical acclaim and accolades, including a Recognition of Excellence in Design from AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), various honors at the Good Design Awards, and a Gold Lion from the Cannes International Festival of Creativity.