Designit study finds 80% of creatives unaware of 'AI washing'

13 May 2024 2 min. read

Top creatives are mostly blind to the issue of 'AI washing'. Around 80% of creatives and designers are unaware of the practice occurring, according to a poll from Designit, a global innovation consultancy owned by Wipro.

This unawareness of the problem is perhaps even more surprising considering that dishonesty and trickery around AI is currently on the rise. Only 14% of creatives reported knowing of and experiencing AI washing, while 6% said they knew of it but had not had direct experience with it.

So what is AI washing? It refers to the unethical practice of mischaracterizing a company’s AI products or services in order to impress stakeholders and investors.

AI Washing

AI washing can take the form of exaggerating about AI capabilities when it might just be ‘a bunch of hot air’, or failing to address limitations and risks.

Like many other unethical marketing tactics, AI washing is actually pretty common. Certainly more so in the past several years as AI has boomed and companies fear missing out on the newest trend. But, like greenwashing, AI washing is more likely to backfire than anything else, resulting in reputational harm or even fines from regulators.

“Brands' impatience to be seen as cutting-edge, and their eagerness to embrace all the benefits of AI, is understandable,” said Pardis Shafafi, global responsible business lead at Designit.

“The imperative for brands and their partners to be vigilant to developments including AI washing is greater now than ever. With fake news and misinformation making consumers more wary and suspicious than ever, we all have a reputational responsibility not to mislead consumers.”

AI washing is becoming increasingly common across different industries – so much so, in fact, that authorities have already begun taking notice. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued fines last month to a number of investment advisory firms for being disingenuous about their use of AI.

Regulations around AI have recently been put in place – or are expected soon – in a number of markets. The US passed its signature ‘AI Bill of Rights’ into law, while the EU is nearly ready to put its own AI policy into effect, known as the EU AI Act.

This latest Designit global survey canvassed a pool of professionals working in the design and creative industries, from design strategists and leaders to UX and product designers. Designit specializes in the creative industries, with expertise in strategy, design, tech, and marketing. The firm has 14 offices worldwide and around 700 employees.