“Artificial intelligence represents new ways of creating”

ActuaLitté: Why this choice of Artificial Intelligence to create the cover of the book poster girl?

Elsa Lafon: We used Midjourney software for this new novel by Veronica Roth, the author of Divergent, which questions our relationship to technology and image. In this novel, the heroine’s face became the propaganda poster of a totalitarian regime.

The artistic direction of Editions Michel Lafon offered me to use AI as a mise en abyme interesting for questioning the “truth” of a representation.

With regard to the content of the book, what does your approach as editor express?

Elsa Lafon: Editions Michel Lafon are attentive to all new trends, eclectic and eager to clear new territories for us. It is in the house’s DNA to be a pioneer in many areas, both editorial and media!

This agility has also enabled us to maintain our independence.

What is this famous AI Midjourney, credited for the realization of the illustration?

Elsa Lafon: It is a graphical tool using artificial intelligence to generate an image. On its site, Midjourney presents itself as an independent research laboratory which explores new thought supports and develops the imaginative capacities of the human species.

Concerning the technical part, our graphic designer enters into the software key words – face, woman, determined, propaganda, uniform, cold, constructivism – as he does during an iconographic search in image banks, whether for photos or illustrations. The software generates proposals. The graphic designer chooses the one that seems to him the most suitable, makes alterations and then integrates the face into his cover composition produced in the traditional way.

What do you think of the end result?

Elsa Lafon: It is a reinterpretation of the American and English cover. The final result is up to everyone. Critics point to the risk of economic abuses, and a world where the production of covers would become free.

What is the annual budget allocated by your house to this component?

Elsa Lafon: Excluding photographers and taking into account our comic book production, the publishing house spends more than €300,000 per year on illustrators. In addition, it hires four full-time salaried graphic designers and a dozen freelance graphic designers, in particular for the creation of beautiful books.

With over 200 new releases per year, we work with hundreds of illustrators each year and will continue to showcase their work.

In the making of a book, what percentage represents the cover?

Elsa Lafon: A cover created by an illustrator or via a photographer costs between 600 and 5000 € according to the genre and the notoriety of its author.

Beyond experimentation poster girlis this approach intended to be generalized?

Elsa Lafon: Not at all. As I said, it’s an original idea for a singular book, but which is not intended to generalize. On the other hand, AI is a current subject (whether visual or semantic) and a future one with the development of ChatGP3.

It is already used by smartphones (facial recognition and fingerprints), music, games and today the creation of images.

Some graphic designers even see it as an opportunity to automate repetitive tasks and to inventively carry out work started with more powerful software. In the same way that computers changed their craft 35 years ago, artificial intelligence also represents new ways of creating.

At a time when AIs can almost write books, how do you understand this controversy?

Elsa Lafon: This controversy expresses the artists’ fear of a misunderstanding of their work and dehumanization. Debates around creation have always existed, since a new technique has appeared (from oil painting to the camera). And they are needed!

In the history of art, I am thinking in particular of the reflections proposed on creativity by Marcel Duchamp with the current of the “ready-made” and of Vassily Kandinsky in his plea Spiritual in art. Humans are very present in artificial intelligence, because learning is done on content generated by them.

This gives, finally, the opportunity to recall our historical and strong attachment to artists and illustrators.

Photo credits: Aideal Hwa/ Unsplash

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“Artificial intelligence represents new ways of creating”

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