Adobe product leader says AI won't kill graphic design, even as employees worry

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Scott Belsky, chief product officer of Adobe, told VentureBeat on X-formerly-known-as-Twitter yesterday that while some industries “may not need to exist in the age of AI,” graphic designers will continue to flourish. His comments come following a report by Business Insider yesterday that inside Adobe, some employees are concerned that Adobe’s Firefly AI tools and Photoshop Generative Fill will kill graphic designer jobs and undermine the company’s business model.

Belsky first wrote that in the age of AI, “the greatest innovation in a space is often eliminating the need for the space entirely.”

When asked if he was referring to Adobe, Belsky responded with an example: “translation of copy is an industry that may not need to exist in the age of AI.” Then, when asked if this applied to traditional graphic design, he said no.

“No; AI will increase the surface area that creatives can consider and explore before finding even better solutions to pursue and iterate. we see this in early research on how creative pros leverage these new tools: they’ll create more and better content…faster. not less,” he wrote.


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The Business Insider article highlighted an internal staff meeting in June where an employee asked whether gen AI was putting Adobe “in danger of cannibalizing” its enterprise-targeted business. And the article pointed out that in an Adobe earnings call in June, Jefferies analyst Brent Thill said the “number one question” he gets from investors is whether AI will reduce Adobe’s “seats available.”

Adobe sells its cloud subscriptions based on the number of seats, or licenses, for product access. If AI tools make it faster and easier to design, designers could be laid off and demand for the licenses could shrink.

But when asked by VentureBeat whether there is a risk organizations will buy less graphic design software/fewer licenses as a result of AI tools, Belsky replied that “when any ambitious or growth oriented company can get more ‘ingenuity per person,’ they want more people (so they can do more products, create more content, achieve more). it’s a default human desire. engineers have become more productive annually for decades, yet demand grows.”

The discussions around Adobe’s AI impact come after VentureBeat coverage last month about the fact that a vocal group of contributors to Adobe Stock, which includes 300 million images, illustrations and other content that trained the Firefly generative AI models, say Adobe used their stock images for AI without express notification or consent.

While this is certainly an issue for other text-to-image generative tools such as  DALL-E 2, Stable Diffusion and Midjourney (which were trained on scrapes of imagery posted to the public web, including copyrighted imagery), they say it is particularly concerning for a company like Adobe, which has been deeply intertwined with the creative economy for decades.

Now, Adobe Stock creators say Firefly’s popularity is making it far less likely that users will purchase stock images. In addition, a flooding of gen AI images into Adobe Stock is cannibalizing the platform, the creators say. 

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