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    Reimagine Technology for Humans

    A Parsons alum discovers the power of empathetic design.

    Design innovation is most effective when it unlocks the human heart. At The New School, where empathy is key to design, students ideate to create technologies that speak directly to human experience.

    Realizing that a career in accounting was not for him, Robert Wong left the university he was attending and started a new phase of his life at Parsons School of Design. Once there, he chose communication design (CD) as a major because “it sounded like something I could do for the rest of my life.” This decision proved fruitful. Since then, in a short amount of time, he’s gone on to reshape the ways in which we engage with the Internet every day as chief creative officer for Google Creative Lab.

    It’s no wonder Wong was drawn to the cutting-edge, human-centered CD program at Parsons’ School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT). With an engaged faculty, courses with titles like Erotic Themes in Art and Design, and alumni (like Ji Lee, creative strategist, at Facebook, and Ryan McGinley, world-renowned photographer) who have successfully used and developed technologies that daily tap into the hearts and minds of people across the world, the design program is unparalleled in its capacity to touch human lives.

    Since receiving his BFA from Parsons in 1990, where he discovered the myriad benefits of humane design, Wong has received public recognition for transforming the design industry into one that places compassion at the forefront. He now creates Web tools used by millions of people worldwide.

    As chief creative officer of Google Creative Lab, Wong develops engaging campaigns that demonstrate how Google products can be integrated into our everyday lives. Created by a diverse team of engineers, designers, writers, and animators overseen by Wong, the Web short Parisian Love (aired during Super Bowl XLIV) shows a succession of Google searches charting the history of an intercontinental romance. The video features searches like “cafés near the Louvre,” “long-distance relationship advice,” and “jobs in Paris” and culminates with “how to build a crib,” demonstrating the utility of Google searches and their ability to positively affect our lives. 

    For the interactive video The Wilderness Downtown, Wong and his team experimented with both Google Maps and the Chrome browser. The idea was born when the team used Google Maps to show Win Butler, frontman for the indie band Arcade Fire, Street Views of his childhood home. Further infusing the video with personal significance and marrying design and human emotion, the team set The Wilderness Downtown to the Arcade Fire song “We Used to Wait.” Using Google’s Chrome browser, Google Maps’ Street View, and HTML5, the award-winning interactive video underscores technology’s emotive potential by taking viewers around the world on an animated trip back to their own childhood homes.

    Wong’s success comes from understanding how technology can spawn creativity and support all kinds of emotive experiences. “It’s about human potential,” he says. “Engineers build this amazing technology, and we figure out how it can fit into people’s lives.” This perspective continues to guide Wong’s leadership at Google. “I want to create the best environment for the world’s most talented creatives to make work with the greatest impact.” 

    The New School, with its commitment to empathetic design methods, is a force of new technology and heartfelt engagement. Be a Force of New.

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