Designing for AI: Unveiling a New Set of Personas

Designing for AI: Unveiling a New Set of Personas

Jeff Mielke

March 22, 2024

How do we tailor AI systems so they're more than just a fancy tool in our toolkit? It's not all about sleek designs or high-tech flair; it's about shaping moments that genuinely make life easier and more enjoyable. As designers, we're at a crossroads, figuring out how to blend AI seamlessly into our day-to-day products without making it feel like it's taking over.

This challenge is a call to action for us to ensure AI acts more like a supportive buddy than a bossy robot. Our aim is to lead with the needs of the people and to integrate AI, so it feels natural, ethical, and, above all, focused on enhancing human experiences. Let's step up to this exciting challenge, crafting AI systems that get us, help us, and maybe even surprise us in good ways.

Designing for AI

At first glance, designing for AI seemed straightforward. Why not just plug in a ChatGPT API and watch the magic happen? Content creation becomes a breeze, data aggregation a no-brainer, and suddenly, we're living in a design utopia, right? Well, as I ventured deeper into integrating with AI, I discovered it's more than just about making tasks easier. It's about reimagining the way we approach software design using some familiar techniques.

Unleashing the Power of AI Personas

In one of the first courses I took on Designing for AI, I heard about considering AI as another person to design for. It has its own needs and constraints that must be considered during the design process.

Enter the benefit of AI Personas: potential solutions for addressing these multifaceted challenges.

To better articulate this concept, let’s take an example of designing a new slide presentation app. The first step in our design process is to understand the domain and the pain points.

Let’s say research points to the following insights:

  • Individuals in an organization spend 20-40% of their time each week tweaking visuals in slide presentations.

  • Deck creation requires hours of research and coordination to create an effective presentation.

  • Many presentations require weekly updates as data changes.

  • A typical presentation deck receives 20-30 comments inline, via email, and chat, which delays content updates.

Now, we have a new tool in AI to help with some of these tasks. Let’s consider how we can leverage AI to address these concerns.

  • Creative AI helps the user quickly create visually appealing and content-rich presentations.

  • Optimizer AI helps the user create a more contextually relevant presentation and learns over time what works best for the user.

  • Aggregator AI summarizes data sources, comments, related emails, and chat content for easier consumption and real-time updates.

Now, let's take a look at the needs of each of these personas.

Creativity AI 2 copy

Creative AI, as you might guess, excels at imaginative tasks — it generates compelling graphics and text, or offers design templates. However, it needs clear direction on brand guidelines and the audience in order to execute effectively (as we do as well!). Should the presentation be sparse and minimal like Apple’s design system or more colorful and playful like Lego’s?

This information needs to be provided by the user or some backend instruction. Is this meant to be presented to an audience or used as a reference document? If it’s for an audience, the text should be sparse, and speaker notes should be populated. If it’s a reference document, it can be structured more like a report with a more text-heavy layout.

Optimizerai 2 copy

Optimizer AI is the efficiency expert designed to streamline and automate mundane tasks, such as setting up slide transitions or formatting bulleted lists. However, it needs to understand the context of the presentation and have a history of past presentations to index. It also needs to understand feedback on each presentation. Maybe some presentations were better received than others. Maybe certain presentations would work better for certain goals. This data could guide the AI in making contextually relevant suggestions to polish the presentation.

I had never captured this type of feedback on a deck and recorded it anywhere, but now I see how it could be valuable.

Aggregator AI copy

Aggregator AI primarily focuses on pulling together disparate data and information. Imagine creating a presentation informed by a plethora of relevant, up-to-the-minute data sources, with Aggregator AI ensuring all data points are seamlessly integrated and intelligibly presented. No need to constantly update that monthly metrics presentation!

Besides external data sources, this persona also needs access to all user comments in the presentation and, ideally, any relevant emails or chats. This makes updates easier for the user by offering a summary of user feedback. It also can leverage its friend, Creative AI, to recommend changes.

Right away, you can see that a lot of integration is required between various systems. This insight can help get your engineering teams to work early on, ensuring data streams are in place to optimize output and minimize user input.

The Principles of Designing with AI

Although each of these personas may have different needs, some considerations must be made when designing around these components. Here are six fundamental principles:

1. Transparency and Explainability

The principle of transparency and explainability in AI design is about making the AI’s decision-making processes as clear as possible to the end user. It involves designing interfaces and experiences that not only reveal what the AI is doing but also why it's doing it. This principle is vital in building trust and ensuring that users feel comfortable and confident in how AI impacts their interaction with a product.

In the context of our app, an AI feature could be introduced to assist users in designing their presentations by suggesting design layouts or color schemes. This AI tool would not only provide suggestions but also explain why certain options are recommended. For example, if the AI suggests a specific layout, it could explain that this layout helps in achieving better audience engagement based on the content type or the user's past preferences. This could be implemented via a simple tooltip or a side panel that provides insights into the AI’s recommendation logic. This approach not only accelerates the creation of presentations but also educates users on solid design principles.

2. Adaptability and Personalization

AI systems excel in learning from interactions and adjusting their behavior to better serve individual user needs over time. This dynamic learning capability allows for the personalization of user experiences in unprecedented ways. Designing for adaptability means creating interfaces that can evolve, offering personalized experiences based on the user's interactions, preferences, and feedback.

For instance, in our app, if a user frequently opts for minimalist designs and a certain color palette, the AI could prioritize these options in future suggestions. Additionally, it could adapt the complexity and frequency of tips and tutorials based on the user's proficiency with the tool, enhancing the learning curve for new users while streamlining processes for experienced ones.

3. Ethical Considerations and Bias

Incorporating AI into design demands a rigorous examination of ethical considerations and the proactive mitigation of bias. This principle focuses on ensuring fairness, accountability, and inclusiveness in AI-driven solutions. Designers must consider the diversity of their user base and ensure that AI systems are trained on diverse datasets to prevent perpetuating existing biases. Several companies, such as Google and IBM, have established principles to follow.

The AI in our app could be trained on a dataset of presentations from various industries, cultures, and design preferences. Implementing this ensures that design recommendations are inclusive and cater to a diverse range of user preferences. Furthermore, an option could be included for users to provide feedback if they feel a certain recommendation is biased or not suitable, allowing the AI to learn and improve its suggestions.

4. Consistency and Reliability

Consistency and reliability are foundational to user adoption and satisfaction with AI-enabled products. This principle emphasizes the importance of repeatability and accuracy in AI responses and actions. Design strategies should include clear communication about the AI’s capabilities and limitations, avoiding overpromising or creating unrealistic expectations. Reliability also can be enhanced by ensuring that AI systems are robust and tested across a wide range of scenarios, reducing the likelihood of errors or misunderstandings.

Our app could include clear documentation and settings for the AI features. The AI's suggestions could be presented as options rather than directives, allowing users to choose whether or not to follow them. Ensuring the AI's recommendations are consistently high quality and relevant will also build trust over time.

5. Error Handling and Support

Despite advances in AI, errors and misinterpretations are inevitable. Effective error handling and support mechanisms are essential in maintaining user trust and engagement. This involves designing systems that recognize when they are failing and offer useful, accessible support options to the user.

For example, our app could detect when users are struggling with certain tasks and proactively offer targeted suggestions or the option to connect with a support agent. Additionally, incorporating a feedback loop where users can report issues directly related to the AI's suggestions helps improve the system's accuracy and reliability.

6. Sustainability

As AI models become more complex, their energy consumption and environmental impact grow. Designing for sustainability involves optimizing AI algorithms and their implementation for energy efficiency, minimizing the carbon footprint of digital products. This principle extends to user interactions, encouraging behaviors that reduce energy consumption (e.g., streamlining queries or interactions to minimize computational load). It also involves transparency about the environmental impact of using AI-enabled services, empowering users to make informed choices about their digital consumption.

One way our app could be optimized for energy efficiency is by by streamlining the AI's decision-making processes and reducing the computational load for common tasks. Moreover, users could be informed about the energy efficiency of different design choices, encouraging more sustainable practices. For instance, recommending design elements that are optimized for low-power devices or providing tips on efficient presentation delivery methods could contribute to this goal.

The Value of Incorporating AI in Design

By thoughtfully incorporating AI into product design, you can unlock many great benefits. It can boost efficiency and create improved user experiences, but it also can have a real, positive impact on business outcomes. Whether you’re trying to balance quality, innovation, and budget constraints or you need to fine-tune designs to specific environments, we know that AI can be a game-changer. However, it’s important to recognize that there’s a learning curve involved when you start using AI-based design tools.

Let’s Explore an AI Partnership

By embracing transparency, adaptability, and a commitment to ethical principles, we have the opportunity to forge a future where technology and humanity intersect in harmony. Together, we can navigate the complexities of this new frontier, crafting experiences that resonate deeply with the very essence of human interaction.

We invite you to reach out and discover how our expertise can help you embrace the opportunities of this new AI era.

Jeff Mielke

Design Director

Jeff Mielke serves as 8th’s Light’s Design Director, bringing a wealth of experience from his work with both prominent and emerging brands over the years. His expertise lies in tackling intricate challenges and infusing a user-centric approach to his design practices. His portfolio spans across a range of applications, from consumer-oriented to enterprise-level solutions.