Algorithmic Artworkers: Creating Individuality at Scale

How new technology can create quality content en masse

Digital content consumption is at an all-time high. From NFTs to digital clothing and metaverse experiences, the new age of the web brings with it a plethora of opportunities for brands to engage with their audiences in more personalized and effective ways. But the challenge we now face lies in adapting our creative workflows and processes to match. How do we produce content for the unprecedented magnitude of Web 3.0 whilst still maintaining originality and flair?

Tech-assisted creativity supercharged by new algorithms and A.I. holds the answer.

Over the past few months, we've witnessed a wave of A.I. art flood social media, made using generators such as DALL-E 2 and Midjourney. Transforming users' simple text descriptions into incredible visual outputs, the tools use machine learning to fuse artist styles with cultural references or everyday objects to create new artwork in an instant. Creators have been racking up likes on social media and, controversially, even winning art contests. But what makes this tech-led trend particularly exciting is it allows anyone to immediately express their unique ideas in a visual format, including those who feel they lack traditional image-making skills.

That brings us to a second big disruption—algorithmically empowered design. This is a design process that uses a series of condition-based automated procedures (including machine learning algorithms) paired with built-in randomization to create outputs following an art direction. This makes A.I. a strong creativity enhancer, and advanced algorithmic workflows and procedural tools make things really interesting, particularly for brands. Far from what many assume is a cookie-cutter approach akin to industrial machines, this technique goes beyond basic mass-production to create individuality at scale.

Algorithmic design allows creators to iterate quickly and effectively, saving countless hours spent on mockups for ideas that don't go anywhere. Using an algorithm essentially fast-forwards us to a stage where we can immediately judge if something is the right solution or not. One particularly impressive example of this is a recent fashion experiment by award-winning director Karen X Cheng. It combines DALL-E with another A.I. program, EbSynth, to generate new clothes on an existing video of a woman, creating a series of outfits mapped perfectly to the model that swap with every step she takes. Imagine the possibilities for a leading clothing brand using this type of technology—digital fashion would take on a whole new meaning.

Crucially, this algorithmic process is still based on the principles of good art direction—meaning each output can maintain that all-important human touch. Bored Ape Yacht Club was among the first brands to experiment with an algorithmic approach to NFT creation, releasing their procedurally generated collection on a mass scale. Their iconic monkey head designs are generated from a bank of preset visuals, carefully configured so that each has its own distinct appearance and personality whilst undoubtedly being part of the same set. The brand has since become intrinsic to the NFT scene, with Bored Apes providing buyers with a conduit for unique ownership and self expression.

Taking this one step further by creating moving content instead of stills, artist David Choe recently dropped a world-first procedurally generated NFT video collection by applying a similar workflow but tailored in a completely new way for producing animated content. By translating Choe's vision from a range of archetypal sketches, an algorithm generated 10,000 unique animations to form a vast and varied NFT collection in just two weeks.

Sheba, the premium cat food brand, has also emerged as a pioneer of this new technological approach. The planet-conscious brand has created 11,269 NFTs for its upcoming campaign, Sheba Hope Grows. Each NFT sale will fund a real-life coral reforestation device to be planted on the ocean floor in Indonesia and become a base for new coral reefs to grow. The NFTs themselves are rich, living 3D worlds of coral dioramas, growing and evolving in stages in response to communal interactions and as a reward for investing more money.

The dazzling amount of 3D content required to make this ecosystem of NFTs for Sheba, along with the variations into which each 3D world can evolve, required more than 40,000 3D scenes to be built. A daunting task if you're not a machine. This is where procedural artworkers can shine, efficiently growing thousands of digital corals and authentically replicating intricate natural patterns in mere seconds.

To make the most of the opportunities for Web 3.0 engagement and to reward users with experiences truly tailored to them, we need to lean on technology to create quality content en masse. We're entering an exciting new age of media where algorithms can become our artworkers, following our direction to create personalized beauty at scale. It's an incredibly exciting development for the creative industry to seize.

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