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Curating Artwork From Humans and AI

I’ve been curating my icon galleries for a long time — over a decade now for the iOS one!

My process is pretty boring: when I see an icon I find visually interesting, I try to find the human who made it (so I can credit them) and then I add it to my gallery using my custom CLI tool.

As of late, I’ve seen some folks beginning to leverage AI tools for creating app icons. Here’s an example (original tweet no longer available, try the internet archive):

I’ve played with plugging app icons into AI tools too.

It seems like only a matter of time for AI to move from a tool of ideation in the creation process to a tool of production. (Craft-centered production seems forever in tension with manufactured commoditization — in my world, app icons have stable diffusion, web pages have no-code tools, code has copilot.)

One person I’ve really seen delve into using AI for production app icons is Sindre Sorhus who is using AI to create icons and talking about it publicly on Twitter (I always appreciate folks who share their work, process, and thoughts transparently).

Screenshot of a tweet from @sindresorhus showing a glowing cat app icon he made with AI.

Here’s a macOS icon he shipped recently:

Screenshot of a tweet from @sindresorhus showing a fantasy, deer-like creature for a macOS app icon made with AI.

This all has me reflecting on questions about maintaining my icon galleries into the future. For example:

Steve Jobs famously once said, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.” I think that’s meant to be an empowering statement, but as the world around us becomes increasingly made by AI and not humans, is it still? It’s like, “Sorry the world around you was made by computers capable of processing billions of inputs which is something you will never be capable of.”

Of course, I think there’s always a kind of cat-and-mouse game going on here. Ingenious humans are always seeking to invent new modes of expression that differentiate themselves and their work from the automated world of production.

I’m excited to see what people come up with.