The Journalism + Interaction Design initiative aims to teach interaction design to journalists.

The Journalism Design (JxD) course evolved from a collaboration between journalism and interaction design courses at the University of Queensland between 2013 and 2015.

That course was a collaboration between the School of Communication and Arts (formerly Journalism and Communication) and the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering. The course teamed final-year journalism students with final-year interaction design students with the aim of developing journalistic tech. During the 13-week course students researched, designed and prototyped a solution to a journalistic issue.

In 2016 the collaboration was unwound but the core ideas remain. During the semester journalism students explore some of the technical, economic and social issues facing journalism and encouraged to consider the value of journalism as production and consumption habits change. They work in teams to design and prototype a proposal for an issue of their choice.

They are introduced to a process of contextual research, designing, prototyping, and evaluating. There is an emphasis on user research and students are encouraged to talk to the people they are designing for.

They have six weeks for design work and prototypes are generally low-fidelity, including sketches, digital wireframes, websites, and cardboard mock-ups in some cases.

Design methods are suited to tackling complex issues because they allow you to imaging new things and try them out.

Over the past five years we’ve had a range of projects: news games; non-linear stories; verification tools; movie reviews based on sentiment; augmented reality apps; field reporting tools; reward systems for creating and/or sharing content. Some ideas are clearly innovative, others were new examples of existing technologies, but all revealing in what they showed us about how young people perceive the media. A few trends were evident: a desire to flatten the news production process; an interest in verifying journalists; and the notion of reward for engagement.

Cheryl Carpenter, the managing editor of the Charlotte Observer observed the course in 2013. She was visiting the University of Queensland during the week that the projects were marked and attended the student presentations. The projects, she said, made for fascinating listening for any news organisation attempting to capture younger readers. Their demands for access, their recognition of the flattening news hierarchies and their desire to vet established journalists all emerged as intriguing themes.

The results evoked both alarm and excitement: Alarm because news leaders should be listening and observing more of these endeavours; excitement because we might still have time to learn from and hire the students who are participants in these classes.

The key driver of these results was design. The students needed to identify a problem and use design approaches to address it. This involves phases of contextual research, designing, prototyping, evaluation and iteration.