Charis ☰

Interview with AI Artists Serifa


Serifa is a multidisciplinary creative studio based in Munich formed by Nastassja Abel and Christian Otto. They offer a wide array of services, including cover design (with 75 SPIEGEL bestseller covers created by them), corporate design, animation, and art direction.

They have been exploring the potential of generative AI since 2021, and in their 'Art Every Day' project, a commitment maintained for more than 600 days now, they share daily AI-generated pieces of minimalist visual poetry (art prints available here).

Drawing influences from fashion, hip-hop, and Japanese culture, Serifa's creations are an ode to the unexpected quirks emerging from AI, featuring a wide variety of distorted portraits, fluid and organic shapes, a striking interplay of dark and neon colors, and a signature grain texture that characterizes their work.

In our interview, Nastassja and Christian cheer AI's ability to conceive ideas we haven't even thought of yet. We talked about their journey, triumphs and challenges, as well as AI's role in transforming commercial design roles and outputs, and the undying role of human creativity in the artistic process.

Creative Studio
πŸ“ Munich, Germany
Mar 27, 2024, 11:12 PM PT
Interview by Ana Ramon

How did you start generating art with AI, and what was your first impression of its potential?

When Midjourney V4 was all the rage, we stumbled upon it and tested the tool.

We immediately recognized the potential of this new technology, but at that time, we didn’t exactly know how we could use it for ourselves.

Could you walk us through how an idea transforms into a final piece for your AI-generated art?

We’ve found it important for our development to have a constant output. So, we don’t dwell on an idea for too long but rather let ourselves be driven by it and leave a lot to chance.

How do you feel about the current level of control that AI tools offer? Do you embrace the sometimes unexpected results?

We see the randomness and chaos that often arises with AI-generated images as a great gift. Striving for realism is not in our interest.

The more unexpected the results, the better, because this is how things can emerge that surpass our imagination.

It’s good that with some tools like Midjourney, you can also revert to older versions.

Wouldn’t it be boring if eventually, every generated hand had only 5 fingers? πŸ˜‰

You add a signature grain to all your images. Is post-retouching necessary to consistently maintain a style?

Through experimentation, we came to like this grain. Since we produce a lot of work, over time, you realize whether you want to continue with something or find it no longer fitting. Currently, we like this effect because it further emphasizes the imperfect, chaotic aspect.

When you publish every day and have little time to think, you automatically, but surely, focus more on something that ideally evolves on its own.

In our eyes, it’s important to keep going continuously. Only then can you eventually discover what you like.

Do you find it challenging to develop a style and stick to it with AI tools offering so many visual possibilities to explore?

We see it like Rick Rubin, who said: “Art isn’t in the tools, material, equipment you use. It’s in the way you see the world.”

So, we’ve embarked on a path that will lead us somewhere, and on this path, you might find your style more easily than if you were sitting by the wayside pondering over it.

How has working with AI affected how you see creativity?

Creativity primarily happens in the mind, and being able to visualize creative ideas quickly is a revolutionary path.

Many ideas could never reach the public before because the implementation was too time-consuming or impossible.

With AI, ideas can be tested much faster, which is a dream for creative people. Whether artists, musicians, fashion designers, architects, etc.

How would you define AI in your creative process?

We see AI as a tool.

Art, in our view, is also very much about elevating things to art. That means making a selection and saying, “This is art.”

From 1000 pictures, one is chosen. Why exactly this one? That’s actually the exciting part.

In our job as cover designers for book publishers, we’ve been selecting images for covers for 15 years, which certainly plays a role in the decision for which generated image we choose.

You’ve been creating art every day for more than 600 days now. What are the biggest challenges and rewards of committing to the ‘Art Every Day’ concept?

The biggest challenge is to publish work daily (including weekends), no matter if you are sick, on vacation, or at a family event.

The greatest advantage is that you are forced to run a marathon and not a sprint. For us, art is also a life path, and it should not be a sprint but planned for a long time. Too big breaks can make you very insecure, and you start wondering if you are still on the right path, but if you keep going constantly, the path changes fluidly.

Creating every day gives your artwork a continuity and slow evolution that you can clearly see in your feed. Do you think AI promotes that or makes it more challenging?

With the further development of tools, our work will change somewhat but only if we see that it brings us advantages.

For example, if the images become too realistic, we might switch to an older version.

But basically, we see everything new positively and as an opportunity.

Your studio motto is ‘Defining New Aesthetics’. Is that easier or more difficult to do with AI?

Our motto is a bit challenging, which motivates us to constantly evolve ourselves.

It also shows us a way to the future. AI means many possibilities, which can also be an obstacle in decision-making, but fundamentally, we benefit greatly from AI.

Have you used AI for commercial design projects?

Yes, we are currently working a lot with musicians, which we find very exciting. Additionally, we are increasingly licensing images for magazines, etc.

What are your thoughts on using AI for book cover design specifically?

In this area, a lot is going to change.

For example, image agencies like Shutterstock or Getty will face significant competition from AI-generated images or may even disappear entirely. A revolution is already happening here.

Currently, not all publishers are open to AI, but that is sure to change soon.

Is AI going to take away jobs from designers and creatives?

Yes, definitely.

Those who think AI cannot be creative haven’t spent much time with it.

It’s often said that those who integrate AI into their job will keep their jobs, and those who don’t, will lose them. We believe in this as well.

An architect can now replan entire rooms in seconds with AI, which used to take days, and a logo designer might get 50 conceptual ideas for a logo design from GPT, one of which could be very good.

How do you envision the evolution of AI in the creative industries?

The tools will keep getting better. Even in programs like Photoshop, etc., the AI tools integrated there are used by us daily, and although it’s only the first generation, the results, for example, in retouching work, are astonishingly good.

How do you think it will change design roles and processes, as well as the value of design works?

In design, processes will become much faster. As with any invention, the time saved will be filled with new tasks.

Overall, more output will have to be delivered in less time. Customers will demand results even faster. The competition will grow because, with the help of AI, even beginners can achieve quite good results.

The value of design will surely not decrease, and if the world becomes more beautiful through AI, that would be great!

Beautiful ideas will always be loved by people, regardless of whether they come from humans or AI.

What is something inherently human that you don’t think AI won’t be able to replicate for a while?

The intuition of what is good and what isn’t (gut feeling). AI also cannot incorporate your life experiences into the generated images.

The Top 3

Top 3 words to describe your AI-generated work

Top 3 AI creatives whose work stands out to you

…and many more

Top 3 improvements you wish to see in current AI tools

Everything is developing so fast that it’s almost hard to keep up.

Top 3 advice for creatives considering starting to experiment with AI

A huge thank you to Nastassja and Christian from Serifa for taking the time to dive deep into the intersections of AI and creativity with us!

Your embrace of AI’s chaos and randomness as a gift, along with your dedication to relentless creation and exploration, perfectly captures the pioneering spirit required in today’s rapidly evolving creative landscape.

Thanks for an enriching and thought-provoking conversation!

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