Pairing superpowers with AI to create superhuman teams


James Lenhart

on •

Feb 6, 2024

The image displays a textured, maze-like pattern creating a letter "e" on a dark background.
The image displays a textured, maze-like pattern creating a letter "e" on a dark background.

AI stands as a transformative force in design and software development. My experiences in this field have brought me to a brand new perspective: a future where AI doesn't just augment our abilities but elevates us to 'superhuman' status, redefining the essence of creativity and collaboration.

AI in design is a paradigm shift. We are witnessing the ceiling of creativity being raised, with AI-powered tools enabling unparalleled innovation. Simultaneously, the floor is being lowered, making design more accessible. As someone deeply invested in this evolution, I see AI not just as a tool but as a collaborator, reshaping the design landscape into a more inclusive and boundless space.

At Artium, we've established a core set of expectations for our design team. It's rare to find designers who can do absolutely everything, and identifying what was necessary versus what we would compromise on was vital. But how might AI change the craft of software development, and what impact will AI have on design teams?

Supplementary skills and specializations may become more critical as AI lowers the floor for what skills are necessary in design, and perhaps what was considered a superpower in the past is now a baseline requirement.

"AI doesn't just augment our abilities but elevates us to 'superhuman' status, redefining the essence of creativity and collaboration."

Practicing balance

Lately, I've been asking myself: Is AI a rival to the designer's craft? While AI introduces new dynamics in the design world, it is more an ally than an adversary. AI challenges us to adapt and evolve, pushing the boundaries of what we, as designers, can achieve. It's a call to embrace change, not fear it.

I see a world where the craft of software development is one where AI is an integral team member. It's not about replacing human ingenuity but augmenting it. In this new era, cross-functional teams, comprising designers, developers, and AI, work in synergy. This collaboration is transforming not just the speed but the very nature of software development, leading to more refined, user-centric solutions.

Understanding the experience and specializations of each member within your organization will enable you to form superhuman pods when pairing the right humans with the right prompts and tooling. It's really about balance.

Software development teams (of the past...?)

Reflecting on the traditional approaches to software design, there's a stark contrast to the AI-driven methodologies emerging today. The old way often involved siloed roles, linear processes, and a heavy reliance on manual effort. It was a world where technical limitations bounded creativity, and collaborative efforts were more challenging.

Drawing inspiration from Alan Cooper's thoughts on paired design teams, I see AI as this duo's emerging 'Generator'. AI complements human creativity, offering solutions that align perfectly with user needs and existing design patterns. It's about transforming the collaborative process, where AI is not just a tool but a team member contributing to groundbreaking designs.

If you watch the video, consider how AI will drastically change the approach to building and designing great products.

"When you work alone, it's really easy to get stuck in your own thoughts." - Alan Cooper

Cooper says the single most effective way to improve the quality of design is to work in teams of two. But what if design pairs were cross-functional?

At Artium, we've seen engagements where two designers can maintain and support a design system capable of enabling 60+ engineers.

Within the larger body of primarily engineering-focused team members, there's much experience to account for. You will likely find other people with design backgrounds, marketing, product, and business experience within this larger body. So what if the future of design looked like this?

Here, I'm illustrating an example of a team where some have the skills and experience to support design-related activities and one who will maintain and operate the design system (i.e., merging branches, accepting changes, providing feedback).

I want to acknowledge that every team and org is different, and these ideas are the starting point for design leaders and business operators to consider as we move into the next chapter of superhuman teams. It's going to take a while, but it will happen at a faster pace than we're used to.

Where we go from here

As we stand at the brink of this new era, the role of AI in design and software development is unmistakably transformative. It's an exhilarating, albeit daunting, frontier. Embracing AI in our teams and processes is not just about keeping pace with technological advances; it's about redefining what it means to be a designer or a developer in the world of tomorrow. Our journey from being merely skilled professionals to becoming 'superhumans' is just beginning.