The Week I Fell Down the AI Influencer Rabbit Hole

We have all heard ad infinitum about how AI is changing creative industries, and AI influencers are already the next big thing. I delve into the current AI model trend and its implications for other creators.

AI-generated muscular male model looking at the camera.

I've changed the format for this week's newsletter - I mentioned last week that I'm going to be adjusting as we go and not sure that just rehashing random events is particularly useful. There are a couple items at the end for those who are interested. As always, I would love to hear your feedback. If you're reading this in email, please hit the up/down voting buttons at the bottom (don't worry, I can't see who hit which one), or send love/hate to

If you're like me, you're probably sick as hell of hearing about AI (most of which isn't actually AI). Everyone, and I mean everyone is covering it, and as I have previously written, we seem to be hitting the peak of inflated expectations and heading for the trough of disillusionment. Let's hope, anyway.

But that said, AI is not going away and most coverage seems to hit one extreme or the other: either it's coming for us all ("all jobs will be replaced by AI in three years!") or saving the world ("AI will solve the climate crisis and allow us to all live like the Jetsons!").

Actually, the Jetsons may not have been the best choice there, but whatever.

Like many creatives, I've been thinking a lot about AI and its applications and while I'm not making any outright predictions, I think that some trends are likely.

If you spend any time on the socials, you may have noticed some AI-powered influencers popping up. Turns out that this could be kind of a big deal, especially for folks on the low end of the influencer scale. Financial Times covered this and Intelligencer has a decent write-up on how advertisers are going hard on AI. The tl;dr version is that advertisers are replacing human influencers with fabricated ones.

For me, this paragraph was the real key:

The marriage [between advertisers and AI influencers] makes sense. In a purely descriptive, nonjudgmental sense, AI produces inauthentic content; in a purely descriptive, nonjudgmental sense, the advertising industry is premised on inauthenticity. Advertising takes all the interesting, thorny, unsettling issues raised by generative AI and folds them into the same simple, eminently answerable question it always asks: Does this stuff sell products?

The Verge also covered this and unfortunately for me, included a link to one of the AI influencers. So down into the burrow I went and now you get to reap the benefits(?) of somewhat disturbing journey. You're welcome.

Below are screen grabs from two of the accounts; to no one's surprise they happen to be very similar-looking thirst traps and the comments are full of thirsty dudes, because of course they are. It's hard to tell how many of said dudes are in on the joke, but at least a few of them seem to be.

There are also a good number of comments from other AI models. So yes, AI models are commenting and reacting to content from other AI models. This isn't really new, and Twitter (yeah I know it's called X but that's a stupid name and I don't stan for billionaires) seems to have inspired an entire cottage industry around bots entertaining each other.

Two Instagram profiles of AI-generated influencers illustrating the similarities between them.
They don't love you, no matter how much you want them to. (via your intrepid correspondent)

While this all may seem a little unhinged to the initiated, we're not even to the really crazy part yet. I noticed that a couple of these AI models also have Linktree accounts so I did my duty and checked them out.

Yeah, about that.

Turns out that Laila Lumina has a Fanvue account (Fanvue is an OnlyFans alternative). So yes, that means exactly what you think it means: AI models are making and selling erotic content. In fact, Fanvue is running full-page ads for digital models, so our robo-hottie Laila is almost certainly not the only one and Fanvue sees opportunities in the market. (For the record, I did not investigate further, nor do I have any intention of doing so.)

And yeah, I know that deepfakes and AI girlfriends are a thing, but having an AI influencer/model actually running an OF-style account seems to be a shift.

I will say this: at least the people behind these robo-models are out in the open about it. Diana Núñez, co-founder of The Clueless (responsible for Aitana) said in an interview with Fortune that she and her partner were unhappy with the costs of dealing with live influencers, so they made their own. And it turns out that Aitana brings in about $3,300 a month so I guess it's working?

Granted, synthetic entertainers are not new - Miquela has been around for years. But now the tools are easily accessible and cheap.

Fine, You Say. I'm Not an Influencer, You Say.

Sure, but that's not the point. The reality is that companies will do pretty much anything a save a few pennies. For example, Google has announced that they are dispensing with several hundred people in their ad sales department and replacing them with AI.

I was a little surprised to see that the targeted people mostly seem to be responsible for selling ads to large customers, and that some of the jobs seem to be creatives. I've worked with marketing departments at large brands, and those people are not known for their forgiveness. I'm interested to see how this plays out, given that current AI tools are known to just make shit up, be racist, and swear at customers. (Though I have to admit that I kind of love the idea of a sweary customer service chatbot.)

Image of a customer asking a chatbot to write a haiku and the chatbot responding with, "DPD is a useless/chatbot that can't help you/don't bother calling them"
It can't do a haiku right, either. (via BBC)

The Google story brings another angle: they already control the majority of internet ad sales and their algorithms have made the web what it is today. So if their own systems are constantly adjusting their customers' ads at the blink of an eye, then what does that mean to the those of us trying to use the internet? What about companies who are buying the ads? Does it become literally, "buy ads from Google or you're screwed?"

The black-box machinations of big tech companies already determine most of what we see on the internet and it's almost certain that giving Google - or Meta, for that matter - even more control isn't going to be good.

For the record, I'm not talking about Skynet "not good." We seem to be a ways from that, and some folks who know about these things believe that it will never happen. No one can be sure, but the current crop of (primitive) AI tools present plenty of challenges in the meantime.

What Does This Mean for Creatives?

Companies will do anything to save a buck, even if it's stupid and self-defeating, so you're headed for infinite sadness if you're banking on any company to do the right thing in terms of implementing AI.

The truth is that AI tools can be useful and can help us with our daily tasks. I used Microsoft Copilot to help me write the UI Design Principles Guide (see below), and it mostly did OK. I had to tailor a few prompts and do some light editing, but overall it worked fine.

Image generators and tools like Adobe's generative expand can help with concepting and some basic tasks. But don't expect today's AI tools to solve all your creative problems and don't necessarily buy into all the on-stage marketing hype.

Image of a meadow with some cattle. The image has been expanded using Adobe AI and the cattle in the expanded section are deformed. Like, really deformed.
Those are some messed up cows on the left (via the author + Adobe Firefly)

A lot of folks are saying that creatives need to be at least trying out these tools and getting used to them. Those people are absolutely 100% correct. We should all be figuring out how to use the likes of Firefly, ChatGPT, Copilot, Midjourney, et al. to at least understand how they work, how they can help, and what their limitations are. If your boss starts talking about AI then you should be able to hold a knowledgeable conversation.

Should you be making a Plan B? That's harder to say. I might be a little concerned if I were a corporate writer, not because AI can produce better work (it can't) but because executives chasing next quarter's financials don't care about quality. But regardless of your role, you'd better start figuring out how to embrace the tools because otherwise it's going to get hard, and probably sooner than you think.

I Made a Guide to UI Design Principles

Young woman looking completely overwhelmed while sitting at her work desk.
via Adobe Stock

I mentor UX/UI design bootcamp students, many of whom don't have art or design backgrounds (which is not necessarily a handicap, for several reasons). Consequently, some of them struggle with some of the basics of UI design, which draws heavily from graphic design. The internet is awash with how-tos, guides, and tips, but for someone new to the industry it can be a bit, um, overwhelming. So I put together a concise article covering the core principles, along with examples of how to apply each. You can check it out over at the 58 Creative blog; there is a downloadable PDF version as well.

How the Vision Pro is Made

A woman wearing an Apple Vision Pro headset.
(via Apple)

Too poor to buy an Apple Vision Pro? Me too! But at least you can watch this (honestly pretty cool) video about how it's made. But not actually FROM How It's Made.

Do You Love Writing Tools? I Do!

Meet JetDo, introducing the JetPens mascot
via JetPens

I like mechanical pencils - and wooden ones too - and happened across JetPens this week. They seem to have a great selection of all things stationary, and I ordered few things this week (and already have a growing wishlist). Even better, they have an adorable mascot and their YouTube videos are fantastic. If you're a pen/pencil/paper nerd you should check them out.

And to be clear, I do not have any kind of affiliate relationship with JetPens and don't gain anything if you order from them. I do enjoy the videos and think that some of you might as well.

Subscribe to Design Flaw

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.