The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, held its first all-day workshop on design thinking at The Washington Post on May 11, 2013. Twelve leaders from the ONA community walked nearly 100 people through improving their creative processes.

The day outlined how to create stronger products through the lens of human-centered design. The camp — part of the larger ONACamp program which offers free intensive digital journalism training sessions and is sponsored by the Gannett Foundation — broke down the design process into distinct stages: Inform, Inspire, Iterate and Implement. Speakers gave short presentations to introduce these stages, then attendees participated in group activities to build upon what they had just learned.

Journalists, designers, students and others from the D.C. metro area and all over the country came together in groups for the day’s overall goal: to build prototypes of web projects that could solve real-world problems.





Reggie Murphy, principal consultant, research and strategy for Electronic Ink, opened the day by defining human-centered design, a process that develops solutions to problems by understanding the needs, desires and contexts of people. To use this framework throughout the camp, groups needed a problem to solve, so they answered the question “How might we…” and identified one.

Kennedy Elliott, interactive designer for Guardian US, highlighted the importance of defining users before building a product for them. She walked participants through the process of creating detailed personas, including demographic information like eating habits, hobbies, political views and the way they look.

Watch group members complete the question “How might we…,” which identifies the problem they are looking to solve.






Yuri Victor, UX director for The Washington Post, presented techniques for efficient — and fun — brainstorming. He challenged groups to come up with dozens of ideas on Post-it notes in a short 10-minute window. Groups then worked to assess and narrow those ideas.

Some examples of ideas that groups came up with during the brainstorming section.





After a lightning talk from Murphy with tips on how to build a prototype, groups used materials — crayons, construction paper, cardboard boxes and more — to build their first drafts. After rapid prototyping, each group received user feedback from a partner group.

Laura Cochran, features editor for Digital First Media, followed up with a presentation on developing a use case for your prototype and how to evaluate user feedback to create a better product.

[soliloquy id=”14234″] Photos by Jennifer Mizgata, ONA





Attendees used this final phase to continue iteration on their prototypes, folding in evolving ideas and peer feedback. Groups then took turns presenting their products to everyone in attendance. Final prototypes ranged from an audible news app, serving D.C.’s functionally illiterate population, to a virtual collaboration module and beyond.

[soliloquy id=”14248″] Photos by Jennifer Mizgata, ONA





Brian Boyer, NPR, @brianboyer
Laura Cochran
, Digital First Media, @cochranism
Sara Deneweth, freelance, @sarajden
Kennedy Elliott, Guardian US, @kennelliott
Ali Felski, Living Social, @felskia
Ted Irvine, Vox Media, @ted_irvine
Joey Marburger, Washington Post, @josephjames
Pablo Mercado, Vox Media, @odacrem
Reggie Murphy, Electronic Ink, @reggiemurphy
Regina Nuzzo, Gallaudet University, @ReginaNuzzo
Sheeka Strickland, Medill, @Sheeka_S
Yuri Victor, Washington Post, @yurivictor





8 a.m. Registration
Light breakfast will be served 


9 a.m. Welcome
Jeanne Brooks, Online News Association






9:30 a.m. What is human-centered design?
Reggie Murphy, Electronic Ink

Would a person know how to use your product or project? Would they want to? Learn about why human-centered design — the framework for today’s event — matters and how it’s important for both your audience and your business sustainability.

Activity: how might we…




10:30 a.m. Learning about the user and defining personas
Kennedy Elliott, Guardian US

Defining your users, all of them, lets you explore what unmet needs those individuals actually have, before you start building for them. Learn how to uncover the range of your possible users, identifying the scope of their abilities and behaviors and determining how to better use that to understand what they want.

Activity: who is this for?








11:15 a.m. The rules of brainstorming
Yuri Victor, The Washington Post

Numerous solutions may be within reach, but structural or social barriers can exist that stop discovery in a group setting. Learn how to free your meetings and planning sessions to allow for healthy brainstorming towards solving a problem, creating the maximum space for strong ideas.

Activity: Get the ideas out!
Activity: Narrow it.



Noon Lunch 






1 p.m. Prototyping: Modeling success
Reggie Murphy, Electronic Ink

Experimenting with your solutions and gaining feedback can be efficient. Learn how to set your project up for forward motion by following suit with guidelines on how to organize your test group’s experience and prompts for feedback.

Activity: Build your prototype… like a kid!
Activity: Time to get your first feedback.




2 p.m. Evaluating your prototype and its feedback
Laura Cochran, Digital First Media

You’ve got a prototype, you’ve got feedback. Now it’s time to figure out what to do next. Learn how to make a use case for your prototype and how to leverage the feedback you’ve received to prep for polishing or improving  your product or project.

Activity: Let’s start evaluating that feedback.




3 p.m. Project iteration and implementation 





4:30 p.m. Group presentations and analysis 


6 p.m. Happy hour!
Everyone is invite to the Post Pub for drinks!




When and Where

May 11, 2013, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
The Washington Post

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Supporters and Partners


Supported by:

Generous renewed grants by the Gannett Foundation


Hosted by:


Partnered event with:


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