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#DI2020: Why technology is nothing unless it touches someone's life

Creative director of Google Creative Lab Robert Wong started off his Design Indaba presentation by saying he was the most insecure he's ever been when he started at Google 12 years ago. A graphic designer with an art degree, Wong says his insecurity came from the fact that the company didn't need his experience to succeed and there was no actual job description for him.
Robert Wong
Robert Wong

He says the first thing to remember when it comes to technology is that if how we live is being shaped by technological companies like Google, it is important for humanity to be involved. This is something Google embraces, as portrayed by the film it created to remind people of what they love about Google and what it is used for:

Tech Life

Wong stressed the point that technology is nothing on its own unless it touches someone’s life. He illustrated this through another video about Google’s Gmail that sees a man create an email account for his daughter when she’s born and sends her emails throughout her life so that he can share them with her when she’s older:

Next, Wong described the video created to celebrate last year's 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon. Google decided to focus on the woman behind the creation of the code used to coordinate the landing of Apollo, Margaret Hamilton, and dubbed the project MargaretbyMoonlight:

Another emotive video was designed with New York’s LGBT Community Center, to shine light on the Stonewall riots in the US. Stonewall Forever became a living monument:

Help people by helping one person

“Sometimes the best way to help people is to start by helping one person,” Wong commented. Leading into his next video designed to assist the deaf community to engage with video content. With the help of a group of deaf individuals, Google developed Live Caption, a voice-recognition technology that allowed Youtube to develop captions automatically for videos:

Wong went on to present the video demonstrating the function Google created to assist mainly the elderly in remembering things that are important to them. The project was inspired by one of Google’s designer’s grandparents and is called A little help remembering:

What can design do?

Wong says:

Designers might be the most important people when it comes to changing the world.
He believes in designing a better world through creativity, and that although many believe that technology is the most important thing in advancing the future, it will always be the human mind and human heart that ultimately advances the future.

Finally, Wong expressed an epiphany he had once: “Everything is made up,” he says.

“Usually something that’s good, and spreads, is created by one person or a small group of people.” He ended off by offering this statement as inspiration to creatives to never feel too small or irrelevant to make something meaningful.

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