Creative that Remembers Our Humanity

Creative that Remembers Our Humanity


Danielle Krettek Cobb is the founder of Google’s Empathy Lab. Long before she was working with leading AI pioneers or thought leaders in emotional intelligence like Brene Brown, The Gottmans or Marc Brackett, she started her career in the creative industry. This week we were fortunate to have her join Rickhouse for a fireside chat. 

Danielle Krettek Cobb

She’s forged a brave career by paying attention to the importance of humanity where others miss it. She worked at Wieden+Kennedy helping Nike move people’s hearts and minds, and ultimately bodies. Then she took that same level of attention to the inner human experience and applied it to some of the world’s largest technology companies starting at Apple, working with Steve Jobs, before moving on to Google where she also worked with its founders. She runs her lab within Google AI with creativity and courage, exploring the edges and intersections of empathy and AI to inspire more humane and life-giving paradigms for technology.

We brought her to speak at Rickhouse because our own industry is at a crossroads: algorithms are becoming the sole decision makers about which ad should be served to which human. As we move with the changes catalyzed by such recent developments as Apple’s privacy policies we wanted Danielle’s insights about the importance of empathy and how to remember that behind all of the data that guides our work, all our clients’ potential customers are people.

Personas vs Characters

Advertisers use the term personas to categorize groups of people based on their behaviors and values. Danielle said these groupings can often feel trite and superficial -- case in point, she shared that the word “persona” originates from the Latin for “mask”. Instead, she thinks of people as characters: multidimensional humans, with often paradoxical wants and needs, in search of their growth, healing and highest good. Like they are portrayed in evocative films. 

“Design Feeling” vs Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a creative process for solving problems. Danielle has evolved this discipline to reach a greater depth of human experience with her design feeling practices. If design thinking is a process that happens in your head, design feeling is how we take care of the inner life, feelings, hopes, confusions, the greater path of people (beyond your product). It’s about serving people, their true selves, instead of just being in the service biz. Your IQ is a head thing -- but we need our technology, and the content it serves us, to have an equally high EQ, a heart thing. That’s why she started Google’s Empathy Lab, because technology was missing the thing that really moves us...our feelings. Ads need to remember that they were born from feelings, that beliefs move people to find facts...IQ and facts don’t always create belief...or believers.

Designing for Algorithms

The digital advertising landscape is moving away from targeted media buying and becoming more reliant on algorithms to find the right audiences. That places more importance on producing excellent creative for a spectrum of people/characters, instead of purely analytical content that we can precisely show to the right person. If we design for the emotions that individuals feel, we will connect more deeply with them. The challenge for brands is to adopt a creative strategy that can thrive in an algorithmic future while still caring about what it means to create meaningful connections with people at a human level, empathizing with their challenges, needs and wants on a day to day level. At Rickhouse, that is what we do every day.


For more information about how Rickhouse channels design feeling into our creative process, or for a free performance audit of your creative, reach out to us.

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