The role of design in systems with Artificial Intelligence:
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The role of design in systems with Artificial Intelligence

Design plays a central role in the development of digital products. But what role does design play in systems which use artificial intelligence?  Before answering…

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Design plays a central role in the development of digital products. But what role does design play in systems which use artificial intelligence? 

Before answering that question, I think we need to understand what makes a good design, and what are the characteristics which differentiate a good design from a bad design.

Paola Antonelli once said that a good design is an exercise that combines technology, cognitive sciences, human needs, and aesthetics  in order to produce something that the world’s population didn’t even know they needed. I really like this definition, mainly because of the way it fits into the principles of HCD (Human-Centered Design),  one of the main currents within human-machine interaction.

What is a good design?

First of all, we have the technology, which allows us to build things, whether they are physical or digital objects. Then, there is cognitive science, which makes the product accessible to people. 

It identifies points that can be perceived as familiar and use them in its favor. If you have ever tried to use something, but didn’t even know how to get started or how to handle it, this means you had contact with a bad design.

Moving forward, we have the human needs. This is perhaps the key point: every design is a response to a need. 

A design only exists, or rather, a good design only exists, because there was a problem to be solved to someone. As Don Norman says, a good designer is primarily an identifier and a problem solver. The key issue is to identify the right problem to be solved and to understand how people are going to use what you are building to solve that problem.

At last, we have the matter of aesthetics. This is perhaps the most misunderstood point about the role of design: many people believe that design is an addition to the process, something that is added at the end to make things beautiful. 

Actually, the design is the process, the research about:

  1. the problem that we want to solve;
  2. the system in which it is inserted;
  3. the people involved in each step and who will use what you are building.

Aesthetics is important (after all, we are naturally attracted to beautiful and pleasant things), but it is only one relevant point among many others.

Design in Artificial Intelligence

The first role of design is to ensure that what we are building can solve the main problem. In the case of Artificial Intelligence products, we need to take a step further and ask ourselves “Is Artificial Intelligence the best way to solve this problem?” 

This is perhaps the most important step of all: an error in this step means that we risk spending time, money, and resources creating a super tool to solve something that is not even a problem.

Moving further, as designers, we need to think about how the product will be formatted and how people will relate to it. It is our role to ensure that users understand how it works and what can and cannot be done with it. 

In the case of Artificial Intelligence, we have to think about which aspects need to be presented to the user and the best way to do this.

How to deal with unpredictable aspects of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning? How to deal with issues of transparency or system control? What is the best way to explain to the user how the system works, and what can he expect from it?

These questions (and several others) are important to avoid the risk of not meeting the user’s expectations, generating frustration, misuse, or cessation.

Some time ago, Google published an article which addressed the development of an API for object detection. In this article, the authors pointed out that during the demo, the API’s response time to recognize an object had virtually no latency or delay, in other words, it recognized the objects almost immediately as soon as they were placed in front of the camera. 

At first, this may seem like a great success, but in fact, it used to lead to a very bad user experience, because the speed with which objects were recognized left users in doubt whether the process had been successful or not. 

Several users believed that an error had happened, as they did not expect the machine to recognize objects so quickly.

This raises an interesting question: Should we prioritize how users expect the technology to work, even if it means sacrificing speed so that they have time to understand and trust what the machine is doing?

It is a huge challenge to work with something so new and with so much potential, but honestly, I can’t imagine doing anything other than that.

The daily routine in the development of digital products

The good side of the designer being present in all stages of development is that the time never goes by slow and the days are never monotonous (laughs). 

We always need to work side by side with the other areas, to ensure that everyone is well aligned, as working together with the Product team ensures that what we are building meets the real needs of our users. 

We need to discuss  with the Technical Development team whether the solution we have  found can be implemented and what is the best way to make it happen. There is no point in creating a fantastic solution together with the Product team if it is impossible to it to be programmed. 

The work with the Marketing team ensures that everything that is being done is presented in the best way for our audience. Are the benefits clear? Do customers understand our product, and how does it solve the problem?

And finally, working closely with the Sales and Support teams, we are always aware of what customers bring to our daily lives. With this, we can better understand any doubts or difficulties they are facing and take these points to the Product team so that they are analyzed  and possibly addressed in a new update.

Do you want to know more about working at Alana AI? Check out the events held, such as the Family Lunch and other events in the benefit of  employees’ mental health.