Design × AI Briefing August 23

John Maeda
2 min readAug 19, 2023
Melted butter with text overlay that reads “Just add friction.”

Four Things On The Design × AI Frontier

  • The theme of “design” in the AI era is the opposite of the previous tech boom where we removed friction. Instead, be sure to *add* friction.
  • Adding friction means making sure that AI users are reminded that they’re not getting perfect answers from a superior alien lifeform.
  • As the most socially-conscious discipline within the product, engineering, design triangle, designers need to speak up on behalf of humanity.
  • Because humans, like me, will do stupid things when they’re not constantly reminded to WAKE UP at the steering wheel with an AI copilot.

Three Things I’ve Noticed In AI over The Last 30 Days

  • In the shadow of the GenAI movement are “embedding” models — which aren’t as cool as the completion or chat models.
  • Excitement for generative AI has captivated our attention, because “finish my image” or “complete my essay” feels like magic.
  • I’m seeing more innovations being couched in what embeding models do — instead of completion models. Interesting.

Two Unsolicited Non-Tech Products That I ❤

  • 3M CLAWs are beautifully engineered picture hangers if you’ve got a lot of drywall walls.
  • Thread Wallets are the perfect, no-frills, and unisex container for your cards and keys.

One Special Link

* Voting for the Design in Tech Report 2024 ends soon: / “AI Is Way More Than Chat”

One Final Point

  • There are a variety of flaws inherent to this new wave of AI technologies that I covered in How To Speak Machine (2019) and past Design in Tech Reports. Keeping a social conscience in mind will be increasingly important going forward. Because the convenience of this kind of technology needs to be considered holistically. So be sure to add friction to your AI thinking whenever possible.



John Maeda

John Maeda: Technologist and product experience leader that bridges business, engineering, design via working inclusively. Currently VP Design and A.I. at MSFT.