AI & Creativity The Creative Design Process: Q&A with Aaron Grando


In the age of AI-generated content, how can creatives stay ahead of the curve and ensure their human touch remains irreplaceable?
As the Technology Director for our award-winning creative team, Aaron Grando is working to answer this question for our team and the industry.


 How is AI Impacting the Creative Design Process?  

Aaron recently participated in a panel hosted by DesignPhiladelphia, Philly Tech Week and the W Hotel. The panel discussion, moderated by’s Danya Henninger, focused on how creatives incorporate AI into their processes, how brands approach AI and how creative teams can embrace technology without sacrificing the human aspect that has been fundamental to many businesses and careers. 

It was a thought-provoking discussion with a lively audience of 75-100 creative professionals. They talked about many different topics, ranging from practical use cases to more theoretical issues like creative worker rights in a world where automated content farms are pumping out content at an unprecedented rate. 

I connected with Aaron to explore this topic and some insights uncovered during the event. Here’s a look at what he shared. 


AI and its impact on the creative design process is a complex topic that invites various perspectives. Can you provide more information about the panel at Philly Tech Week? 

The discussion started with each member of the five-person panel giving a bit of background on how we’re applying AI tech to our work. The panel consisted of individuals with diverse creative backgrounds, including architecture, industrial design, interior design, and furniture design, and me, the agency creative.  

There were commonalities between the tools we use (everyone’s using ChatGPT, and most are exploring image generation). Still, applying those tools within each field was different, with everyone figuring out the best ways to apply AI to their jobs differently. That was a bit of an eye-opener. There is no one way of doing things right now. 


Based on what you heard during the panel, how do you envision AI impacting the landscape of the creative industry? 

My co-panelists all spoke about niche problems within their line of work that they found AI helpful in solving. We’re in a period of emergence, as in “emergent behavior”—giving people a sandbox and seeing what they build. We have this new primitive intelligence that we can build into how we do things. So, in the short term, I think we will keep seeing rapid, inventive new ways of applying this technology to many different problems. 

Several of the panelists were independent or working with a very small team. They talked about how they’re looking at AI as an enabler and a playing-field leveler, something that lets them get more done with less time. That makes a lot of sense to me. I could see freelancers and independents taking advantage of their ability to move faster and make quicker decisions than larger organizations. 


Can you provide practical examples of AI use in creative processes from the discussion? 

One I loved was an industrial designer using AI image generators to transform clean 3D renderings of furniture he was designing into pencil sketches. It seems backward, right? But really, it’s not these days. 

Most of us start and end our process working entirely with digital tools. Pencil-on-paper drawings are a luxury that you don’t always have the time or talent on hand to produce. But, in this designer’s case, the pencil sketches show his work to prospective buyers in a way that resonates better than the hard, clean lines of a rendering. 


That’s a great example of using AI to serve customers better. Overall, how are clients reacting to the integration of AI in creative services? Are they embracing it or skeptical? 

Clients were a huge part of the discussion. There was a consensus that we still need to demonstrate the value of individual humans and the human organizations we belong to beyond how we currently use AI.  

The panelists were divided on using AI for client work but were all considering implementing it for their businesses. A few panelists emphasized the importance of clear communication with clients when it comes to the use of AI. They also highlighted the growing challenge of explaining AI integration as it becomes more prevalent in our work software. 

Our clients were as interested in embracing generative AI as we are. Many clients I work with every day are curious and open to how we can apply it in creative advertising. 


With AI evolving rapidly, how can creative teams keep up with the technology without losing their edge? 

Well, what is creative, right? We don’t produce creativity in a vacuum. It has always had inputs. Strategy, brand, objectives and then the human experience, inspiration and talent that creatives bring are all distinct parts of the equation. And now AI is another input. Or inputs. It’s not monolithic. Ideally, it’s a focusing lens on those inputs. 

As for edge, we creatives need to be careful not to leave it all up to the tech. For the most part, everyone currently uses the same tools, such as ChatGPT and DALL-E. If you outsource too much of your creative process to AI, you’ll end up with the lowest-common-denominator work.  

This gets at something we’re working on internally here at Mod Op: an AI assistant fine-tuned to the creative inputs—strategy, brand, objectives, content and voice—for the brands they’re working on. It gives our strategists and creatives access to in-house tech that other agencies don’t have!  


It seems like the conversation was quite thought-provoking. Do you have any final thoughts? 

It was great to get out there and talk shop with other creatives about this stuff that is so new and going to be such a huge part of the next few years. All the panelists agreed that we could have quickly gone another two or three hours. There’s so much potential to impact our business, and the panel discussion only touched the surface. Let’s hope for a follow-up!


About the Author  

Anna Julow Roolf is VP of PR at Crenshaw Communications, a Mod Op company. A natural communicator and skilled operations professional, Anna is passionate about bridging the gap between creativity and technology. She brings more than a decade of experience in the B2B PR industry, including leadership roles in both agency and SaaS startup environments, working with brands like Act-On, Pelican Products and Zoom.