Revolutionizing Design with AI: Exploring the World of Generative Design

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Marketing Podcast with Russ Perry

Russ Perry, a guest on the Duct Tape Marketing PodcastIn this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Russ Perry. Russ, the founder, and CEO of Design Pickle, is a seasoned creative leader, entrepreneur, author, and thought leader. As a former agency owner, Perry intimately understands the challenges associated with all aspects of creative work and has transformed the creative process through Design Pickle.

Key Takeaway:

AI is a hot topic right now and will continue to be. But what role does AI play in design? Russ Perry joins me to talk about how AI is totally shaking up the world of design. We dive into “generative design,” a fancy term for using computer programs to create really complex designs and make them better in certain ways (like cheaper, lighter, or more efficient).

Questions I ask Russ Perry:

  • [2:18] How do you define this idea of generative design?
  • [7:11] If someone wants to use AI in the design process in a commercial or corporate setting, what does that look like today?
  • [11:27] Does AI in design mean the cost of acquiring design should go down dramatically?
  • [14:56] How are you incorporating AI at Design Pickle?
  • [17:57] Do you see this tool set helping people reach their goals faster and being a better option?
  • [19:51] How has your job changed?
  • [22:53] Where can people connect with you and learn more about your work?

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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Outbound Squad, hosted by Jason Bay, and brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. The audio destination for business professionals host Jason Bay, dives in with leading sales experts and top performing reps to share actionable tips and strategies to help you land more meetings with your ideal clients. In a recent episode called Quick Hacks to Personalize Your Outreach, he speaks with Ethan Parker about how to personalize your outreach in a more repeatable way. Something every single one of us has to do it. Listen to Outbound Squad wherever you get your podcast.

(00:48): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Russ Perry. He's the founder and c e o of Design Pickle. He's a seasoned creative leader, entrepreneur, author, and I already said leader. So he's also a thought leader and a creative leader. It's amazing. Used to own an agency. He intimately understands the challenges associated with all aspects of creative work and has transformed the creative process through Design Pickle. So actually I get to say welcome back, Ross.

Russ Perry (01:20): Thank you. Is this my second or third time? I feel like I've, this is a good, I love being back

John Jantsch (01:25): . It might actually be a third time. So in, in your intro we kind of outlined it, but in, in past shows, if we'll link to those past shows, so you can go see how Russ's voice has changed. I don't think we were doing videos, but No. Like Beard,

Russ Perry (01:38): Gray, more gray hair for sure. .

John Jantsch (01:41): But, uh, you know, essentially Design Pickle is a, you know, design platform that you can buy on a subscription basis. You could probably do a better job of explaining it than I just did, but we'll get into the components of that. But today I specifically wanna focus on a very trendy topic, and design circles. And that's ai. I mean, obviously AI's been around for a while, but it seems like now that people have found this chat, G p T thing, you know, everything is ai, right? And everybody's talking about ai, but of course, like all things in the creative space, you guys tend to refer to it not as like AI design, but generative design or generative creation. Mm-hmm. . So let's start there, you know, how does that, how do you define that term if somebody comes to you and starts saying, are you guys using ai? How do you da? How do you dive into this idea of generative design?

Russ Perry (02:29): Yeah, well let me take it super high level cuz I assume there's probably a few people who have no idea what we're talking about. And I wanna make sure that, you know, even if you haven't heard the trend, you can still catch up with us.

John Jantsch (02:40): Yeah. There's a good chance that I have no idea what we're talking about .

Russ Perry (02:43): So, so you're right. You nailed it. This has actually been around a while. And basically what it is, computer algorithms that are trained on data sets that then learn how to create visuals. Words actually space, not a lot of people have been talking about, but it's been, it's, it's been part of this space for a long time is 3D printing and actually like 3D modeling type work. There's a lot of generative design, but effectively you create a, create an algorithm through a bunch of data, a bunch of rules, and then you give it a prompt and based off of this data and rules and outputs and visual words, whatever, then you train the model, you say, yes, this is what I was looking for, or No, this is way off. And it's, it's through neural networks and the way the technology is built, it gets smarter and it gets more accurate for receiving inputs and output and giving you an output that's practical.

(03:33): So this is just really hit the mainstream, you know, the, the most, the biggest player right now that's leading the way publicly. There's a, like all the big tech companies are working on it, but the ones that you and I can access today is from open ai. And they have a visual tool called Dolly, and they have a copy content tool called Chat G p T. Right. And, and it's mind blown. I mean really, like, there's really nothing you can, no lighter way to describe it with you use these tools where you can go in, I mean, we could say, Hey, let's have a, a photo of us writing a dragon through Niagara Falls and then all of a sudden we have a photo realistic photo of you and I writing a dragon through Niagara Falls. So it's been super buzzy. Everyone's really excited about it.

(04:12): But I think a lot of people aren't having the conversation on like, well how does this actually, how do you use it? Right? How do you use it practically? What is the use case for it? And, and, and this was actually something that I've been thinking a lot about because there's been so many evolutions in the creative process and the creation process over the last 30, 40 years from just the digitization of it, which was, um, ear, like a little before my career started. But it was, you know, when people were like, Hey, we can actually use computers to u to design. And then obviously tooling side has evolved with cloud tooling and how we distribute content and how we access content and be inspired and just the,

John Jantsch (04:53): The bandwidth and the size of storage , you know, that's got so I mean all

Russ Perry (04:57): That. Yeah, exactly. And then, I mean, you can even be as basic as say like video, you know, like video wasn't a thing 20 years ago. It, it wasn't where it was at. So what we're really witnessing right now is just another evolution in the creative process. And I wanna touch on this term generative design because it's actually a term that is how design already works without computers . So if I design something for you, or Design Pickle creates something for you, John, you're like, nah, I'm not, I'm not, so I'm not so hot, like I want something else. And what do you do? You provide feedback and then you get a better output and you go through this generative process. All that these tools are doing is doing that almost instantaneously and you can iterate almost instantaneously. So rather than having to wait for a designer to come back to you with the revisions, you can go through in this pretty quick.

(05:51): Um, so it's kind of fun. And there's all sorts. I mean, we can go in tons of directions, legality. Yeah. Tech, how it's built, how it's used. But I think a lot of people are actually hyping it up a little too much. It's kind of just like, well hey, I used to draw with a pencil and now I have a computer that can automatically do what I need to do. And that's kind of the same way I'm looking at this is like used to take me three or four days to get ideas and concepts. Now I can do it instantaneously. Think about how much of an advantage you have. Yeah, yeah. And time saved inside of these tools. And for me, any creative who's not thinking about how to start using them into their workflows is similar to the creative who is like computers, nah. Like yeah. Don't think this is gonna be a thing.

John Jantsch (06:37): . Well, yeah, I mean you could say cars, you know, aren't gonna be a thing. Right? The internet, you know, that's the stupid thing for, you know, these people, right? So we've seen this before , you know? Exactly. Yeah. And I'm 100% with you that, that I think a lot of people are looking futuristic beyond what the actual capabilities of AI are and maybe ever be. And they're ringing their hands about that. Where is it today? Like if somebody came to you and said, you know, we want to use AI in the design process, you know, of doing X, Y, z. You know, how would you say, okay, it's here to this point. You already mentioned a little bit the efficiencies and the speed, but what about like in commercial use? Corporate use, you know,

Russ Perry (07:18): Right.

John Jantsch (07:18): Where is it? Where does it sit?

Russ Perry (07:21): So like everything can change overnight, right? Like, so these tools, they have more advanced versions of them that we don't have access to. So, you know, today, and this again tomorrow, I could be wrong, but today the commercial use is pretty minimal. And here's a great analogy that I use. Like, I love cooking, I love food, I love cooking shows, I love reading cookbooks and stuff. There's actually, you know, random, I just saw this super dark documentary on HR mockumentary, I mean on H B O called the menu, which is really funny and dark, kind of making fun of food culture. Anyway, random. But a chef has all the pieces in a kitchen and all the people that they need to make the meals. And right now that's how I look at design, right? And creativity in general, whether it's verbal, visual, video, you have the visual elements, the copy elements, you have the business case, like what is this?

(08:12): What is this intention? What do I need this to do? What's the call to action? Is it a click? Is it an ad? You have the audience that you need to consider. And if you think about cooking, it's similar, right? You have the food elements, you have the spices, you have the genre of the restaurant, why people are coming to you. You have the specific customers that all want different things. And, and right now what we're seeing is we're seeing the cost of the elements go to almost zero. So this would be like in a kitchen, all of a sudden my vegetables and my spices are immediate and instantaneous and cost me nothing. You still have to make the meal. And so that's really what I see these tools doing. They're creating the pieces and really raw like photos, images, graphics, content, copy. But that alone isn't gonna accomplish a business's goals at this stage.

(09:02): Most of the visual tools can't lay out copy and content into their designs. It looks like some mutated, you know, there that you can't say I wanna fly or that says this, which to a regular designer is very easy to do. But these tools can't, cannot do that yet. And I'm, and I know they'll get there. And so when you think about today, it's like, wow, my elements of design are becoming more immediate. Yeah. And they're becoming cheaper or free, which this just in turn speeds up your creative process. And what I'm bullish on, and this is goes for all AI and technology is humans will always exist to close the gap. So wherever the tool effectiveness stops, that's where humans come in to then assemble the meal plate, the spices, you know, do the fancy things and get it out the door to the table.

(09:53): And so that's the same with design. Design will require people to take these elements to understand the context which the technology can do to create the content in a way and guide it and use it in a way that's like achieving the goal and speaking to the audience that we're speaking to. And I think that's exciting. Like I think for creatives it's like, wow, I don't have to spend half a day coming up with concepts. I can use these tools and learn how to use these tools well. And then now I can send immediate concepts to my clients and then they can pick and then I take the one they like and I fine tune it and do my special sauce. And I just like, for me, that seems awesome, right? Instead of growing your tomatoes over three months, you could just go get the tomatoes for free.

John Jantsch (10:41): Hey, marketing agency owners, you know, I can teach you the keys to doubling your business in just 90 days or your money back. Sound interesting. All you have to do is license our three step process. It's going to allow you to make your competitors irrelevant, charge a premium for your services and scale perhaps without adding overhead. And here's the best part. You can license this entire system for your agency by simply participating in an upcoming agency certification intensive look, why create the wheel? Use a set of tools that took us over 20 years to create. And you can have 'em today, check it out at That's DTM world slash certification. Well, so in listening to that thread, does that mean that the price or what it will cost somebody to acquire design should go down dramatically?

Russ Perry (11:37): Yeah, and I, I think it, I think there's two parts of design. I mean, food is an easier analogy to answer that question cuz you have hard costs of foods and things. But I even, I'll continue that thread, A fine dining restaurant, what you're really paying for is the experience you're not paying for. Yeah. They might have some gold flakes on something and that added up some, you know, caviar on your, you know, oyster or whatever. But I think what will still maintain prices is the ability for people to go deeper, to do more, to provide a better quality product because they are able to spend more time on the parts that matter. And this could be research, this could be more in depth, you know, like details of how they execute these items. But the raw elements are gonna go down. Like if you're a stock photography site right now, you're just like freaking out. Yeah. And because cuz now people can generate pretty much anything they want on demand. Now are photographers going on gonna go out of business? I don't think so. I think there's gonna always be a premium for the skillsets that people have to create very hyper-specific things. Cuz these tools, one of their drawbacks is they're not very repeatable. Right? Right. So if I want the same output over and over, they cannot do that. I can put the same prompt and it's gonna gimme something different every time.

John Jantsch (13:01): Yeah. You're not gonna get your family of illustrations, you know, that you're gonna use in the exact same

Russ Perry (13:06): Style. Exactly. That's on brand that matches your stuff. But that's where the designers and the creatives come in, is they take the thing that you want and then they build it out on spec. On demand.

John Jantsch (13:16): Yeah. I personally, you know, I, I just play with it, but I personally have not been able to get very good images. I get great content , I've got that down. I cannot get images worth a darn, you know, they, they've like my, the face is always melting or something.

Russ Perry (13:30): . Yeah, yeah. Well and it is, and it's similar to, you know, imagine for whatever reason I was watching the original 1984 Steve Jobs keynote where he launched the Mac and you look at the visual tools that were groundbreaking. Well, every artist in the crowd was like, this looks like crap. It's so pixelated, it doesn't actually work. I could do so much better and we're gonna just see that again. You know? Yeah. And I think things will evolve. Yeah. Um, I do believe creatives will need to learn a new skillset. I think there's going to be an AI prompt manager, you know, someone who understands the algorithms, understands how to put in the inputs, understands how to get into outputs. And you know, that might be its own design career. I don't actually use tools of traditional design. I'm able to design using all of these algorithms and I'm an expert in that.

John Jantsch (14:19): That's a really interesting point. I mean, because theoretically if you have a library of conventions of prompts, right? Mm-hmm. , you could produce a family of output.

Russ Perry (14:30): Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. And how, you know that and how you know, to manipulate and how you understand the algorithms. A great example in our spaces would be like SEO optimization experts. You know, they, they don't have the exact, you know, the formula down that Google and other algorithms are using, but they know if I do this, it gets this result. If I do this, it gets this result. These are the best practices. Yeah. So I think there'll be a whole new career opening up around how these are managed and used.

John Jantsch (14:56): How is it, how are you incorporating it at Design Pickle, if you are at all?

Russ Perry (15:01): Yeah. So my product team will kill me if I make too many promises. But here's what I know is true , what we're really looking at first, and this is the fir, you know, we actually have AI and a lot of things in inside our technology that, that optimizes the system every day that clients don't see.

John Jantsch (15:17): Yeah. But I tell people all the time, you know, Google Maps is basically ai, you knows like exactly, that's ai. Okay, it's

Russ Perry (15:24): There. But where we're looking at first is how do we shorten the creative cycle, which really comes down to less revisions, right? Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm . Like if I'm able to understand what you're wanting and deliver that straightaway and that's pretty close, then you might have some fine tuning or a round of revision, but then you get your end product faster, that's great for us because we can work on the next project That's great for you. Cuz then you can get your items outside market, whatever you're doing. So what we really believe is the first stop for these tools is gonna be for creatives and clients to better communicate visually and do it instantaneously. So if a client is creating a design brief, they can say, Hey, these are the, you know, use these tools to create example images, mockups, layouts. Mm-hmm. , you know, and they may be really off brand, they may not be exactly what they want. There may be some melted faces on there or whatever. But like the point is the creative can receive that and they're now, instead of like 20% clear of what the designer wants, they're like 70% clear. And from then they can start their design process. And vice versa, if a client's unwilling or just not really wanting to spend time on their brief and send things in the creative can use these tools to quickly spin up ideas and send those to the client and get to that like

John Jantsch (16:41): Eliminate a bunch of ideas. Yeah, exactly. What's the old joke in the design industry? It's like keep, you know, keep sending me revisions, I'll know it when I see it, right? I mean, it's like now Yeah, I'll know it when I see it. It's like, well pick from these hundred and like tell me .

Russ Perry (16:55): Yeah. Yeah. And there is a bit of psychology in the design process. You know, I'm gonna let, I'm gonna let all of you out there listening who work with creatives. Sometimes creatives just are trying to maximize for what you, they think you'll like, not necessarily what might be the best design in their opinion. And so, because it really is about, the creative process is very emotional, it's about often you're reflecting a brand someone cares a lot about. So if we're able to guide the, the preference, you know, path faster as a creative, we can land on something that's gonna be, that you're gonna be happier with quicker, which means everyone wins. We get done faster. Now, is that good or bad? I don't know. But I do know creatives do it every day. And I think for me it's like, I think it's not just about the design, it's about the copy, it's about the audience. It's about the call to action. So there's just so much more that goes into it that makes an effective design. And sometimes people just get so wrapped up in the visuals that if we can shorten that, then that's helpful. Yeah.

John Jantsch (17:57): Well, so I was gonna go there. Where will this tool set? Because it can crunch data, you know, differently as part of the design process. Do you see it actually saying, look, this is your best choice , you know? Yeah. In other words saying, you know this for the goals and the objectives of what this is supposed to do. This is your best option.

Russ Perry (18:17): So we're seeing those tools. So those tools have existed actually as well. And I'm a little, I'm a little torn on these tools because think about this from a real logical example. If I have a data set of, let's just say Instagram ads, right? And I'm evaluating all the highest click through rates on Instagram ads, and then I give that tool to the masses and I said, Hey, use this tool and it's gonna tell you what designs are best. It's gonna obviously start optimizing and recommending certain types of designs to everybody. Well, now what happens if everybody's using these design recommendations and floods the market with the same thing, all of the sudden now what was innovative and driving action is now commonplace and it's not catching eyeballs anymore. So I think these tools are, I don't know, I haven't seen any that are st we've tested them in the past.

(19:09): Um, but I do think these models kind of somewhat of an answer to your question, will start to be able to learn your style and start to be able to design for what your needs are. And intuitively that should be based off of what's the best for your client, for your audiences and things like that. Yeah. Um, so I think it will, I think there will be optimization in the sense that it's gonna be able, these algorithms and the tools will advance in a sense that they can start understanding more than just these broad data sets. They can start understanding audiences and intent products, you know, industries and create accordingly. So personalizing outside of that. Yeah.

John Jantsch (19:50): Personalizing. Personalizing. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I wanna finish up with one totally not related design question to, since we talked last. How has your job changed ?

Russ Perry (19:59): Yeah, . So my job has gotten so much cooler and harder since we've last chatted because I think the early days of Design Pickle we're just like, Hey, let's help people work with flat rate creatives. And that's the core. A thousand bucks a month, you get designer working fear one or two hours a day every business day of the week. It's unbeatable and it's super solid. But we saw so many other problems in the creative process beyond finding the designer. How do you manage files? How do you collaborate, how do you integrate these AI tools and use them properly? Because it is, you know, good John, if you're just sitting in the, in your office downloading assets to your desktop. So what, you still have to do things with them, you know? And so that's where we're starting to think, and I love this type of problem solving, but man, it boggles my mind sometimes because really like we're trying to do what, there are single companies that are huge companies that are just doing file management. Mm-hmm. , there are big companies that are just doing revisions and collaboration. There're single companies that are integrating AI tools into their and building them. And we're trying to do it all. And we're trying to create the most streamlined, efficient, scalable, creative process for our clients. So I definitely have a lot of sleepless nights, that's for sure.

John Jantsch (21:10): . Well the, you know, the one element of course that would add a lot to anybody's plate is just the size of team that your team has grown to.

Russ Perry (21:18): Yeah. Yeah. We'll break a hundred people this year, full-time employees and, you know, six, 700 creatives and support teams around the world. So it's a big group.

John Jantsch (21:27): Yeah. Just the comings and goings of that amount of people, you know, adds a whole nother level of complexity. Yeah. Do you feel there's gonna be a point where the role will outgrow you? The company will outgrow you, your ability to keep up? Because you're obviously, you know, making stuff up on the fly right now,

Russ Perry (21:42): ,

John Jantsch (21:43): I very positive and just actual practical way. I mean, that's just a

Russ Perry (21:47): Real, so it already has like, like here's the deal, John. It already has. But here's what I've learned as we've grown, I just start to get narrow, more narrowly focused into my areas of expertise. And I hire really smart people who are much better around me. And so I love to be a leader. I love to be a visionary, and I think that will never outgrow me. I, my ideas are still too big for this company. Sometimes some of the things that I come up with, but of course I'm not running our p and l anymore. Yeah, of course. I'm not doing our forecasting. I'm not running our product roadmap meeting. So we have incredible team members there. But, you know, at the end of the day there is a, a strategy for Design Pickle to, to grow big and have a huge transaction and, you know, support the team members that we have who have a piece of the pie and everyone else who's supported of us. So depends on, you know, if Adobe buys us, maybe I'll keep on going with them. If it's boring, outsourced company from, you know, some no name part of the world, then I may not wanna go forward with them anymore. .

John Jantsch (22:48): Well, Russ, I certainly appreciate you taking a few moments to stop by and update us here on the Duct Tech Marketing podcast. Do you wanna I do. Where do you want to invite people to check some stuff out?

Russ Perry (22:57): Yeah, so I, I want, I'll answer that, but I have one more little quick words of wisdom for everybody. Check me out on LinkedIn just in slash Russ Perry. That's where you can find me. This technology is gonna be, at some point, it's gonna be like email, web protocol. Mm-hmm. , it's gonna be very standardized and very universal or almost free. The technology, the way that people will use this technology is how do they customize it for their use cases? How do they customize it with their own data and how do they really use it in a specific way? So it's the early days, but if anyone's listening about this, you, no one's gonna out chat, g p t chat, g p t so far ahead with tens of billions of dollars. But they're opening that up in innovative ways for you to use it and customize it and build on it. So that's what I would leave everyone with is this is gonna be so commonplace in 3, 4, 5 years. What will you then create on top of it and how will you leverage it? That's what gets me excited.

John Jantsch (23:56): I, I would throw in, I think the next obvious sort of opportunity is to niche this down to industries. Yeah. Um, and make it, you know, for them, personalized for them. Because you can now very easily. And then I would say, you know, beyond that, it's really the mass personalization is now possible.

Russ Perry (24:13): Absolutely.

John Jantsch (24:14): Everybody gets a different email, everybody gets a different webpage when they visit. I mean, that's possible.

Russ Perry (24:19): Yeah. Yeah. Cool, John, well thanks for having me back. Let's get it, let's get it together again. Once everything changes, once again,

John Jantsch (24:26): . That's right. We'll have to explore it. So talking with Russ Perry, founder of Design Pickle. It's just design as I recall to check 'em out.

Russ Perry (24:34): All right. Take care.

John Jantsch (24:35): Yeah, take care. And hopefully we'll run into you again soon. One of these days out there on the road

Russ Perry (24:40): Or in virtual AI environments, . Exactly.

John Jantsch (24:43): Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find [email protected] Co check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network.

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