The year before DALL·E 2 came out, my wife gave me a digital drawing tablet as a birthday gift. I'd wanted to pick up digital art as a hobby, but I quickly lost steam. After watching a few YouTube videos on how to get started, the idea of learning the complex software and techniques involved felt overwhelming.
Then, in April 2022, DALL·E 2 was released. All of a sudden, instead of learning complicated programs, I could create digital art in seconds with an AI prompt. I was hooked. To see what the AI was capable of, I started plugging random prompts into the system.
My early experimentations with DALL·E led to unforgettable images like "a zebra wearing a suit and holding a smartphone, digital art" and "a 3D render of a hamburger-shaped UFO with a psychedelic background."
My favorite output—flawed but mesmerizing—was "a macro 35mm photograph of a sloth wearing a suit and making a call on a cell phone on a busy New York street."
Toying around with DALL·E is a fascinating window into the immense promise of generative AI, along with its shortcomings and quirks. (Why did DALL·E give my sloth a suit made of hair? We may never know.)
But as entertaining as it is to create random images for fun, DALL·E is already having an immediate impact in a more practical realm: the business world.
In this article, I'll walk you through six examples of real businesses using DALL·E in their day-to-day operations. From content to ideation to product design, you'll see the potential of AI-driven visual content—and hopefully, you'll come away with inspiration for using DALL·E in your own business.
1. Generating meta images
For Copy.ai, an AI marketing tool, integrating DALL·E has sped up the company's content creation process significantly. Here’s what Chris Lu, one of Copy.ai's cofounders, told me:
"We use DALL·E to generate visual content for our blog posts, social media, and website design. DALL·E has significantly impacted our workflow by speeding up the content creation process and allowing us to experiment with different visual styles effortlessly."
The biggest current use case that they're implementing at scale is generating meta images: those images that represent each article when you paste links into Facebook and other social networks. Chris sent me this DALL·E-generated meta image example:
2. Ideating physical products
Chris also mentioned to me that his cofounder, Paul Yacoubian, has been using DALL·E 2 to design physical products that he later manufactures:
Dalle2 turned my iPhone into the Star Trek Replicator.— Paul Yacoubian (@PaulYacoubian) July 1, 2022
I used it to design the avocado backpack of my dreams and then I got it custom made and shipped straight to my house.
It's by far the best bag I've ever had. pic.twitter.com/VYsDwp0QjM
Although Paul has just been doing this for fun, DALL·E is already an indispensable asset to commercial product design firms. For example, Board of Innovation, a design and innovation firm, uses DALL·E and other generative AI tools as a core part of its ideation process. An Instagram account run by the firm uses DALL·E and other generative AI tools to answer questions like "What would it look like if Tesla designed an e-bike?"
3. Creating a brand identity
Most business websites don't feel like real brands. Sure, they have a color-coordinated website template and a logo, but beyond that, there's not much to distinguish each site from thousands of others. That makes it tough to stick out.
DALL·E, with its ability to generate custom, unique visuals with a consistent style, allows you to create images that consistently reflect your brand.
Stefano Covolan, the founder of Korporatio, shared his before-and-after experience with generative AI:
"Before, we were always using the same style of image, which was very flat and not so good. We didn't have anybody in the company capable of creating good images, and the investment was not quite reasonable to hire somebody each time to create something."
Once he started experimenting with DALL·E, everything fell into place.
"Eventually, we tested out DALL·E and basically fell in love quite quickly. We managed to find an actual identity which I like quite a lot, and the time and cost to generate the images are basically none."
Now, Korporatio's images have a memorable look and a distinct identity:
4. Printing custom art
For restaurants and other brick-and-mortar businesses, interior design is a big deal. It sets the vibe of the place and can turn customers into repeat customers. But what happens if you can't quite find the look you need? Sourcing unique, affordable art that fits thematically with your business can be challenging.
That's where DALL·E comes in.
Kam Talebi, CEO of Butcher's Tale, a restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota, shared his experience using DALL·E for creating custom art pieces:
"We used DALL·E to create a couple of pieces of art and had them printed in a large format to decorate one of our restaurants. We wanted something unique and affordable. What better way than to use AI to create prints to hang? There are many people who are creating these AI prints and selling them, but we had a specific theme in mind and decided to sort it out ourselves. It took dozens of tries to get the two we used, but it was still cost-effective."
5. An alternative to stock photos
Isn't it time we retired those cheesy business stock photos? You know the ones—two business people in ill-fitting suits smiling broadly and shaking hands. Putting stock photos on your website, whether they're terrible or just predictable, makes it hard to stand out.
Frank Strong, a B2B PR and marketing consultant, told me, "I used to use free stock photos, and these images by DALL·E are just 1000% more visually appealing." He shared his experience using DALL·E for website images:
"I've started using DALL·E to create header photos for blog posts. I put the image in the header, and then link to a high res version in a 'credit' at the end of every post. Some of these are pretty creative. For example, today I published a piece about content consumption in B2B, and asked DALL·E for an image of 'a diverse group of professional men and women, dressed in business attire, reading pages from various reports, articles and white papers in the style of van Gogh.'"
By using generative AI, Frank has been able to create a one-of-a-kind feel that's miles away from a typical stock photo-driven website.
6. 3D renders
Architecture firm Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has started incorporating AI-generated designs into its projects. Most of ZHA's projects now use AI text-to-image generators like DALL·E 2 and Midjourney for design ideas.
The firm selects a small portion of the AI-generated designs to take forward to the 3D modeling phase. Occasionally, they'll also show DALL·E designs to clients during the ideation phase of a project to generate ideas.
One advantage ZHA has is that Zaha Hadid, the late namesake of the firm, was a legendary architect with many prominent designs—meaning that DALL·E's model already has a detailed understanding of the firm's style. In a conversation with the design magazine Dezeen, ZHA principal Patrik Schumacher said:
"Not every single project is using it but let's say most—I'm encouraging everybody who's working on competitions and early ideation to see what comes up and just to have a larger repertoire."
For ZHA, it's all about generating good ideas:
"For me it's always been very similar to verbal-prompting teams, referencing prior projects and ideas and gesticulating with my hands. That's the way of generating ideas and I can do that now directly with Midjourney or DALL·E 2, or the team can do it as well on our behalf, and so I think that's quite potent."
To see what this process looks like, I tried my hand at Zaha Hadid-inspired architecture ideation using DALL·E. Here's the prompt I used: "a group of three cabins on a mountainous hillside, designed in the style of zaha hadid."
In a few seconds, DALL·E spun up the futuristic, Zaha Hadid-esque cabins below.
I'd live there in a heartbeat.
Using DALL·E to propel your business
The verdict is in: businesses are actually using DALL·E—and those that don't are getting left behind. To understand what DALL·E can do for your business, start small. Follow your curiosity. Experiment with DALL·E in different parts of your business, and pay attention to the prompts that align most with your brand.
Best case scenario: you'll unlock enormous productivity gains that accelerate your business. Worst case scenario: you'll have fun with it and end up with a portfolio of quirky images that rival my DALL·E sloth-businessman masterpiece.