Midjourney Is Unlocking New Creative Doors. That’s No Accident.

I’ve been using Midjourney for about 6 weeks. Every single minute has been wildly entertaining. But it wasn’t until I started experimenting with one of its “competitors” — Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion — that I had an important realization: Midjourney has a tendency to be opinionated. I’ll even go out on a limb and proclaim that Midjourney has its own personality.

A recent comment from Midjourney’s founder David Holz indicates that this is very much by design.

Speaking with Forbes, Holz (who also acts as CEO but doesn’t lean into that title as it “sounds very businessy”) laid out Midjourney’s mission:

“We like to say we’re trying to expand the imaginative powers of the human species. The goal is to make humans more imaginative, not make imaginative machines, which I think is an important distinction.” ~Midjourney Founder David Holz

This comment hit me over the head like a sackful of inspirational bricks. It’s what is tempting me to begin covering this exciting AI-generated art space in addition to creatively participating in it.

Midjourney Is Opening New Creative Doors

I dabbled with reading comics as a boy (Transformers, Archie, or whatever happened to be on the newstands that my mom agreed to purchase). But my love for the medium didn’t coalesce until I was an adult. That was when I discovered masterpieces like David Lapham’s “Stray Bullets” and Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman.”

3 comic panels depicting lifeforms from another dimension, from upcoming comic book "The Funeral Diaries." Created with Midjourney and Comic Life 3.
A page from upcoming comic series “The Funeral Diaries.” (Credit: Jason Evangelho)

I’ve been a writer my entire adult life. But I never dreamed of creating my own comic books. Why would I? I can barely draw a stick figure! And so I remained content writing lyrics, recording music, and slowly chipping away at half-finished novels. But something locked away inside the creative part of my brain yearned to do something more visual.

A mere few weeks ago, a brand new creative door got unlocked. Now I’m completely immersed in creating my own comic series called “The Funeral Diaries.”

Until the summer of 2022, that possibility simply didn’t exist for me.

I am, without a doubt, Holz’s target audience. And I’m not a unique case. Browse Midjourney’s Discord server (which now boasts a staggering 2 million users) or subreddits devoted to the product, and you’ll see others who are conceiving, finalizing, and even printing their own graphic novels and comics.

One aspiring creator used Midjourney to adapt Olaf Stapledon’s sci-fi novella “Star Maker” — first published in 1937 — into a massive graphic novel. (A savvy move, since the novel’s age means it has lost copyright protection and slipped into the public domain.)

Midjourney Vs Stable Diffusion: The Very Short Version

So why am I paying $30/month for Midjourney when I could be tapping my powerful gaming PC to run the open-source Stable Diffusion for free? It comes back to Midjourney’s mission statement about enabling more imaginative humans and not more imaginative machines.

Stable Diffusion is an absurdly powerful and customizable tool. And because of its open-source nature, it is being constantly improved. In terms of sheer capability and flexibility, it has already surpassed Midjourney. But that doesn’t matter to me.

Midjourney’s interface is pretty straightforward. It’s not much different than having a conversation on Discord. (Credit: Jason Evangelho)

Some of you may remember Nolan Bushnell’s axiom about the best video games: “easy to learn, difficult to master.” That describes Midjourney perfectly. It’s a portal to new creative outlets. It uses a practically ubiquitous chat app called Discord which is available on Linux, macOS, Windows, iOS and Android. It’s easy to start using — indeed you can kick out magnificent imagery with some very short and simple prompts — but like some of the most rewarding things, it’s difficult to master. Especially when your imagination has very specific ideas to convey.

The genius decision to use Discord cannot be emphasized enough. It levels the playing field. Everyone taps into the same power, the same tool, the same method of using it. And having Discord as the main platform (although a website-based tool is being tested) makes what is in reality an incredibly complex thing accessible to anyone.

Midjourney also has a certain “style.” Holz and his colleagues prefer the term “vibey.” See, while Stable Diffusion is capable of anything from distorted nightmare fuel to shockingly photorealistic celebrity deep fakes, Midjourney allegedly does some subtle “post-prompt” editing in the background, and post-processing before the final image is generated. Almost as if it wants every creation, whether generated by a brand new user or the developers themselves, to be awe-inspiring.

In fact, Holz tells Forbes he’s actively steering the product away from photorealism, in favor of more “painterly aesthetics.”

Spend Time Creating, Not Troubleshooting

Stable Diffusion, on the other hand (at least for users who want to run it locally for free) is truly a blank canvas, for better or for worse. In my case, it just doesn’t feel “comfortable” like Midjourney. There are too many dials and levers and tweaks, and too many points at which technical hurdles or malfunctions can intrude upon creativity.

I spent my first dozen hours with Midjourney creating imagery I truly loved. Whereas I spent my first dozen hours with Stable Diffusion installing it and just beginning to grasp how to make it work effectively.

I want to create. Not troubleshoot. And you’ll find that reasoning echoed by another group of people: creatives who choose Apple computers. (Yes, I plan to dive into the genius of Midjourney’s marketing strategy at a later date, because it’s equally brilliant.)

All this praise notwithstanding, Midjourney does have frustrating restrictions. Its extensive list of banned words is designed to discourage pornographic, gory, or violent artwork and keep things decidedly “PG-13.” But that moderation can also be a genuine hurdle to creating harmless stuff, too.

Ultimately, I applaud Holz’s mission for Midjourney to enable more imaginative human beings. I’m proof that it’s working, and I’m not remotely alone.

Midjourney AI Lyric Gallery : “Brain Damage” by Pink Floyd
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