An interview with Heather Crank of Crahmanti

 

by Darlene Veenhuizen

AI has been the hot topic of 2023 and one we at DASH have been discussing and learning about. There are a ton of new tools out, from ChatGPT 4 to Midjourney to integrated tools you can now use in programs like Canva and Adobe Firefly

Is your head spinning with all this new tech? What are the implications for artists, designers, and writers? Is the world turning into a place where art is commodified? To help us come to terms with AI and learn to embrace it, Darlene interviewed Heather Crank, founder and designer at Crahmanti. We explore these topics of AI and discuss what the future (could) look like. 

Here’s the interview! 

Darlene Veenhuizen: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. Mostly we wanted to talk about AI. We’ve talked about AI on our blog and social media specifically with writing, so chat GPT, but we haven’t talked about it from the design side. It’s so riddled with questions and controversy and as you probably know more than me about that and I’ve kind of like just started to dip my toe into it. So I really wanted to just kind of chat with you and I have some questions for you about all of this! 

Heather Crank: Thanks for having me! 

Darlene Veenhuizen: So I know you’ve been posting the daily meditation sketches you make with AI. So I want to find out more about that. And so, my first question is, what tools are you using for AI with design or an art and how in what ways are using them?

Heather Crank: So I use primarily Midjourney, I’ve experimented with DALL-E  too, but it’s like super uber hyper realistic and it’s almost kind of jarring. Midjourney is a lot more poetic and I’m noticing more designers are gravitating towards Midjourney just because it’s a little bit more creative in the way and it interprets images and then I’ll use Photoshop and Illustrator, to play with it more… 

Darlene Veenhuizen: Is it like you give it word prompts? 

Heather Crank:  Mm-hmm.

Darlene Veenhuizen: Then it generates an image. And how far do you take it in Photoshop? 

Heather Crank:  It just depends. I mean, certain things Midjourney is better at than others and I usually have something in my mind that I want to create first. So if Midjourney gets sort of close-ish then, I don’t have to spend a lot of time in Photoshop although, you know, the thing with Midjourney is that you can tell it’s a Midjourney creation. 

I kind of want to mess with it because I feel like  Midjourney is going to start feeling like stock photography, and I don’t want my work to feel like the generic, Midjourney stuff. So I intentionally try and really go past that.

Darlene Veenhuizen: So you start with something in mind? Like a desired result? 

Heather Crank:  Oh yeah. If I’m working in MidjourneyI it’s just like any other design project where I have an idea of what I want to create and I’m gonna try and create that thing. The morning meditations I do, those are just me messing around. That’s just it’s I don’t know if you have this too, but like I feel like I have so much creative energy and I have trouble winding down and it’s sort of a relief to do something with it. 

So my friend Rob Garrett the other day said, Oh yeah, it’s like playing video games. It’s kind of that thing like It’s a mental relief to sort of offload, the mental, you know?  All the activity that’s going on. So those are those morning meditations. And they’re also kind of like what I’m thinking about in the morning and I’m sort of setting the tone creatively for the day. 

AI and Client Work

Darlene Veenhuizen: Do you ever use it for client work? 

Heather Crank:  Client work is a whole different animal. While the morning meditations are just for me. That’s just what’s in my brain. You’re seeing you’re seeing my thought process visually, when I’m working with the client, you know, you’ve got the brief, and I’m trying to create something really, really uber specific. And I’ll use it for a comp or  storyboards. Just general concept direction for things. It’s fantastic, it’s really fast.

Darlene Veenhuizen: Okay. Interesting,  and then do you tell them it’s AI when you share it with the client? 

Heather Crank: Yeah. I feel a responsibility to tell my clients at least right now that this is AI generated.

Heather Crank: [ It’s like saying ] This is a baseline that I’m gonna set and then we’ll make it our own in that way. I mean, you don’t have to tell the client  if you could get away with it but I, personally, I’d like to tell people because the copyright licensing for Midjourney, basically, right now, you create the imagery and you own it. But if that were to change at any point, I don’t want any people to be really unhappy and have to go back and have to pull work. So it’s sort of a I’m protecting myself and I’m protecting my client until I know a hundred percent. Because I don’t want anybody to be sued. So I’m careful.

 

Advantages to AI 

Darlene Veenhuizen: Cool. And I like that! And so you already mentioned that it’s fast, are there other advantages that you see to using AI?

Heather Crank: Yes it’s super fast. It  works really fast across all mediums. So, if I wanted to create something photographic, something illustrative, something in like, a 3D modeling texture, kind of environment, you can do all of that so fast. And so, I guess technically you don’t even need to know the programs to be able to generate the different output.

You just need to know how to speak the language. You need to. If I were going to create a 3D Model piece. I would need to speak to the AI about different render engines types of lighting that you would use in a 3D program. Or the same with photography.

If I wanted to create like a A 35 millimeter photograph with a slow shutter speed. We just need to be able to speak the language and then you can generate anything. So I think what I’m trying to say is flexibility and speed [are the two main advantages.]

 

Is AI coming for the job of designer and artist? 

Darlene Veenhuizen: So this brings me to another question about design and art. And you mentioned, 3D rendering like, And that’s pretty specific to the designer world. So like I know one of the big questions with designers is basically like is AI gonna take our jobs? Do you think that clients would start to go to AI for some of the things that a designer might be doing? Or do you feel like it’s like another tool in our toolbox as designers that would still be sort of like just in the designer’s realm.

Heather Crank: I think production design and art  is in trouble, you know, like stock photography. Anybody who works in production, you know, like some of the work I do. The stuff that’s really simple or not, doesn’t involve really developed thought and skill. Where it’s like, I’m just making things move but it’s not. If it’s production work. If it’s simplistic production work, AI is, coming for you. For sure,…

So designers will still have a great place at the table and anything that needs to be higher end custom. Highly conceptual really developed as far as thinking but just general, like, if I were to enter pink, paint explosion into Midjourney, it would give me something amazing, like, like that? but if I wanted to do something really specific and conceptual

Heather Crank: Then it would take me some time. So that’s…where the, the high-end thinking, the art, directing the conceptual type of work, [with AI in the picture] you’ll be fine.

 

Disadvantages of AI

Darlene Veenhuizen: Are there other disadvantages that you may see when using AI?

Heather Crank: I think one of the disadvantages is that the work can start to look pretty close to an actual artist. Work people who aren’t trained in and  don’t understand. Design can just create imagery really quickly right now. So, I think for people working in the field, that’s a big disadvantage because they’re just not visually educated. So, it could create a whole bunch of crap work that’s gonna proliferate everywhere. And if you’re not a CEO of a company that understands a difference, It could lower the development of design as far as really good work. 

 

But I also think it’s like any trend where it will be everywhere for a while and then it will kind of calm back down. So Disadvantage, bad design, bad visuals all over the place for a period of time, not great.

And of course copyrights. That’s another disadvantage. 

Darlene Veenhuizen:  Yeah, that’s what I hear about the court cases; I hear the main issue is how you could basically be ripping off other people.

Heather Crank: Yeah, I actually watched a really great YouTube video the other day and this lawyer really broke down. What’s happening with Getty images right now? So when AI generates an image it has in the code itself or it has a random component. So every image it generates is technically different, although it can be very similar. So the AI kind of has that legal argument, that nothing is the same. And so the question becomes about [inspiration and influence]. I think we all struggle when you are inspired by somebody knowing how much you have to change something for it to be yours and not somebody else’s, especially if you’re following trends? So where is it ripping somebody off and where is it my personal work?  So that going to become a thing.

Darlene Veenhuizen: Yeah. For sure. 

Heather Crank: And AI will get better, it gets better all the time. Although, I have to say I can still spot it everywhere…. I just it has a certain quality. I can’t put it into words. I can just tell. 

Darlene Veenhuizen: Do you think that, maybe where we’re going is that we can start to sort of AI, like ourselves? Like I could put into an image, like my work and be like, this is my stuff. So, you know, remix it and give me something for this new client. Like I could say create something in the style of Darlene for this person. 

Heather Crank:  I think chat GPT is already doing that right now. Yeah. It’s creepy.

Yeah, and they’re doing some speculation about creating historical figures and having historical museums where you can go interact with people from history, where it’s generating the likeness, and the personality and the verbal patterns of that person. So that is that kind of craziness is in our future and I do think we will become more and more automated, and it’s going to be more about your unique ability to think…because after a while, you know, it’s just going to be like a remix of everything you’ve ever done, so, Is that…

It could get boring. So I don’t know, you know, it’s gonna be interesting because I think back to some trends that were a little disruptive. And where that where we are now and I really couldn’t have predicted. 

Darlene Veenhuizen: so, I listened to I listened to a podcast about it and last week, and it was basically saying, like, and, There’s sort of this fear of it’s gonna take my job, which we already covered or there’s like a spirit of like “let’s get on board” because if we don’t we’re gonna be left behind. Would you say you’re more in that camp?

Heather Crank:  Yep. Oh yeah.

Darlene Veenhuizen: Is that like why you’ve started doing this work wth AI? 

Heather Crank: No. No,…

Darlene Veenhuizen: Okay. Tell me more about that. 

Heather Crank: It, was about eight months ago, I just started playing with it and it just was drawn to it but I think it’s the language component. I really love language and I kind of let that side of myself. Go a long time ago. So I was like, I’m never gonna do anything with this, you know, it’s just for me.

So when I brought the language and the visual component together, it just really was exciting to me. Some people hate it. It all depends on how you create, you know, like I have a, my friend Rob Garrett. I was talking to him about it the other night and he is a real tactical person. So creating with words for him is just not very fun for him.

Darlene Veenhuizen: Yeah, that’s a good point. You have to marry both visual and language.

Get on Board with AI

Heather Crank:  Yeah, I just think it’s kind of how you create and the way you like to create, you know, Like Greg my husband for example you know he’s like all tactical like the idea of this would just be a nightmare he is so not verbal in his creativity at all. He’s full-on visual and full-on tactile. So for some people it is really hard.

And I do think, now looking at how it’s developing, it will crush people. If they don’t start to get on board, you will absolutely crush them.

Darlene Veenhuizen: Yeah, so can anybody use a Midjourney? Go download it or is it an app?

Heather Crank: Yeah. So for Midjourney, you need to create two accounts, one on discord and one at midjourney.com, anybody can use it, there are different membership levels. the only caveat is like the really cheap membership level, it’s easy to burn through all of your images really quickly. The amount of images that let you create.  And there’s a $30 membership that I feel is good. You’re getting a lot for the money, but everybody can see your work and you can’t work privately until you go to the pro membership. 

Darlene Veenhuizen: Ok, well I think I’m getting on board with AI a lot more now after this conversation… 

Heather Crank: You know, I think all technology, I mean, we’re all dark and light and technology just reflects us, right? It’s our creation. It’s society and it’s just reflecting ourselves back to us. So there are people who will do really bad things with this. And there are people who do really good things with this, and I think the field of AI ethics is going to be big. That’s going to be a huge new field. And I think it’s up to us to have a voice in how it’s developed.

 That’s why I’m really a champion to get artists and designers involved in AI as fast as possible so that we can speak to it and have a voice in what happens because I personally am tired of having the short end of the stick (with a lot of thing, with tech and the “bro verse” in general). I would like to see a lot of women and people we don’t normally see of different nationalities come into this sphere and just take over because right now it’s wide open.

Now is the time.

 

Darlene Veenhuizen: I love it! I’m so glad that you were able to come chat with me here and thank you so much for your time today.

Heather Crank: You are so welcome.

 

Will you use AI for your business? What are your favorite tools? Go comment on our posts on Instagram and tell us what you think about AI.

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