Will Midjourney make shoe designers obsolete?
Last week my friend Laurence showed me these shoe images he generated using AI platform Midjourney. I was shocked by the computer-generated creativity, and wondered: Will Midjourney make shoe designers obsolete?
What is Midjourney?
Let’s first understand what Midjourney is and how it works.
Midjourney is an AI (artificial intelligence) program that generates images from words. People have used it to create images for comic books, marketing materials, art, and for many other purposes as well as just for fun.
My friend generated the images above using the words “high heeled womens shoe inspired by manga”.
How does Midjourney work?
Midjourney gathers data from images on the internet with attached keywords, and uses this data to learn how to respond to the words users type in their “prompts”.
I decided to set myself up as a user, and created the set of images below using the prompt “mens steel toe cap navy blue work boot with gold crown applique”.
I thought I would struggle to use the platform, but it is very simple.
Can Midjourney’s AI shoe designs be made?
Just as anyone can draw a picture of a shoe which may not be able to be produced in a shoe factory, Midjourney creates shoe illustrations without considering construction or factory processes. You will notice that the designs it generated below based on my prompt “high heeled shoe shaped like magnolia tree carved heel on a desk” are akin to shoe art rather than being wearable.
These creations would need many adjustments in order to become designs with technical specifications that a shoe factory could work with and a human could wear. Even adding the word “wearable” to the same prompt produced designs that would have to be handcrafted rather than mass-produced.
For the moment, trained shoe designers with in-depth knowledge of shoemaking have this big advantage. However at some point in the future, CAD packages, AI design platforms and material information could be combined to produce shoe designs which could be manufactured. Add in historical sales data and trend forecasts, and design and product job roles at shoe brands and retailers could shift to programming occupations.
What are Midjourney’s other shoe design limitations?
Midjourney is only as good as the brief you give it. If your prompt does not contain enough detail, or the program has no data for one of the words in your prompt, the interpretation could be vastly different than you expected. For example, the first prompt I used to attempt to create the magnolia tree-inspired shoe images above was “stiletto magnolia tree hyperrealistic on a desk”. My guess is Midjourney didn’t have any data for the word “stiletto” at the time, so it ignored it, instead producing this set of images.
Another drawback is that Midjourney has no taste. It is not discerning, neither does it yet know what looks right culturally, or whether images it generates could cause offence. I did not want to deliberately generate an offensive image for the purposes of this article. Neither did I want to be ejected from the platform for doing so. Instead I used the prompt “realistic ballet pump candy decoration”. I will let you be the judge of whether the results are tasteful.
The long-held association between robots or AI and coldness or lack of emotion still feels somewhat relevant. Midjourney has no filter of human experience to create through. Its images lack emotion and a provenance beyond the vast quantities of data on the internet. However the user’s prompt may contain an element of story, and enough cultural references to create an emotional connection with customers.
What can shoe designers use Midjourney for?
Designers feeling blocked creatively could use Midjourney to bounce ideas off. Typing in a prompt relevant to the design brief they are working on could produce designs they feel able to riff off or iterate on. The program may even open up creative neural pathways which would otherwise have been closed, potentially resulting in better designs.
Shoe designers will then need to consider whether the designs they generate on Midjourney and iterate on can be made. They will have to do some problem-solving, adapting ideas for real lasts and factories and they may need to add in stitch rows.
Using the prompt “technically correct including stitch rows wedge ankle boot rainbow applique hyperrealistic” got me some largely decorative stitch rows, but not technically correct products that could be mass-produced (bottom left is particularly dubious).
If you only want artistic looking illustrations of shoes to use on social media, marketing materials or anywhere else, Midjourney can create those for you. However you will need to pay for the platform to use images commercially.
Who owns Midjourney generated shoe designs?
Shoe designs generated by Midjourney are currently considered public domain, so they cannot be copyrighted by the user or by Midjourney. Anyone can use any image generated on the platform.
Only being inspired by Midjourney’s AI generated shoe designs rather than using them as is, would help to solve the issue that at present, AI-created images are not protected by copyright law.
Time to play
Enjoy experimenting with Midjourney, make mistakes like I did with the prompt “mens sneaker steam punk slip on” (what was I thinking?) and let me know whether you love or hate the program in the comments below. Be warned: Midjourney is addictive!
Will Midjourney make shoe designers obsolete? The answer is, not yet.
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