Experimenting with Storytelling Design & Development

Introducing a brand new group on NBC News Digital’s product team

At NBC News Digital, we have an innovative product team building new web, native apps and social platform experiences for our digital brands. These include NBC News, TODAY, MSNBC, MACH, BETTER, Left Field, Stay Tuned and more on the way.

We strongly believe that our user experience is just as important as the content itself, so we recently created NBC News Foundry to experiment with storytelling and content design. Foundry is a small cross-discipline team made up of designers and developers (EJ Fox, Brad Oyler and Ian Rose). You can find their work at NBC News Specials.

The team’s main objective is:

Experiment with and produce digital storytelling from inception to distribution

We have been given the space and time to produce stories unencumbered by the need to scale them. This allows the team to focus on the needs of a specific story without slowing down to manage how a template, widget, etc. would handle editorial edge-cases and be used for many different stories after distribution.

To do this, Foundry’s current process is to work in alternating sprint types: a storytelling sprint followed by a tooling sprint. The storytelling sprint focuses on the delivery of a published story which is then followed by a tooling sprint, where an element from the story is abstracted for future use.

We have a unique opportunity to collaborate with various groups across the NBC News portfolio to create these projects. Some of our recent examples are below:

Post Bail

Published 08.22.2017

Foundry collaborated with the NBC News editorial team on Post Bail — a special feature about New Jersey’s experiment using an algorithm to revolutionize a part of America’s justice system. Working with the foundation that invented the algorithm, we built an interactive simulator of the algorithm using real anonymized defendants that have gone through the system. We also experimented with generative art to help create the opener to the piece using the open-source tool Chromata.js.

Making of an Astronaut

Published 07.20.2017

We worked with MACH, a new vertical at NBC News, on their Making of an Astronaut editorial package. Initially the experiment started with creating a tool that automatically generates a card based view that summarizes a long-form piece for mobile users. After doing a number of user tests on a prototype, the consistent piece of feedback was that users wanted a summarized collection of stories. Taking UI inspiration from Instagram Stories, Snapchat, Medium’s Series and Mashable’s Reels we made a reusable framework called StoryGist.

Journey of a Bullet

Published 06.20.2017

The NBC News editorial team had a collection of powerful video content and was searching for the right presentation. Foundry worked along-side the editorial team and original video team to make Journey of a Bullet. A video experience that leverages the web to connect the stories of six people who endured the physical and emotional pain from having been shot. We built a tool, Annotation Threading, to visually connect these survivors.

The team itself is an experiment and we are learning and improving as we go. Our calendar is full of amazing stories, so check out nbcnews.com/specials for more.

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