Google Creative Lab’s Robert Wong Talks Design Empathy

In antiques online, Art and the American Way, business on February 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm

From these ancient walls, the best in contemporary design thought

I had an opportunity to spend an hour and a half last night with Robert Wong, of Google’s Creative Lab.  Google Creative Lab is responsible for marketing everything from Android and Chrome to Google Docs and the Nexus One.

This emissary from the Temple of the Future expressed the Google brand in one sentence: The best searches turn up, not on the web, but in life.

Notably, a young woman stood up and thanked Google search for leading to her birth mother, in Paraguay.  A series of Google search ads – then stressed the empathetic thrust of Google’s ad campaigns. You’ve seen them on TV. A father begins writing emails to an unborn daughter and the video follows the thread through age five. At the end, the final email says, “I hope to be able to share these (emails and videos) with you someday.

Life as it is. Ad design takes the remoteness out of the message and lays it in your hands.

Similarly, the Google doodles – dare anyone other than the big G. tweak its logo? – are among the most notable things about the search site.  The Les Paul doodle, for instance, on You Tube has generated gazillions of views.

Who thinks of these things? The design team does. It makes you think the Google design team exists in a world of unfettered creativity.  Yes, they are the best, the most creative. But the designs are there as solutions to marketing challenges and marketing goals.

When you take these standards and apply them to the arts and antiques trade, they don’t fade into a haze of non-relevance. They become more relevant because they demonstrate the empathy that goes into creating a need.

How often do I see ads for vintage designs and antiques that are simply unstoried photos of beautiful items. These images sit like on a page, uninviting of human contact.

The point is that to create the tipping point you need to regain a position of leadership in design – and that is what, ultimately, we are selling, whether it’s a small Tiffany dialing implement for a rotary phone or a chest of drawers – to create that position, your ads need to show empathy for people’s needs and lifestyles.

Editor’s Note: The Wong talk was part of a series called Bill’s Design Talks, moderated by the Cooper-Hewitt’s Director, Bill Moggridge.


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