data visualization | Design | faculty | Students | SXSW

Year In Review: 2014-15

We just completed our first year of Journalism + Design at The New School (thank you, Knight Foundation!) and wanted to give an update on how things went. There’s a lot in this post as we’ve gotten a lot of questions. If you just want a snapshot view, see the chart below. If you want to see actual class descriptions, keep scrolling.

First, the numbers:  enrollment-01

Also, we already have 47 majors and 15 minors — before doing outside recruitment, which we just started.


We built up a seriously high-octane network of professional journalists, designers, and media innovators this year. Here’s a partial list of people who taught classes and gave workshops:

  • Scott Klein, Assistant Managing Editor, ProPublica; co-founder, DocumentCloud, a two-time Knight News Challenge winner
  • John Keefe, Senior Editor for Data News & Journalism Technology, WNYC
  • Andrew Losowsky, Project Lead, The Coral Project; 2014 Knight Fellow at Stanford University
  • Noah Veltman, Developer/Reporter, WNYC Data News team
  • Sisi Wei, News Applications Developer, ProPublica
  • Lena Groeger, News Applications Developer, ProPublica; science journalist and designer
  • Allison Lichter, Social Media Editor, the Wall Street Journal
  • Anjali Mullany, Editor, Fast Company Digital
  • Daniel Victor, Staff Editor, the New York Times
  • Kayla Epstein, Social Media Producer, Guardian US
  • Francis Tseng, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow, The Coral Project; former designer at IDEO
  • Peter Stevenson, Visiting editor, The New Republic; former Executive Editor, the New York Observer
  • Louise Ma, Interaction Designer, WNYC Data News Team
  • Hong Qu, CTO, Fusion
  • Adam Sternbergh, Contributing Editor, New York Magazine; former Culture Editor, New York Times Magazine
  • Andrew Donohue, Senior Editor, Center for Investigative Reporting
  • Emily Goligoski, User Experience Research Lead, the New York Times

We recently got everyone into the same room for our J+D End-of-Year celebration:

Public Events:

Our first event was “Serial” and the Podcast Explosion, with Sarah Koenig, Alex Blumberg, Alix Spiegel,  Benjamen Walker and the late David Carr.

Podcasting Event by Oliver Burkeman

From left to right: Alex Blumberg, Alix Spiegel, David Carr, Sarah Koenig, Benjamen Walker

We also hosted Alexis Lloyd, Creative Director of the New York Times’ Research & Development Lab. In Designing for the Future of News: Conversations Between People and Machines, Alexis described some of the experiments she’s done at the Times and how her team prototypes future concepts.

Alexis LLoyd 3

Alexis Lloyd speakingabout the NYT Labs and the future of news



As for the program itself, J+D majors take a series of sequenced classes called News, Narrative, & Design. Here’s a photo from News, Narrative & Design II and a class description:


J+D Design Lead Irwin Chen and I work with students on reader profiles.

News, Narrative, & Design II This is the second course in a three-course sequence preparing students to do creative and rigorous journalism in a highly competitive and complex media ecosystem. Increased attention will be paid to using design strategies to identify community needs and problem-solve audience engagement, considering such factors as context for consumption and multi-channel participation. Brainstorming, research and other design strategies will be used to imagine new ways of reporting and expressing the news. In addition to growing expectations for depth of reporting, increased emphasis will be on creative presentation of work, and telling stories visually as well as through writing. Students will develop a deeper understanding of the role systems thinking plays in reporting their stories, expressing their stories, and inserting their stories into the media ecosystem. The class is project-based and collaborative, with the project to be determined based on needs-based assessment, student interest and skills brought in from other classes. Students will continue focusing on engagement and impact, and be encouraged to experiment. Work will be published through the New School Free Press and/or social media. A designer, a social media editor and a data reporter are embedded in the class. Other experts will be brought in based on student need. Students must have already taken News, Narrative & Design I to register.

More classes:

One of the cool things our Knight Foundation grant lets us do is pop-up classes. These are two-credit classes that run for 12 weeks and change every semester as journalism itself changes. Here are some examples.

  • Stealth Journalism with Andrew Losowsky: How do you commit an act of journalism for people who aren’t expecting one? What happens when news is shared beyond traditional formats? This class will focus on the history and practice of information sharing in unconventional spaces, through media such as video games, graffiti, Snapchat, and performance. Students will also learn about how formats dictate content, public versus private space, and ways to spot untapped opportunities for digital and real-world journalism distribution. Students will be expected to research and create their own public project that will surprise, delight, and inform specific groups of people. This is journalism at its most unexpected.
  • How to Draw the Internet with Noah Veltman and Sisi Wei: How do you design a delightful, meaningful interactive story or graphic? It usually starts with a piece of paper and a pen. In this hands-on course, Sisi Wei (ProPublica news apps developer) and Noah Veltman (WNYC Data News developer) will present real-life newsroom scenarios each week and teach you how the pros prototype their ideas on paper before even touching a keyboard. We’ll evaluate paper designs and discuss how we’d approach building them for the web. After this class, you’ll have a working understanding of interaction design principles and how to quickly turn a rough idea into a compelling final product.
  • Make, Map, Blink with John Keefe: Learn how to build data-driven maps, charts, bots, detectors and blinkies. John Keefe, from WNYC’s Data News Team, will demonstrate one project each evening, most of which have direct journalistic applications. Like a cooking show, he’ll walk through how to whip up each one. In some cases, you can make them simultaneously. In all cases, he’ll provide the recipes for doing it yourself. Each session is open to all students. To take it as a 1 credit class, you must attend at least half of the sessions. To take it as a two-credit class, you need to attend all 12 weeks. For one credit, 10 weeks. No grades; pass-fail only.

The Knight grant, also allows us to offer outside-the-classroom workshops. Here are some examples:

  • Getting Product Users What They Need with Emily Goligoski, design research, The New York Times: This design workshop will focus on active listening and identifying user needs. Students will conduct design interviews and create journey maps, which are essential techniques used in key phases of product development. This is a rare opportunity to get hands-on experience with design methodologies. Students should plan to be active participants and attend both sessions.
  • Reinventing Video Journalism for the Mobile Age with Hong Qu, CTO, Fusion: As smartphones and high-speed wireless networks become pervasive, everyone and anyone can broadcast, transmit, amplify, and consume videos. How will this impact the practice of journalism? What role will social networks play in the spread and evolution of video storytelling? What are the implications for designers of mobile hardware and software? The workshop will be comprised of three phases: user research on news video behavior patterns and insights; brainstorming scenarios for mobile video concepts; and sketching designs, flow diagrams, and gathering user feedback.
  • Reimagining the Beat with Andrew Donohue, senior editor, Center for Investigative Reporting:  It’s your first day on the job as a beat reporter for a new local expansion of the New York Times. You need story ideas. But instead of starting with phone calls to officials and source-hunting, what would happen if you hit the streets to find out what local residents need? Award-winning journalist Andrew Donohue will lead this day-long challenge, where students will combine gumshoe reporting and user-centered design methods to rethink that most basic of journalistic functions: the story idea. A senior editor at the Center for Investigative Reporting, Andrew will help students find out how to do stories that matter deeply to the audience, not just sources.

And if you want more class info, here are descriptions for some of our fall courses:

  • Design for Journalists: From Typography to Interaction with Irwin Chen, J+D Design Lead: Do you obsess over fonts? Are you dying to know how to present your work digitally? This course aims to prepare journalists and writers with the basic principles of visual and interaction design crucial to modern-day journalism, starting with the fundamentals of typography, layout, color, information design, wire-framing and prototyping for the web. Students will learn HTML and CSS through the historical lens of printing technologies and will explore these concepts through a series of exercises and assignments culminating in a final website project.
  • Podcasting with Benjamen Walker, host of The Theory of Everything:Podcasting offers journalists, artists, and performers a direct conduit to listeners and Serial and other recent breakout shows suggest audiences have a voracious appetite for more programming. This class will explore the opportunities podcasting offers audio producers. The class will create an eight episode podcast and every student will get experience with story planning, interviewing, audio editing, promotion and audience building. Some audio production skills are recommended but not required. The class will also explore the podcasting publishing ecosystem as well from networks like Radiotopia and Slate.
  • Design Research and Product Development, with Emily Goligoski and Matt Diaz of the Consumer Insight Group at The New York Times: Heard about “design research” and “user-centered design” and want to learn what the hype is about? In this pop-up course, you’ll learn how teams and news organizations can benefit from talking to (and designing with) the audience. The class will focus on helping determine how the New School Free Press can better engage and inform the community. You’ll get comfortable crafting questions, being highly observational and analytical, and asking how and why. Students who take this workshop will be able to identify audience news needs and gain insights to meaningfully impact people’s lives.
  • Designing Digital Communities with Francis Tseng, researcher, the Coral Project, The New York Times: The Internet is a place for discussion and collaboration, but the experience can be difficult, confusing, intimidating, or downright hostile. This course will explore how we can design systems for better discussion, collaboration, voting and governance online. This course is taught by Francis Tseng, who is currently involved in the design and development of the Coral Project, a collaboration between the Washington Post, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews, and the New York Times that seeks to reinvent how digital communities work.
  • Data Journalism Bootcamp with Coulter Jones of Investigative Editors and Reporters and Shane Shifflet of Huffington Post:Learn how to investigate data-driven stories that catalyze change without knowing how to code. This hands-on lab course will start with the basics by honing students BS detector before covering the building blocks of data journalism through presenting findings for publication — be it in text, graphic or other form. Students will learn the basic math and spreadsheet skills needed to verify data and spot outliers that make a great story. Extracting and cleaning data and how to format findings for publication will also be covered. Students will leave knowing how to make spreadsheets and do the dirty work of great journalism. Throughout the course, students will learn from published stories that changed lives and law and see how those journalists got their numbers.
  • Web Coding for Interactive Design with Aurelia Moser of CartoDB: Interactives and news apps are changing the way we process media, and the expectations for media producers in newsrooms globally. Data journalism departments and newsrooms like Vox, the NYTimes, ProPublica, and 538 build narrative and newsworthy tools around code; and the participatory nature of their media output invokes new languages and web fluencies. This course will introduce web development for newsroom interactives, including an introduction to web scripting languages, version control for collaborative coding, and the authorship of interactive narrative on the web. The goal of the course is to compliment student’s existing coursework and interests with some essential coding skills, by course completion, helping them design, build, and deploy a data-driven, or news-inspired interactive. Students will workshop a news interactive of their own design throughout the course, punctuated by smaller exercises and lecture pairings on the topics of HTML5/CSS3, Javascript and contemporary development in data journalism.

What’s Next?

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