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Marcus Byrne imagines Gaudi-inspired home appliances with Midjourney
Coffee machine and toaster, designed by Marcus Byrne on Midjourney
Image: Marcus Byrne

Marcus Byrne imagines Gaudi-inspired home appliances with Midjourney

The Irish visual artist created a series of designs for electrical appliances such as toasters, coffee machines, and microwaves, using the artificial intelligence bot.

by Almas Sadique
Published on : Jan 04, 2023

How often does one come across inventions from the Industrial Age that are heavily dressed and ornamented and that are etched with motifs evocative of specific cultures, regions, and tastes? Coffee machines, toasters, refrigerators and other electrical appliances have, over the years, evolved to encapsulate better features and functionalities. However, their appearances have continued to remain stoic, plain, and unostentatious, save for occasional splurges of flamboyant colours and imprints of bold patterns onto surfaces. These minor additions, however, have not yet managed to establish unique identities in the realm of industrial design. With the invention of newer and better appliances—it is not too audacious to expect a creative revival that can improve the appearance of tools and appliances, such that they can also feature as decorative objects. Marcus Byrne, a visual storyteller who hails from Ireland and currently resides in Australia, recently reimagined a series of household appliances in Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi’s unique style—with the help of the AI-based art generator Midjourney.

Antoni Gaudi’s individualised brand of modernist architecture—inspired and influenced by the Catalan Gothic style, Art Nouveau decorations, Neo-Gothic architecture, and Oriental interpretations of Asian design popular in Europe—is well known in creative circles and beyond, through the impressive examples of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, and Casa Mila, among others. His atypical structures, decorated with trinkets and textures that mimic the organic forms found in nature, seem familiar, while also managing to catalyse an otherworldly and fantastical imagination.

Picking up these cues from the 20th-century architect’s oeuvre, Byrne directed textual prompts on Midjourney, the result of which is a series of visually stimulating images where household appliances are reimagined to accommodate bold patterns. “We live in an age of Apple and Tesla with minimal design taking charge. With the help of Midjourney and Photoshop, we can envision a world where regular household appliances are redesigned with the Gaudí aesthetic. With an explosion of colour and organic curvilinear shapes, the designs dominate the usual minimal appliances and turn them into Art Nouveau-styled sculptures,” the visual artist asserts.

Byrne specialises in the fields of photography, art direction, branding, identity design, and graphic design. Harnessing the learnings and experiences from various creative facets, the Irish designer envisioned this series of household objects, albeit digitally. The process is simple—one registers themselves on the chat application Discord, joins the beta program from the Midjourney website, scrolls over and clicks on their #newbies channel and commands the Midjourney bot using the prompt /imagine. After a series of manipulations and enhancements, one can obtain the desired image, as imagined or perhaps better.

Byrne further edited these images on Photoshop to come up with the final series of Antoni Gaudi-inspired household appliances. When asked about his experience of working on this series, the graphic designer shares, “To be honest, I am uncomfortable saying this project is solely my work. They are abstract ideas and I used AI to help bring them to life. AI is a huge force. It’s a disruptive force. It isn’t going away. Leveraging machine learning’s incredible power to ideate at a faster pace certainly has its advantages. But we need to tread very very carefully. Do machines actually make art? They are fed billions of human art images without credit or compensation. The moral and ethical debates around technology are concerning. Has the horse already bolted?”

The ease with which one can create artwork, with the help of artificial intelligence, is concerning on the one hand, and a welcome invention on the other. While it appears to seemingly replace the artist and their art, it also offers a medium through which non-artists can visualise their ideas and thoughts, hence democratising the creative practice. Alluding to this idea and adding to it, Byrne shares, “We need to have more conversations around AI models and data sets. More transparency is required. We are at a very important time in art history, so progressing in an ethical manner would be the right thing to do. AI tools for audio and video here too so it’s very important to protect the foundations of creativity moving forward and give credit where credit is due.”

Curious to know the prompts that shaped Byrne’s series of Gaudi appliances, we at STIR asked the designer about the textual cues entered by him on Midjourney, to which he responds, “There is no fun in giving away prompts. These ones are pretty self-explanatory. Get creative. Try different words and have fun experimenting.” Taking up this challenge, we commanded the Midjourney bot to design a lamp and a room heater in the characteristic Gaudi style. Here are the results:

While the images created as a result of our prompts bear semblance to Byrne’s series of household objects, one cannot discount the original thought, the inceptive idea, the first author of this vision. Perhaps, as we move forward, these delineations will go on to define and refine the art industry, in tandem with the developments in the digital realm.

What do you think?

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