Home Featured Academy’s AI for Advertising Course Aims to Put Students Ahead of the Curve

Academy’s AI for Advertising Course Aims to Put Students Ahead of the Curve

by Art U News
Advertising work created by student Tessa Geenen.

By Rachel Reyna

Artificial intelligence (AI) has made its presence known in everything from self-driving cars to various art disciplines. Many creatives worry about the threat of AI to their careers as illustrators, designers, writers, and more. While there are those who dread the arrival of a rapidly improving AI, others are getting ahead of it and using AI to invite and spark creativity.

Ross Patrick is the director and creative lead for the School of Advertising (ADV) at Academy of Art University, one of the only universities in the country to offer a class specifically devoted to AI and advertising. 

In addition to teaching at the Academy, Patrick has a long and impressive advertising résumé, having previously worked as a graphic designer for brands like Nike and iconic music labels such as Capitol Records. In the fall of 2022, Patrick noticed the growing presence of AI in television, print, and outdoor advertisements and started to incorporate it into his advertising and portfolio classes. When he witnessed first-hand the usefulness of AI to his students, he proposed a course specific to AI and advertising with the goal of putting his students ahead of the curve, predicting that AI knowledge could likely be a requirement in landing a job in advertising after graduation.

“These advertising students are going to have the upper hand because advertising agencies want AI-equipped creatives and ones that understand strategy and copywriting and art direction and design and that can just hit the ground running,” said Patrick.

AI for Advertising work by undergraduate student Tessa Geenen.

According to Patrick, the Academy is the first to have an AI for Advertising class. He believes that many schools will be eager to launch programs like these, as advertising agencies will likely be looking for universities with AI classes to recruit talent. 

“I think this could be one of those moments where the Academy of Art gets some credit for being at the forefront of technology but also using it responsibly and creatively. We’re not just dabbling around here; we’re actually threading the needle between strategy, copywriting, and art direction, and we’re using all the tools,” said Patrick. 

Among the ADV students and alums who have had the opportunity to learn AI in Patrick’s classes were Eileen Chiang, Tessa Geenen, and Brandon Porter. The students spoke of how these tools enhance their personal skill sets and how they work to train AI for projects while also stressing the importance of still learning how to create work guided by fundamental design principles. 

As knowledge of the usage of AI gains importance in advertising, there are concerns about the replacement of key moving parts in the advertising machine, such as photographers, illustrators, or copywriters. Chiang, an ADV graduate student, shared that she saw the use of AI as a theft of artists’ work and would protest against using the technology on social media. “I was very much against it,” said Chiang.

AI for Advertising work by graduate student Eileen Chiang.

Patrick’s class shows students how to ethically incorporate AI into their work. Many of his students leave his class feeling more comfortable with various AI tools. 

Patrick believes that AI is no more than a sketch pad and a place for ideas to form when used correctly and is simply a resource that allows students to create quality visuals that they otherwise would not be able to due to a lack of resources or equipment as students. Through AI, students’ art direction and imagination can shine. 

“I want to go into the more strategic and copywriting side of advertising,” said Geenen, an ADV undergraduate student. “I’m not so much of an art director, but because I always felt like I lacked Photoshop and illustration [skills] to really communicate ideas I had, and now with AI, you can [ask it to create] whereas before you needed really good stock images or maybe expensive photography, you needed to collaborate with people, you maybe needed a whole course on Photoshop to create something that looks realistic.”

“Using AI was an ultimate game changer for getting to really art direct these photos and these visuals,” said Porter, an ADV alum who graduated in 2023. “You can describe everything down to lighting, [color profiles, composition, and] what kind of environment people are in. So, there is some work that goes into it, with being intentional about how you train the AI and how you write your prompts and discern which images are working and which are not, making sure they are cohesive with the campaign.”

AI for Advertising work by alum Brandon Porter.

Training AI to have a unique style or voice is often left out of the AI conversation. At its most basic use, AI can produce images or answers to questions that sound robotic and artificially created, but with “training,” students are able to give AI a personality and unique traits that produce results that reflect their creativity.

“There has to be a balance,” said Chiang. “You still must learn to be a designer, learn traditional design: typography, layout, and communications, and [how to] make a good design that also communicates. Without that, even with ChatGPT, [Adobe] Firefly, or Midjourney, your work is not going to look great because you need that designer sense to create something.”

The future is bright as the Academy and Patrick continue their trailblazing efforts to incorporate AI into education while keeping the students’ ideas at the forefront.

“The way that we teach AI is that it is not front and center,” explained Patrick. “Ideas are front and center, concepts are front and center, and [AI] is a tool. But we’ve found out that it’s a very powerful tool and that it’s really helping students get further faster.”

Correction: A previous version of this article included a misspelling of Tessa Geenen’s last name. We regret this error.

Related Articles