Branding an Artificial Conference on Artificial Intelligence
What will the state of AI look like in 2027? This was the question we were challenged to answer experientially in Professor Molly Wright Steenson’s AI & Society course this spring.
Our readings had spanned topics in ethics, bias, healthcare, big tech, and more, and authors such as Janelle Shane and Ruha Benjamin. Through developing a mock conference set in 2027, we would incorporate what we had learned into envisioning seven years’ change in AI through panels, posters, and more.
At first I had considered developing a new stock photo vocabulary for communicating about AI — I was inspired by an article showing the evolution of women in stock photos, and by the homogeneous imagery that appears when you google image search “artificial intelligence”. What would a warmer and more varied set of stock images for AI look like, reflecting changes in perception over seven years?
But no one had yet stepped up to brand the conference, and I was excited by this visual challenge as well. I formed a team with two other interested classmates, Cathy Fang and Alice Shashkina, to create name tags, a poster, and a website.
I started by examining trends in conference branding, which pointed to bright colors and bold type. I was also drawn to collage-style illustrations, which I felt fit well with the dispersion of ways in which artificial intelligence impacts society.
When our team met next, we explored ways in which we could incorporate AI tools into the development of the brand itself. We input a variety of keywords into Business Name Generator, which bubbled up options like Learn Bug, Artificiensia, and AI Surge. We selected “Artificial Ablaze”.
We then turned to color palette generators — Coolors, Colormind, and Khroma. The fact that Khroma provided pairings rather than palettes gave me the idea to explore duotone imagery. I created a quick collage using a Khroma-generated palette. I applied halftones to create a nostalgic effect that also reminds the viewer that the images are being created from smaller parts — like how neural networks build on individual inputs.
My team pointed out that since the conference name invoked fiery imagery, we might want to use a warmer palette! I quickly recreated the illustration with the colors they suggested from a Coolors palette.
We’d recently read a piece called “The Human Body Is A Black Box” about the incorporation of AI into monitoring hospital patients for sepsis, which prompted Alice to forecast that in 2027, AI would be less of a black box, and more of a clear box. From this we developed the tagline “Out of the Black Box”.
I used Wix’s ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) to build out a website for the conference. It was an informative experience — the ADI provides various prompts to find out more about your site (e.g. it’s for an event; name, date, and location of the event) and asks you to pick from several color/font themes. From this it creates a site which you have constrained ability to edit — for example, you can change the format of a “Schedule” page section from within a set number of options, but can’t drag, drop, and resize elements on your own. Font sizes are determined by a slider that ranges from “Small” to “Huge”; color palettes can be “Light, Dark, or Mixed”, and run from “Muted” to “Vibrant”.
Meanwhile, Alice created name tags for panelists and attendees. Many chose to use pseudonyms representing their characters from 2027.
To tie it all together, I created a poster imagining that we’d used the first full-service brand identity AI, called VisualAIze, to develop the whole thing. We’d fed it the keywords “Bold, Energetic, and Connected”, and the AI had generated the color palettes, name, website layout, and font choice — and had created a poster deliverable to explain its rationale to us, the client. To create the poster, I used Talk to Transformer’s text completion AI to turn my writing about our actual process into something much more compelling, and I selected from Janelle Shane’s neural network generated paint color names to name the colors.