Helping to formulate an ambitious vision of the future of AI
At the close of 2022, buzz around the potential of large language model AI was growing fast, and Microsoft was at the center of it. The company had made a smart investment in OpenAI, the company behind DALL-E and ChatGPT, and it would soon announce the integration of GPT-4 into its Bing search engine and Edge browser. Microsoft was also preparing to unveil the addition of Copilot to its suite of productivity applications. Copilot adds unprecedented new AI functionalities to its core product lines—based on a single text prompt written in conversational speech, the Word Copilot could write your first drafts; PowerPoint could generate your slides, Excel could analyze your quarterly sales results and highlight key trends.
It would be one of the most significant developments in the world of business and work in years. It was also an opportunity for Microsoft to lay out its vision for the promise of AI. GDP was there to help the company formulate and articulate that vision.
This collaboration between Microsoft and GDP was the culmination of a partnership that began three years ago with the creation of the WorkLab platform, a place for the company to share research, hard data, and in-depth journalism about the future of work. It has continued through several seasons of a WorkLab podcast, a series of guides to help business leaders navigate the swiftly changing world of hybrid work, a newsletter, and scores of feature stories and in-depth reports that helped secure Microsoft the top spot on Fast Company’s list of “Most Innovative Data Science Companies”.
WorkLab was the perfect place for the company to lay out its vision for this new era of AI. And GDP’s years of experience covering the latest developments in AI and working with clients that are pioneering the technology put us in a unique position to be helpful. We would deliver a message that took over the homepage of WorkLab, a manifesto accompanied by animation, artwork, and videos. But the message needed to be developed very quickly. A distinctive look and feel for this ambitious statement would need to be developed. The technical infrastructure of the WorkLab site would need to be altered to deliver this vision. And all of this had to happen in utmost secrecy, while the vision was still being distilled and the product was still being finalized.
Luckily, GDP had our colleagues at Upstatement helping us every step of the way. Upstatement is a brand and digital product studio that recently joined the kyu collective through a strategic investment by GDP, and we collaborated with them on everything from art direction and conceptual visualization to retrofitting the WorkLab digital presence to accommodate every facet of the message that Microsoft was hoping to deliver.
The level of coordination that had to be maintained in light of the secrecy required made this unlike anything we have ever worked on. Our crack team of account managers and project managers are the unsung heroes of every initiative we tackle, but keeping the right people in GDP and Upstatement informed and in the loop on this particular project (while keeping everyone else in the dark) was a special challenge. “It’s an honor that we were trusted to help with a project of this importance with so much sensitivity around it, and we earned that trust by leveling up our already stringent security protocols to meet the level of deep confidentiality this project required,” says account director Kelly Mendez-O’Connor.
The GDP editorial team brought its deep background in tech journalism to bear. We shared our take on the history and development of AI to help set the bigger-picture context, and Microsoft shared its voluminous internal research and an outline of their prototype project. Our editorial leadership team embedded in Redmond to interview Microsoft leadership and top AI researchers for a series of video interviews that were incorporated into the package. “Those interviews also gave us the real substance that informed the accompanying manifesto, and helped to distill the central formulation, which is that this pivotal new phase moves us from ‘AI on autopilot’ to ‘AI as copilot,’” says Marcus Wohlsen, GDP’s head of editorial. “We worked with key stakeholders and top executives at Microsoft to craft a forecast that offered a vision of AI as a tool to augment human abilities and streamline workflows. In this vision of the not-so-distant future, AI helps people deal with the most tedious tasks to free everyone up to focus on more engaging and creatively challenging work.”
GDP designed a visual language for the package that reconciled the existing look of WorkLab with the new design system that Microsoft introduced with the launch of Windows 11. We worked with artist Jason Solo and Studio Ianus on a series of illustrations that brought the central metaphors of the package to life. “We wanted to use WorkLab as a platform, but create a special moment on the page,” says GDP creative director Kassandra Zuanich. “Design and art direction really led the effort there by establishing a unique visual POV that gave this AI moment a visual distinction and significance.”
Upstatement also engineered content management tools that added a great deal of agility and modularity to the Worklab digital presence. This effectively reshaped the whole editorial process. “The result was that everyone on this project could work like members of a seasoned digital newsroom team on everything from the product to platform to the message, right up to the moment of launch,” says Scott Dasse, principal and chief design officer at Upstatement.
Together, GDP and Upstatement built an engaging, immersive experience to accompany the announcement, showcasing how these incredible new tools will transform the way we work. WorkLab has received millions of unique views since it was created in 2021, but the AI manifesto became one of its Top 5 most viewed stories in just over a month. GDP followed it up with a series of Worklab stories and podcast interviews that drilled down even further on the ramifications of these new developments in AI.