Gianpaolo Tucci: “Would not be us learning tools, but tools learning how we work”

Talked to the author of Aesthetic Imperfections book about ethical AI, prompting strategies, and Japanese philosophy

June 4, 2024

Gianpaolo Tucci is a multidisciplinary designer who worked with Nokia, Ebay, and Puma and is a core contributor to Google’s interface design evolution. Tucci has recently entered the Machine Learning realm, exploring the possibilities of AI typography in his Aesthetics Imperfections project. He put together his thoughts about the practical use, social impact as well as the nature of AI in a book published by Slanted. We’ve talked to Gianpaolo about the future of typography, and asked for some advice on working with AI.

Why did you choose a form of a book over a digital published longread to write about AI?

It delivers a more human outcome from something that is truly artificial. The book is a time capsule and will save a moment where AI was delivering Aesthetics Imperfections, a moment not meant to last.

Aesthetics Imperfections book

You wrote that traditional type design is limited by a number of rules. What limitations do you face working with AI-generated type?

I wrote, it’s kissing the rigour of the function. Typography, as the technology of communication, needs to respect the rigour of its function to better fulfill its scope, being readable, scalable, universal, and accessible. When working with AI, I became intrigued by the idea of a new face for typography when breaking the barrier of the container — paper, screen, etc. — and becoming an element in space while transitioning into VR/AR. Would the same rules apply there? Could typography powered by AI and enhanced by a generative approach be a continuously evolving entity, able to adapt and change according to needs while embedding even the visual meaning of the exposed word?

Said that the limitations are in the game of interpretation between human and machine, but that is also where the magic happens. Calibration, control, randomness, and dialogue are key.

Aesthetics Imperfections book

Whom of the AI typographers would you recommend to follow?

Barney Mccann, Khyati Trehan, and the Vernacular publishing house, founded by Andrea Trabucco-Campos и Martin Azambuja.

Barney Mccann’s AI typeface


Khyati Trehan’s AI lettering

Artificial Typography book published by Vernacular in 2022

In your book, you write that it’s important to use AI responsibly. How do you define responsibility in this case?

This has different scales and implications. It starts from the correct usage of data to train the models, but it goes on much more. The right usage of data will help to avoid biases when it comes to inclusivity, it helps exclude feeling harness from the response of a machine that can still trigger emotional reactions in humans. We should also focus on ethical considerations about the usage now, in the mainstream of people making deep fake celebrities or even more future ideas about cloning a digital version of the self using AI. The responsible usage starts from the individual and goes on a level in which governance and regulations are needed, yet ultimately starts from us in the usage when not controlled.

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What can be done about the fact that many companies use copyrighted images and fonts for training models?

A new regulation model needs to be in place, I think music can be a good example — part of subscription plans should be used to pay royalties, and I’m pretty sure that a new business model will be presented in the near future.

Personally, I don’t use fonts as training data, I use my own creations as a dataset when training custom models, or integrate APIs from providers. When I started to use AI to make images with letters, it was really difficult as the models were not trained on letters.

From the Aesthetics Imperfections book

How do you distinguish an imperfection that creates the sense of uniqueness from bad design?

How do you distinguish an imperfection that creates the sense of uniqueness from bad design? For me the question is, is it an image design? Or a digital artwork? Will an image be a bad design? Does it need to deliver a function? Imperfect does not mean bad. Nothing is perfect in this world — Imperfection simply means a state of not being perfect, and it’s a totally situational, indefinable quality anyway.


From the Aesthetics Imperfections book

I’m really inspired by the philosophy of Aesthetics and the Japanese word Wabi Sabi. It is a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Everything that is asymmetric or simplified is part of the Wabi Sabi aesthetic. The term Wabi Sabi is not easy to translate. Wabi means rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, as art of the life cycle.

Do you have any experience in traditional type design?

Я никогда не делал шрифты. Но сделал много шрифтовых логотипов, рисовал леттеринг, и ещё я начинал как граффити-художник.

**Do you believe that AI would be able to create workhorse typefaces anytime soon? **

Definitely yes.


From the Aesthetics Imperfections book

Does your work with AI help you in product design?

Depends on the scope and the process. I don’t use AI integration features when designing experiences, however, for some boring and repetitive tasks, automation works great and saves a lot of time. People generally think AI will speed up work and replace humans, but instead of getting a great result when working with AI tools and nonlinear workflows, time is truly required to avoid having mediocre results.

That’s the beginning of a new era, it progresses really fast, the way we will use AI-driven tools will change the way we think and act. Would not be us learning tools, but tools learning how we work to support us and streamline operations while amplifying the creative process.


From the Aesthetics Imperfections book

Do you have any prompting advice on working with AI typography?

Nowadays, with the new versions of the MidJourney algorithm, for instance, it is easier to get results. The prompting exercise is always a game of syntax, the combination of different building blocks. In the syntax we initially find the right balance, using communication and emphasis, on what you want to have visualized. My suggestion is to structure it in your mind, make it clear, and then add, prioritize and reshuffle to find the calibration in this interpretation game.

You can be so abstract and leave space for more interpretations or guide with references and precise attributes to be more specific.

From the Aesthetics Imperfections book

From the Aesthetics Imperfections book

You also work as a creative director. What AI tools should a contemporary design team be acquainted with?

There are no rules, the tool variety is pretty big. I see new tools being released every day. I feel it is more how you use them in a nonlinear workflow choosing which one suits the best your style or need.

AI is a technology, it is a tool, not a replacement. I always like to make an example — it’s like with cameras. When cameras became a mass product, painters thought their job was over. Cameras brought a new branch of expression, the world from your own point of view. We should not worry, instead we should understand how to best integrate a technology that is here to stay.

In a creative team, AI is still a tool, anyone can use for the best when it comes to task automation, inspiration, prediction enhancing human abilities. I do use Midjourney, Сhat GP 3, Barnd, Adobe Firefly, Google Colab, Runway and much more.


Gianpaolo Tucci

Aesthetics Imperfections book