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Oct. 17, 2016, 10:55 a.m.
Reporting & Production

The New School launched its Design + Journalism undergraduate degree program two years ago with an ambitious, yet straightforward mission: to teach journalists to think like designers — and vice versa — in the hopes of rethinking how stories are presented online.

Now, a fresh $2.6 million in funding (half of which will come from the Knight Foundation, which also helps fund Nieman Lab) will help the New School expand its program to other journalism programs in the U.S.:

With Knight funding, The New School will create a model for college educators across the country to use design thinking as part of their journalism programs. The university will share curriculums and syllabi and provide mentoring and collaboration opportunities. It will also develop learning opportunities for journalists across the country and expand the Journalism + Design program on its campus, positioning The New School as an innovation and design learning hub for professional journalists.

Design thinking is an approach to product design in which feedback from users is factored into the creation process. The hope is that, by factoring in user needs into the earliest stages of product design, media companies can create new ways to engage readers. It’s focused on putting the user first, proponents say.

Heather Chaplin, director of the the program since its start, explained some of the programs approach in an interview with Nieman Lab in 2014:

Design can be thought of in a couple different ways for journalistic purposes. When people talk about design, they often talk about visuals, and visuals are obviously important. But we’re really talking about design beyond the visual.

You can think about design as audience engagement. Designers always start by asking who they are designing for and why. So when we think about audience engagement and wanting to know our audience, design as a discipline can really help us. I also think about design as new product development: Nobody knows how people will consume news as we move forward. What might it look like, and what are the newspapers of the future? Design processes can help us come up with that.

Photo of the New School by Billie Grace Ward used under a Creative Commons license.

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