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06.27.24

Short & Spacey

Creative Writing for Designers in the Age of AI
Johnny Selman
By Johnny Selman

Last year, we set our sights on honing our creative writing skills, culminating in a project inspired by our solar system. Our ten team members were matched with a planet or star, diving into its history and symbolism. Even our favorite demoted dwarf planet got assigned :) The task? To pen a short story or poem influenced by, but not directly detailing, their celestial counterpart—evoking the writing of McSweeney’s over National Geographic. 

To kick off the project, my sister Jennifer Flanagan hosted a workshop with the team. She’s the Associate Professor of critical thinking, writing, and communication at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jennifer equipped us with valuable insights for the journey ahead, from nurturing fledgling ideas to developing rich characters from our personal circles, and most importantly—to get writing. 

Initially, I was resistant to incorporating AI, preferring to focus on our team’s organic writing growth. Yet, as we delved deeper into the new capabilities of Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT and Google Gemini, their potential as invaluable writing aids became evident. The mission wasn’t to complicate writing but to demystify the process and foster genuine self-expression. 

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Our team harnessed AI in diverse ways—from bridging gaps between concepts to forming structured outlines, refining paragraphs for enhanced emotion, creating moodboards with words, using prompts for story depth, or even extracting succinct summaries to verify narrative consistency. Ultimately, we recognized the value of seamlessly integrating the technology to enhance our creative pursuits.

Being raised in Korea, I sometimes struggle to express myself as effectively in English to others. The AI technology helped me to convey my thoughts more naturally and smoothly.”
Hanjoon Kim, Neptune
I ran my final story through AI for analysis and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was able to pull out the intended themes with a high degree of accuracy.”
Christopher Schroeder, Saturn
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The unknown can be scary, but the claustrophobia of our comfort zones can be terrifying. I’m proud of the team for embracing the writing challenge head-on and for learning new technologies along the way. We’ve created a collection of stories and poems that are as diverse as the planets and stars that inspired them—bound together in a planetary passport. 

As we look up at the night sky and lift our gaze to the vast solar canopy, it feels fitting that it’s the same gesture as someone deep in thought.

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