New Open Source Tools for Journalism Educators

A free toolkit from the New School that helps students and journalists tackle complex problems using design principles

The card deck offers a variety of creative constraints that students and journalists can use to find new ways to look at their work and break through roadblocks.

At Journalism + Design, a Knight Foundation-funded program at The New School, we know that the problems journalists grapple with are increasingly complex. As journalism students enter the work world, they’re entering into unstable and constantly changing media ecosystems. Their future success will have as much to do with being flexible, open-minded, and willing to explore new ideas as it will with having technical skills.

The 7 Steps We’re Teaching

We see the design process as a problem-solving tool that encourages playfulness, collaboration, and experimentation. That’s why we developed these resources for journalism educators. They highlight the aspects of the design process that we think are most important for young journalists today.

J+D’s design process includes seven steps: research, report, synthesize, make, get feedback, refine, reflect. These steps provide students with a flexible framework for approaching storytelling in a comprehensive, human-centered way.

How We Made These Resources

These tools were developed by a team of folks: Blake Eskin, Irwin Chen, Heather Chaplin, Kim Lightbody, as well as the educators at the Institute of Play. We playtested the cards with journalism faculty around the country. Our hope is that the exercises and card deck will help young journalists to build a deep understanding of their audience and its needs, to prototype and test new ideas, and to assess their work in a thoughtful and collaborative way. We’ve also designed these tools to provide educators with new ways of teaching the basics of a journalism education. These are fully open source: We’re hoping that educators and others will dive into what we’ve made and use them in ways that best suit their needs. We are looking for feedback, critique, and new ideas for where we should head next.

What We Made for You

There are three principle resources available to educators on our site.

  • We’ve created 11, step-by-step exercises that faculty can simply print out and use right away for a class session. The exercises address everything from what makes a strong news lede, to how to conduct an interview, to using mapping to understand a complex topic. We’ll add more exercises to this section over the course of the year.

  • We’ve also created a deck of 47 cards that provide faculty with playful ideas for designing their syllabi, prepping an individual class session, and more. The deck includes “activity” cards that provide guidance through every step of the design process, from research to reflection, “make” cards, that offer creative constraints to help shape a project, and “wild” cards, which are meant to throw (productive) curveballs into the process.

  • Last, we’re providing syllabi developed by full-time and guest faculty, which are meant to be imitated, iterated on, and simply inspire.

Three images from the card deck

The card deck features prompts for all phases of the design process. We particularly encourage exercises that prompt users to engage with their audiences, make their work visible, and seek feedback along the way.

Open Source, Open for Feedback

Our hope with all of these materials is that they spark even more conversation among journalism educators. We’re eager for feedback of all kinds, and we’ll be updating these resources throughout 2019. The best email to send feedback is: resources@journalismdesign.com. Or people can email me: lichtera@newschool.edu.


  • Allison Lichter Joseph

    Allison Lichter Joseph is an assistant professor at Journalism + Design, a program at The New School in New York City. Allison previously served as Deputy Emerging Media editor at The Wall Street Journal, where she was responsible for audience engagement, social journalism, and developing content for emerging digital platforms. Prior to joining the WSJ, Allison was the Culture Editor at New York Public Radio, the country’s largest NPR affiliate, where she oversaw a team of producers, reporters, and critics on the arts and culture beat.


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