Magpie Turns to Ai to Generate Irreverent Imagery

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Magpie Studio has worked intensively with the famous mixologist Ryan Chetiwaradana (aka Mr Lyan) over the years, but in the trend of 2023, his recent work for the cocktail wizard was created using AI.

AI, of course, was not without controversy. With the recent (headline-worthy) winner of the creative open category of the Sony World Photography Awards, Boris Eldagsen admitted that his winning photo was actually “created” together with AI. And it is clear that at the moment, at least when it comes to creative activities, AI certainly has enormous limitations. But there is no doubt that it will stay here and that many use AI as a tool like Photoshop to simplify the creation process, rather than something else.

Magpie was working on a brand update for Lyaness, a cocktail bar in London’s Southbank, and was experimenting with Discord-based visual AI, Midjourney. The new designs take the old brand identity, which had a slash symbol at the heart, as a starting point, but build on it to better represent the “spirit of high disrespect that Mr. Lyan is known for,” as Magpie puts it.

Magpie was tasked with “refreshing the identity and giving a disrespectful new meaning to the slash” and tried to embrace the “spirit of exploration and strange innovation” both in the process and accordingly.

As is becoming increasingly clear, AI tools are only as good as their prompts. For this project, Magpie has created a series of prompts inspired by the abstract names of the drinks, ingredients and narratives of the lyaness cocktail menu.

“The challenge was to get Midjourney to overcome the literal representations of cocktails on images that visualized the themes behind them,” says Lily West, designer of Magpie. “We wanted the front slashes to look like windows to other worlds, so we started feeding random prompts in the middle of the course; the crazier, the better. It became really interesting there. It was great to work together as a team to quickly achieve strange results, an experimental approach made possible by AI.”

As a result, Midjourney returned a series of ai-generated illustrations, which were after reduced to those that best expressed “Lyaness’ innovative, versatile and downright strange approach to making cocktails,” says Magpie.

The images are now displayed in the slash on the menu cover. Within the menu, the slash is trimmed, whereby the worlds created by the AI get out of the frame.

“For us, the use of Midjourney (and Discord) effectively imitated the processes of the Lyan team in terms of experiments–the combination of inputs (ingredients) and the subsequent adjustment and iteration of the results,” says Ben Christie, creative director of Magpie. “I found the versioning really interesting, iterating over what the AI had developed and tweaking the prompts to refine the details.

“It’s certainly both exciting and unsettling to see how quickly things are evolving, but we’ve enjoyed taking it on as another tool in our box. Speed and performance are obviously incredible, but – at least for now – as with any design process, it’s always the creative direction that really does it.”

The refreshed identity designs introduced with Lyanness’ new menu called Ancestral Cookbook will be featured on other bar stands that will be introduced “soon,” according to Magpie.

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