Last Pixel on the Left

by Andrew Childs

Dec 1 2022

Using Midjourney as a Design Tool

As part of the process of building this website you’re reading (thank you!), I decided to design the site from scratch instead of using a template. I pretty quickly hit a point that can happen where you’re so early in a project and it could truly go in any direction, and I became a bit stumped on the design. At the same time, I’ve been playing around with generative AI tools like Midjourney. So, I tried using Midjourney to find inspiration.

First, I asked what a blog designed by Stanley Kubrick would’ve looked like.

Minimalist two column blog layout designed by Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey --v 4 --uplight

One minute later, it responded with this:

An imagined blog layout by Stanley Kubrick

It went with more of a magazine layout, but still, it made some interesting color, typographic, and compositional choices.

simple elegant minimalist two column blog design, designed by Paul Rand, 1950s --v 4 --uplight

An imagined blog layout by Paul Rand

simple minimalist two column blog design, designed by the MTA, standards manual, 1970s --v 4 --uplight

An imagined blog layout by the MTA

I then asked what a blog designed by Dieter Rams would’ve looked like.

Minimalist two column blog layout designed by Dieter Rams, 1950s, simple --v 4 --uplight

An imagined blog layout by Dieter Rams

Tiny fridge or big human?

I asked it to upscale the 4th in the grid:

An imagined blog layout by Dieter Rams

That’s a nice, sparse, elegant layout - much like the work of Dieter Rams. The layouts that Midjourney came up with were more like what you would find in a magazine, which makes sense: there are probably more magazines in the training data than website screenshots. Either way, I found the resulting images interesting, and this last image in particular got me thinking about applying a grid pattern to my own design.

When I hit a creative block, an AI-generated layout was the spark I needed to get unblocked and find a direction I was happy with. Where this website design ended up is different from what the AI came up with - that’s the nature of the creative process. Had I continued to only look at websites like Medium and Substack, I probably would’ve ended up with something more conventional.

Other Applications

Today’s generative tools are good for rapid concepting, not for crafting finished work. For now, it still takes a human to refine that rough draft into something polished and production-ready. UI designers can use Midjourney to explore different visual directions for a website they’re working on. It’s a different experience from going to, say, Dribbble for inspiration.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if art directors, creative teams, professional movie production studios were already using Midjourney to quickly iterate on and find the perfect style or imagery for a shot, a scene, or a film. An entire film can stem from a single image or visual idea. That is where a tool like Midjourney shines.

Other People's Work

Generated images created by other users on Midjourney's discord server in May 2022.

It will be really interesting once generative AI starts to produce actual text instead of gibberish. Given the current rate of progress, I wouldn’t be surprised to see actual text in AI-generated images within the next year or two.

Using the tool in this way also I think avoids issues around supporting creators, which I’ll explore in another article.