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A sample of Aesthetic's automation-infused design work. Image: Aesthetic

For his latest startup, entrepreneur and Pinterest veteran John Milinovich is betting automation can help even the highly human task of creative design.

Driving the news: Milinovich's new company, Aesthetic, aims to automate normally costly steps in building out companies' brand identities. It will announce today it has landed $3.1 million in seed funding to test out the premise, led by A.Capital with strategic investment from Y Combinator.

How it works: Humans would still be needed to come up the core brand elements. But Aesthetic, Milinovich said in an interview, would then tap AI to take those basic pieces and turn them into documents and web templates.

  • Aesthetic says it can deliver a basic brand identity and guidelines in four business days for $3,000 — well below what a typical design firm would charge, and in far less time.
  • Milinovich said he hopes that will make good design accessible to even small startups.
  • In addition to the software firm, Aesthetic's structure includes a separate, independent design outfit.

Background: Milinovich started the company with Andrew Look and Nathanael Smith, his fellow co-founders from an earlier company, "deep linking" developer URX. Pinterest acquired URX in 2016.

Yes, but: Other startups have tried and failed to automate skilled white-collar work.

  • Atrium, the legal startup launched by Twitch co-founder Justin Kan, shut down in March after failing to prove itself more efficient than the established way of doing business.

The other side: Milinovich said that his company is trying to take things more slowly and not run up costs too soon. And he acknowledges the challenges: "Anytime you use the word automation in the same sentence as creativity and design, you are met with a lot of skepticism."

Go deeper: Coronavirus speeds the way for robots in the workplace

Go deeper

Scoop: Biden weighs retired general Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star general Lloyd Austin as his nominee for Defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
1 hour ago - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.

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