• Transform magazine
  • March 03, 2024


Developing an in-agency AI manifesto

Interstate Giulio Ruggieri

Giulio Ruggieri, partner and director of interactive design at Interstate Creative Partners, explains why a critical step for any agency integrating AI into their practice is to craft a thorough and astute set of principles to abide by.

Over the past few months, there has been a surge in discussion around how AI should be harnessed.

Mounting court cases have fuelled the debate around AI’s legal implications, not least New York Times' recently announced case against OpenAI and Microsoft. What’s more, the UK Supreme Court’s recent ruling that AI bots lack the capability to be inventors, in line with US and EU regulations, makes clear that AI’s creative authority in contrast to that of humans is still lacking.

Meanwhile, guidance for development and deployment of AI products is being established, with The British Standards Institution publishing the first international guideline on AI safety this year. As creators of intellectual property, creative agencies in particular should thoroughly address how AI tools are used within their practice.

While opinions on use of AI in the creative industry have varied, its potential impact on creative businesses’ working processes, including our own, is undeniably profound. This applies across practicality and efficiency as well as creative inspiration and concept development. It is this creative capability that requires a careful approach.

Critically, AI cannot, and should not, replace originality of thought: a concept generated by AI cannot be passed to a client in good conscience, since it is not technically or legally owned by the agency. AI is also not currently able to provide strategic insight, beyond, for example, literal market interpretation. Thorough competitor benchmarking still requires human judgement. Instead, AI’s capabilities should be utilised in the lateral thinking space – including moodboarding and concept articulation – supporting ideas created by human designers.

Importantly, any agency using AI should ensure it protects itself against the ethical and legal pitfalls of the technology by establishing clear guidelines for its use. While the creative mind is unstructured by nature, AI use requires discipline.

First, an agency must understand its commercial obligations to its clients. This requires in-house counsel or legal consultation to review contractual terms between an agency and the businesses it works with. With these commercial obligations front-of-mind, an effective workflow can be established to address the legalities of your practice – to guide internal teams and assure clients. This will serve as the foundation for ensuring any final product passed to a client is watertight.

A comprehensive understanding of existing AI tools and an awareness of issues associated with them should be established early on. We are largely in the hands of these companies by using their products, so it’s vital for agencies to remain wary of legal developments in the space. However, for a creative agency, greenlisting AI tools isn’t enough: this needs to be accompanied by a policy that greenlists how you use them.

A core consideration for this is how AI prompts are structured. Guidelines must be crafted to ensure existing intellectual property is steered clear of, and that prompts direct AI to produce an unbiased outcome. Human diligence must detail what an AI tool should look for and build with, but moreover what it should eliminate from its findings. For instance, in visual ideation, a designer might ask AI to produce an image of a product, defining this by type, colour and size. Without guidance, AI will use the full extent of its database and combine the designs of multiple established manufacturers, therefore utilising the intellectual property of those brands. Instead, prompts should be structured to produce outputs that avoid pulling in copyrighted material.

Another critical consideration lies in the recording of AI use throughout your working process – maintaining a distinction of where the technology has been used – and how this is communicated to clients. If AI has been used to generate imagery demonstrating a concept to a client, an agency must communicate why and how it has been used, and must clarify that assets are not for commercial use. While there is still significant complexity around source tracing by AI, by logging use, an agency can show active intent to stay away from existing intellectual property.

As a tool for efficiency and inspiration, AI is a technology with exciting potential that all creative agencies can benefit from. But our approach should be measured, with a consistent layer of human diligence. To safeguard an agency in what is a complex ethical and legal landscape, a clear understanding of its commercial obligations to clients and of the AI landscape will provide a foundational base for crafting a solid manifesto for AI use. This should be followed by a careful consideration of prompt structure, storage of data, and clear outlines for communication to clients.