Posted 03 April 2024
Written by Nicole Fan

What impact is AI having on entry-level and junior creative jobs?

AI seems to be everywhere nowadays – but all the excitement is also tinged with a good deal of apprehension, especially when it comes to its impact on the workforce. We explore how the rise of this technology is affecting entry-level and junior jobs in the creative industry.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topics at the moment. With governments investing billions of pounds into the sector and chief AI officers popping up everywhere from eBay to Coca Cola, the emerging technology is well and truly on the rise, and permeating nearly every aspect of society.

However, while some are eagerly embracing it, others are wary of AI taking over their jobs. Nobody is certain about how it will all play out. So, instead of speculating on the future, we’re focusing on what we do know about AI’s impact on creative careers, as well as practical tips for emerging creatives to navigate an evolving, AI-infused jobs landscape.

Key findings

  • Creatives have mixed feelings about how AI is going to affect their jobs
  • Entry-level and junior jobs are being affected in both positive and negative ways, with AI taking over some of their tasks while also creating new opportunities
  • The overall impact of AI hangs in the balance, but emerging creatives can prepare themselves by developing both technical expertise and soft skills

🤔 What exactly is AI?

Before we jump into how AI is making waves, let’s start with what AI actually is. Simply put, AI is a machine’s ability to perform functions typically associated with human cognition, including learning, perceiving, rationalising and remembering. The technology has been around since the 1950s, but recent advancements have fuelled its sudden rise.

Where traditional AI completes specific tasks in response to instructions, generative AI takes those instructions and produces new content. Think Siri versus ChatGPT: one finds existing answers to your questions; the other synthesises information to write, draw, speak, or code brand new answers of its own. As the author Bernard Marr puts it, “traditional AI excels at pattern recognition, while generative AI excels at pattern creation”.

🎨 How is AI starting to impact the creative industry?

A function once considered solely human, now embodied in a machine: this computerisation of creativity is proving to be as fascinating as it is disconcerting, and the creative industry hasn’t been averse to adopting it. While still controversial, AI has expanded the field of creative tech, become a key investment for some of the world’s biggest creative companies and spawned brand new divisions in existing agencies. Innovative campaigns have even emerged from it: remember when Heinz asked Dall-E 2 to draw ketchup?

With such a keen uptake of AI within the industry, creatives have been understandably ambivalent about the effect it’s going to have on their careers. A survey done by our sister company, It’s Nice That, showed that 83% of respondents were already adopting AI into their working practices, but 37% were concerned that AI would affect creative jobs. It’s a real mixed bag – and not just for more senior staff, as entry-level and junior creatives are also being affected.

💼 How are entry-level and junior creative jobs being impacted?

AI has been automating some junior tasks
Be it manually collating information or tackling tasks that fall under the umbrella of ‘administrative duties’, junior staff typically handle most of the grunt work across many disciplines. However, a faster and cheaper alternative could be on the horizon: a report by Goldman Sachs predicts that 300 million jobs around the world will be automated in the near future, while the UK Department for Education estimates that up to 30% of the workforce will be affected.

Yet, these speculations don’t necessarily hold up to scrutiny. Rosa Rolo, group strategy director at creative recruitment agency Major Players, explains that while entry-level roles dwindled last year, they haven’t seen any evidence that AI is the major factor behind this – especially because the Major Players Future of Work report showed that only 17% of businesses feel confident enough in their AI approach to implement and invest in it. “Businesses were focused on reducing high costs amid ongoing economic uncertainty”, she observes, “and I think what we can expect over the next few years is less around job displacement, and more around the evolution of roles which incorporate and complement AI tools.”

In fact, AI has been enhancing entry-level jobs by taking over repetitive tasks, speeding up tedious processes and freeing up room for creative ideation. As Rosa points out, creatives are “being emboldened by the use of AI, which enables them to get to their end concept faster as they can research and innovate much quicker.”

“AI presents an opportunity for newcomers to become unicorns in the industry.” – Liberty Covill

AI is becoming part of the creative process
But what about generative AI? Junior creatives may be adopting automation, but AI’s potential to take over the creative elements of their job still remains. Professor David Shrier from Imperial College Business School points out that “you need a senior person to look at what the AI generates and tweak – but you don’t need an army of junior people to generate the original work”.

However, some entry-level creatives are actually experiencing the reverse: instead of opportunities lessening, they’re being encouraged to pick up AI skills with their older colleagues. At VCCP’s new AI agency, Faith, junior planner Liberty Covill has found that alongside “a significant devotion to teaching old dogs new tricks, there has been an emphasis on making technical fluency a priority for new starters.” As with any other role, grasping its key skills gives you a competitive edge, so Liberty says that “[AI presents an] opportunity for newcomers to become unicorns in the industry”.

VCCP’s new AI-enabled tools for their founding client, O2. New models can generate images of O2 mascot Bubl based on client prompts and brand consistent copy.

AI is paving alternative routes
AI has even been opening up career pathways and creating new roles. Also at Faith is Gabriele Lanzafame, a creative prompt and diffusion engineer whose job brings creativity and technology together in a way that didn’t exist a decade ago. In fact, according to recruitment agency Source, “AI specialists, data analysts, and AI trainers are some of the job roles that are in demand in the creative industry.” Krišjānis Stirna, who works in marketing data science & AI at digital agency DEPT®, explains how they've hired their “first copy prompt engineers in the EMEA team”, another role that "didn't exist a year ago".

Given the newness of the technology, emerging creatives might even have an advantage here. Early data from the Major Players 2024 Salary Census revealed that 46% of those aged 18 to 24 use AI either every day or a few times a week, compared to 36% for those above that age – an indication that, as Rosa Rolo puts it, “junior and entry-level talent seem to be more adept at using these new tools and technologies”. Krišjānis agrees that "Juniors' innate tech-nativeness places them in an invaluable position to contribute innovative ideas that seniors might miss". Plus, as Faith’s Liberty Covill points out, “The uncertain nature of this new domain means that it’s open to a wide array of applicants, welcoming diversity in skills and backgrounds uncommon in traditional roles.” So if you’re a curious, driven and tech-savvy emerging creative, you might just be well-placed to benefit from the AI boom.

“What will be key over the next few years is how creatives embed new technologies into their outputs.” – Rosa Rolo

🌱 How to thrive in an AI-infused creative environment

Pick up AI skills – in the right way
Before you rush to equip yourself with all the latest AI tools, consider how to responsibly integrate them into your work – the last thing you would want is to hinder instead of help your creative process. “It is important to remember that the autonomy you have over your prompted output is minimal”, Faith’s Liberty Covill cautions, so “that last 30% of crucial quality requires manual manipulations or rigorous iterations of the prompt”.

Rosa Rolo from Major Players adds that “what will be key over the next few years is how creatives are able to embed new technologies into their outputs“ and continue to differentiate themselves.

Creative Technology Lead at DEPT®, Jiri Dudek, emphasises the importance of selecting tools and technologies "not just for their popularity but for their relevance and alignment with one's interests and project needs." His colleague Krišjānis Stirna also explains how AI serves as their "creative co-pilot, not replacing individual creativity but amplifying it to push the boundaries of what's possible". As a company committed to the ethical and sustainable use of AI, there is an understanding that driving innovation in this field needs to be done responsibly.

That’s because, at the end of the day, AI tools are just that: tools. They can’t turn bad ideas into good ones without your creative input, so don’t forget to hone your other talents alongside more traditional creative techniques too.

Cultivate your ‘softer’ skills to stand out
Technical fluency aside, ‘soft skills’ – those transferable and interpersonal traits that are crucial to creative work – are equally important too. As advanced and impressive as AI is, the technology also has its limitations, especially when it comes to emotional intelligence, empathy and contextual understanding. That’s the gap that you, as a human creative, can fill. As Faith’s Gabriele Lanzafame puts it, it’s your problem-solving skills and critical mindset that will be paramount, enabling AI to be used “not just as a tool, but as a partner in innovation and efficiency”.

🤖 Resources to get you started

Recommended tools

  • ChatGPT
    ChatGPT and its other versions are valuable for tasks such as creating briefs, summarising information and brainstorming ideas, but not to an expert level.

  • Midjourney
    Useful for image generation, but not preferred for external work because it lacks regulations for data privacy and intellectual property; consider using it for internal work and quick brainstorming instead.

  • Adobe AI tools
    Adobe has seamlessly integrated AI into its products for different creative tasks. For instance, hours that would have been spent expanding an image pixel-by-pixel can now be spent on more impactful work with the ‘generative fill’ tool.

  • Perplexity AI
    Conversational search engine that is useful for research purposes because it cites all of its sources.

Places to learn about AI

  • UAL Creative Computing Institute Courses
    Online courses on FutureLearn to help learners understand AI’s impact on the creative industries and build the skills needed for a creative AI career.

  • Grow with Google: Learn AI and Machine Learning
    Free online courses by Google that cater to learners of different levels of experience, making it suitable for anyone keen to learn AI and machine learning.

  • Institute of Coding
    With the aim of closing the UK’s digital skills gap, the Institute of Coding provides courses about creative tech and hosts regular events.

  • Tech Yard
    Funded by UAL and run by educator Jazmin Morris, this creative computing club provides free introductory workshops to a broad range of creative technologies.

  • YouTube
    As Krišjānis from DEPT® recommends, free tutorials on YouTube from creators like Matt Wolfe offer beginners the opportunity for anyone to "start experimenting and learning about AI technologies at their own pace".

Written by Nicole Fan
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