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Directing Organic Technology

How to visualize AI

4 min read
Mark Dearman
What visuals come to mind when you hear ‘AI’? Skynet or Hal 9000? The reality is AI is likely to launch a new global renaissance for human innovation and creativity. How do you better visualize the true nature of AI and it’s incredible human potential?

This question is what led 3D & Motion Designer, Mark Dearman, on his journey with Peter Smart and the team to imagine a new visual expression for AI.

What sparked the idea of “organic technology”?

“I'd say our biggest inspiration came from the desire to visualize AI in a fresh way. We were keen to shake off the dystopian image and represent the power AI has to advance human intelligence and shape the world for human good. How harnessing AI will bring out the best in us as human beings and how unlike technology of old, it can learn, grow and adapt.”

Mark, how did you kick things off with this design process?

"Well, I began by delving deep into how we could perceive AI beyond its typical, clichéd portrayal. We knew we couldn't stick to the same old conventions and we want to create something more organic. That's what led us to dive into the world of the real. Something that truly felt alive where we’d use computer simulations with real-world physics to give our concepts the breath of life. We thought about how harnessed power and intelligence can birth beauty and the elegance of controlled chaos.”

What were some of the challenges in creating a motion design language that reflects AI’s dynamic nature?

“Simulations are a different beast compared to your regular animations—they need a whole lot more computing power and honestly, they took us quite a while to get just right. It wasn't a one-and-done deal, we had to do a ton of iterations. Every single shot had to really nail that dynamic nature of AI, the way it learns and adapts without making it feel malevolent. So, yeah, we were constantly tweaking and refining until we hit the sweet spot."

How did you progress from abstract concepts to final pieces?

“Like with much of the work we do, we grounded our approach in R&D and a fair bit of experimentation. We began with the key themes we were hoping to communicate, then let our minds wander about how we could bring these ideas to life visually over time. The end results, they're a bit like AI image generation - always sprinkled with an element of randomness, throwing up unexpected expressions that we could never have planned in advance. The whole process of setting up and defining the variables was essentially us trying to rein in chaos: we did our best to guide it in a direction that synced with our vision."

What unifies the visual language? How do you balance creativity and consistency?

“It really came down to a blend of techniques, some subtle, others more explicit, that we used with our simulations. We kept the pace of the motion, the camera focal lengths, and the angles consistent - those were the subtle bits. Then we got a little more obvious, using common materials like metal, glass, light and, of course, color palette across all animations. By weaving together all these elements, I think we’ve managed to create a coherent theme, but still give each shot its own unique feel."

Lastly, how do you think motion design will evolve as AI technology continues to advance?

“Wow, where to begin? Honestly, we're just getting started with tapping into AI's potential in 3D and motion, but we're already catching glimpses of the future: things like generative 3D models, auto-rigging, creating scenes and textures, and even improving our workflows with tools for upscaling and retiming. And as AI continues to evolve, I've no doubt we'll see it becoming even more entwined with and influential in 3D motion design. It’s all just really exciting to think about.”

We believe our future with AI is one that can be shaped for the greater good. That belief is as much a source of inspiration as a call to lean in to actively play a role in doing so.

As designers we have the opportunity to define the next generation of AI visual conventions. How we bring AI to life in our contexts isn’t simply about style —it’s about looking at the visual stories we tell ourselves as human beings about AI's impact, its relationships to us and its place in our collective future. It should move beyond cliche and hype to be an honest reflection of its pitfalls, limitations and enormous potential. 

How will you manifest AI in your experiences?

Mark Dearman