Katherine Botes is a conceptually driven creative with a strategic, multichannel approach and more than 20 years of experience in publishing industries and advertising on the agency and client side. Her AI artworks at @pAInt_prompts showcase the incredible scope, imagination and attention to detail of her design work. Katherine also describes herself as a time-poor mom of twins trying to juggle it all, keep a sense of humour and maintain a semblance of balance. So it’s understandable that someone with two such impressive stories would be our top choice when it came to designing the 2Stories logo in 2020. We recently asked Katherine to share her thoughts on AI, inspiring artists and the future of creativity.

How did you get started in the art and design world?

Katherine: From my first SLR camera, gifted to me at a young age, to my penchant for English and storytelling, I’ve always had a creative bent. I spent a year after school as an exchange student and interned at various agencies, which led me to Red & Yellow and my first agency Art Director job. This career choice has given me some amazing life experiences.

What has been your favourite job ever?

Katherine: One would think the answer would be Creative Director of House & Leisure – the occasional perks being first-class travel and attending international design festivals – but actually it was probably a few years at Saatchi & Saatchi under a dynamic creative leader and alongside a very cool group of colleagues, who just made the job so much fun. It was an incredibly non-serious time of my life. I also met my husband while working at The Jupiter Drawing Room, so there’s that!

To what extent do you think AI is going to ‘steal our jobs and take over the world’?

Katherine: In short, yes, I think AI will reduce headcount drastically, and smart people are building products right now that will create an entirely new way of working. Skilled individuals are set to become as productive as teams of hundreds. But I also think there’s so much hype right now; not everything is “breaking news”. The ethics of it all are so muddy, from IP to privacy, from bias to deep fakes – it is a complete minefield.

In terms of jobs, though, I hope it’s mostly going to be Skilled Human + Bot. Although I recently read about a newly built Open AI assistant “Synthetic Creative Director” trained on Cannes case studies! I think the innovation in media generators in image, voice and video are amazing. I’m embracing new creative tech as a conceptual tool, and having a bit of fun seeing what the algorithm spits out. I find the chaos and surreal nature great to experiment with, and earlier versions of the programmes and “mistakes” the most interesting. It’s already having real-world applications for me and I’ve created some object images for agencies and work for clients that have been used in recent campaigns. Now is a time to learn and play.

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Which other designers and artists inspire you, and why?

Katherine: Too many to count, but a common thread might be work that serves up humour and an irreverent perspective. James Jean, David Shrigley, Camille Walala, Rem Koolhaas and Roksanda Ilinčić are just a few that come to mind.

What is your workspace like?

Katherine: I work from home, and with six-year-old twin boys providing an often noisy afternoon background soundtrack, I have learned to super-focus and be incredibly effective in any surroundings. I’m not a cosseted creative who needs a ritual to be able to produce, and I definitely subscribe to the maxim of ‘smart work vs hard work’. Being effective in the time I have is not a new thing: I had the somewhat unpopular opinion even when working in ad agencies that if a person had to be at the office at 10pm night after night, they either had poor boundaries, the processes were flawed or they (or other team members) had an ineffective work style. Perhaps one non-negotiable is really good tea. I’m a tea snob.

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What is the work you’re most proud of, and why?

Katherine: I’ve had more than a couple creatives who’ve worked in my team contact me years later and explain the difference I made in their career trajectory and their creative development. That has been more gratifying than any one piece of work. Otherwise, I’m happiest if work that I am involved in is realising change, or getting a small business noticed. I can do a retail campaign with my eyes closed, but give me a challenge on how to visually sell a psychology course that will make people contemplate suicide differently, and you have some work satisfaction.

Any advice for young creatives out there?

Katherine: Avoid office politics. Resign from clients who don’t appreciate you, or let you get on with what you do best. Highlight when the process is broken. Don’t be in such a hurry. Keep being curious. Be enthusiastic, professional and grateful. Having the opportunity to use your creative gift is a blessing.

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