A chat with the Asbury Park Design Studio

Dana Stewart invited me to share a few things with the Asbury Park Press Design Studio.

A lot of people at the studio are trying to figure out their next steps for when the studio closes in June. I’m wondering if you are open to doing a Google Hangouts chat with some of the studio folks to talk about your experience of going back to school, re-entering the work force, getting the fellowship, etc. We could give the designers a chance to ask questions and maybe help set the wheels in motion. I think it would take about an hour of your time, max. What do you think?
 — Dana

The following are answers to Dana’s questions.

What criteria did you look for when comparing colleges/programs?

The Backstory:

  • I started learning flash with Len Degroot and the graphics department at the Sun-Sentinel.
  • Interactive seemed like a great next frontier.
  • I decided on art school (Savannah College of Art and Design — Interactive design and web development).
  • It was expensive, so I thought, where do they accept students from? I ended up at Santa Monica College in my hometown.

When do you think workshops or classes like General Assembly, Skillshare, etc. are sufficient vs. getting another degree or a masters?

  • While working at the San Francisco Chronicle I thought it was a good idea to maybe do General Assembly. I found it was not quite as customizable to my goals in digital storytelling — was more focus on a class project and getting a tech job.
  • There are others too: Bloc is wonderful/customizable. Chris Courtney worked at the Chicago Tribune and now is now a Bloc instructor.
  • I use Skillshare to get a quick glimpse into how to use tools that might help me create a visual for web.
  • Kiersten Schmidt is also a design studio alum. She’s now a master’s student at UNC Chapel Hill learning data journalism.
  • Coursework can lead to skills that are directly applicable to jobs that are in high demand.
  • I think having traditional design skill and acumen are key — she’s already a standout student and a well sought-after talent.

Did you take any UX/UI design classes? How relevant do you think education on UX/UI design is to the future of visual journalism careers?

  • No. But I read a lot about it. I listen to podcasts. I talk to folks who do it for a living.
  • Very relevant. Before I got started in web, I started with a book called “Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug (Thanks Bonnie Gross!). It was the perfect buffer before touching a single line of code.
  • You will learn UX folks aren’t always designers (they don’t have to be).
  • Most journalism shops are lean and want people who are familiar with UI/UX methodologies.
  • Tech shops may dedicate whole teams to the discipline.
  • UI/UX is certainly in the realm of design.
  • I personally try to apply these methodologies and practices wherever I can — time permitting.
  • I have had to do a lot of advocating the importance of building-in time to refine UX in fast-pace news environments, or debriefing after things have shipped (this get’s skipped over often).

What were your goals when you first decided to switch up your career path?

How long did it take you to complete your additional education?

  • I only spent a year in community college, and only did it for the applicable knowledge.
  • I learned just enough to play with frameworks — prebuilt design systems of web elements, components and modules of a web page.
  • Check out Bootstrap (by a couple of twitter alums) and Foundation (not by twitter peeps).
  • What I learned in community college gave me enough knowledge to understand and play with these.
  • I got my start at The Chronicle building stories using Foundation.

Did you ever consider leaving the journalism industry?

  • It’s a thought that comes and goes. I’ll always be interested in storytelling over loyalty to a business or brand.
  • There’s a lot journalists can learn from the tech community.
  • Journalism's tech community is growing.
  • Check out ONA, NICAR, and OpenNews. All of these orgs do a lot of work to keep the hack code community fed.
  • Communities like these keep me grounded in journalism.

How did you find the Knight fellowship? Are there any resources/sites you recommend for people who are looking for fellowships?

  • There are lots of Journalism fellowships. Of them, I’ve only applied to two.
  • I wanted a fellowship that would allow me the time to commit myself to changing news organizations using technology. OpenNews has a fellowship
  • The JSK Fellowship has a format that was flexible enough to welcome things I was noodling on. My new class is awesome!

If you are in a hiring role as creative director, what are the top things you look for on a resume and portfolio?

  • It really depends on the shop.
  • Print shops need more web people. Once you’re in, there’s always a chance to introduce a web opportunity.
  • I like to see and discuss the things people are trying (personas, analytics reporting on what is working or not, the study of user behavior, a/b testing, design solutions, gifs, video, experimental formats, or how you made something better).

What did you take from your studio experience and apply to your new jobs?

  • I got faster as a designer. This helped me to prototype quickly.
  • Getting to the crux of a story.
  • Pushing editors for things that would enhance the report (assets, quotes, or more reporting).
  • By the time I made it to The Chronicle, I was comfortable making all sorts of requests.


Beautiful web typography


Approaches and considerations to web design

Google Material Design



CodePen: to test libraries, code and demo usage. Here’s an example. Here’s where my example ran.

Invision: For building prototypes and validating them with a group.

Sketch: For building elements in an application and using the code — moving boards to Invision

Libraries and scripts

  • ai2HTML: For quick explainer graphics that work on the web
  • archieML: For pulling data from google docs into a web graphic text areas
  • Hype: Quick motion graphics