Baffling AI with an Eccles cake

My studio Snack experiment on making a coffee and cake emoji: two AI-generated emojis made from half coffee cup, half cake, a tiny painting of coffee and Eccles cake and AI's flight of fancy when I asked it to generate an image of an Eccles cake

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The latest Studio Snack, a five minute food podcast about design, started with a suggestion from collaborator Narcis Sauleda that we plan our next episode over coffee and cake.

Fika. Kaffee und Kuchen. Kettle on and a snack for elevenses. In my head, they’re one thing. But to invite someone digitally, you need two emojis – so our creative experiment has been to see if we can make a combined one.

It’s been my first opportunity to play with Illustrator’s generative AI. I started with an idea, did multiple tryouts and I took over for development and assembly to arrive at my experimental emojis.

Portuguese custard tarts proved baffling, even when I asked for them in Portuguese: I got 1970s English baking, a lemon tart and a pie with a skirt.

With a hunch that an Eccles cake might be its nemesis, I did a painting on a tiny canvas to photograph for a WhatsApp invitation.

But in the interests of rigour, I thought I should try an AI version. The result was a Mad Hatter’s tea party of cake…

To be fair, there is an element of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ here – if you’re going to brief an alien to illustrate something, you need to describe it, not just say what it’s called. But I am weirdly fascinated that a miniature Kugelhupf is one of the things that came back. Perhaps the good people of Eccles would like to try baking one.

Listen to the episode here.