Exploring the role of text-to-image AI in concept generation

Brisco, Ross and Hay, Laura and Dhami, Sam (2023) Exploring the role of text-to-image AI in concept generation. Proceedings of the Design Society, 3. pp. 1835-1844. ISSN 2732-527X (https://doi.org/10.1017/pds.2023.184)

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Artificial intelligence (AI) capable of generating images from a text prompt are becoming increasingly prevalent in society and design. The general public can use their computers and mobile devices to ask a complex text-to-image AI to create an image which is in some cases indistinguishable from that which a human could create using a computer graphics package. These images are shared on social media and have been used in the creation of art projects, documents and publications. This exploratory study aimed to identify if modern text-to-image AI (Midjourney, DALL-E 2, and Disco Diffusion) could be used to replace the designer in the concept generation stage of the design process. Teams of design students were asked to evaluate AI generated concepts from 15 to a final concept. The outcomes of this research are a first of its kind for the field of engineering design, in the identification of barriers in the use of current text-to-image AI for the purpose of engineering design. The discussion suggests how this can be overcome in the short term and what knowledge the research community needs to build to overcome these barriers in the long term.