Inventing the digital storytelling future

SNDmakes. Photo via Vox Media.

Kyle Ellis is digital director and Stephen Komives is executive director of the Society for News Design, which is expanding its training opportunities for journalists and technologists with $130,000 from Knight Foundation.

Please, consider this an invitation.

The Society for News Design and Knight Foundation will partner in the next year on two unique programs. Our guiding principles: to build community and foster innovation. We’re creating a place where journalists can familiarize themselves with the concepts of human-centered design and innovation through collaboration.

In the next year, with support from Knight, we’ll continue to grow SNDMakes, a program launched in 2014, to train non-technical journalists, provide networking opportunities and prototype solutions to some of the biggest digital challenges faced by media organizations. It’s not a hackathon. We don’t declare any winners. We share whatever gets built through open-source channels such as Github.

On a broad level, we’re building solutions.

On an individual level, we’re helping people conquer fear.

Journalism has undergone tremendous upheaval in recent years. The tools of the trade have changed incredibly fast and continue to do so. It’s difficult enough for the technically minded to keep pace. It’s easy to feel hopelessly behind. It can be incredibly intimidating to even apply for technical training. Or to return to work after an event and figure out ways to apply newly learned skills.

We want to help.

In addition to the two-and-a-half-day programs, we’ll be building a community online, creating opportunities for ideas, success, tips and tools to be shared.

Expect the following:


We’ll be hosting four SNDMakes events over the next year. This program uses principles of human-centered design to prototype solutions. We invite roughly 40 participants per event, choosing them through an open application process that seeks a diverse range of expertise, roles and other demographics. We know it works; a USA Today project, “Behind the Honor,” was built from a Makes prototype called Moving Stories. Other organizations are using PrePost on a regular basis, too. This prototype, another Makes tool, helps optimize social media blasts across devices and networks.


We’ll convene designers, developers and technologists to teach best practices and leverage existing tools to boost the quality of design and storytelling at nongovernmental organizations, small media organizations and academic institutions. The program will launch with four events in 2016 in New York, Washington, D.C., and two additional sites. The application process also will be an open call.

Digital community

We’ll ensure these training programs are much more than one-off experiences, by facilitating a continued conversation using e-mail, social media, our website and annual conference, to sustain network momentum in thoughtful, deliberate ways. All past participants, and members of the wider media community, will be invited to a Slack organization with curated channels to share resources, announcements, best practices, and share advice and help. Our event facilitators will help guide the conversation. We’ll host monthly Twitter chats with a specific focus on design, development and media innovation. We’ll make sure you hear from us every step of the way.

     The invitation is open. Join us?

If you’re interested in joining the Society for News Design’s efforts, email Stephen Komives via [email protected].

Recent Content