Synth-Aesthetic Evolution

artificial intelligence
sector - media & technology
Creatives are challenging the dystopian perception of AI and the synthesised imagery it can generate by embracing a more approachable aesthetic revolution.


In a world where widespread distrust towards AI looms, driven by fears of job displacement and lagging regulation, the visual language linked to AI-driven products can instil a sense of cognitive dissonance, often described as the Uncanny Valley phenomenon; it looks 99% human, but that inhuman 1% - like the seven-fingered hands conjured by AI image generators - can tip viewers into the uncanny valley, where affinity gives way to growing unease, neck-tingling strangeness and fear.

With 77% of US consumers in a 2023 Forbes survey saying they are worried that AI will cause job losses within the next 12 months, and with generative AI expected to account for 10% of all data produced, building trust and understanding around AI is crucial as it becomes an invaluable creative tool.

Not only that, consumers will increasingly recognise the potential of our synthesised future, whether found in ethical lab-grown meat or less environmentally intensive synthetic beauty ingredients. Recognising this synthesised future and its role in embracing nature, innovative brands are on a mission to make it more approachable by co-opting nature-oriented aesthetics along with a commitment to brighter and more optimistic visual representations.

Published by:

17 August 2023

Author: Gabriela Białkowska and Jessica Smith

Image: Bang & Olufsen, Denmark


Image Credits: Nike Impossible Store concept by Drop; adidas NFT by Bored Ape Yacht Club; Rimowa x RTFKT luggage collaboration; G-Star Raw Denim AI Collection; Jizai Arm's Social Digital Cyborgs project; Scrolling Therapy by Dentsu Creative

Then: Digital Dystopia

Driven by sci-fi classics, a dark dystopian and moody aesthetic has defined the AI visual language - up until now. Taking cues from gaming communities and cyberpunk subcultures, this design code prompts creatives to ask 'what picture do we want to paint?' Freyja Sewell, futurist, designer and artist, tells online design publication Dezeen: 'If everyone believes the future is dystopian, could that cause us to make it dystopian?'

Take the AI-generated Impossible Store for Nike by social commerce tool Drop, which depicts a collection of sneakers set on a grey and white backdrop of Mount Everest. Cold, subdued and chilling – the scene appears as if the space is both strangely serene and isolated from civilisation, evoking an uneasy feeling that transports viewers to an otherworldly realm.

In a similar mood, Jizai Arm's Social Digital Cyborgs project comments on the interactions between cyborgs in their own society. The film showcases a dancer with six detachable robot arms, gracefully blending human-like movements with the precision and fluidity of machine technology. It's provocative in its view of the future of symbiotic relationships in a fast-evolving, tech-driven world, where the aesthetic is stark and muted, reflecting a sense of introspection and contemplation.

In fashion, G-Star Raw Denim AI Collection co-opts a spectrum of grey undertones that draw parallels with our Doom Dressing fashion analysis, with its futuristic silhouettes and morphing forms. Drawing on the dystopian mood of game environments – and their anarchic qualities – Beck's AI Beer immerses participants in a cyberpunk-inspired realm where shades of green, red and black coalesce, evoking an eerie and haunting visual symphony reminiscent of iconic horror films like the Alien trilogy.

‘If everyone believes the future is dystopian, could that cause us to make it dystopian?’
Freyja Sewell, futurist, designer and artist.

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