I am so excited to pull back the curtain on our brand, spankin' new blog design and I'm not sure that we could be more eager to get going. It is a pretty new toy that, in contrast to our old site, will allow us to participate more substantially in the dialogue that is already taking place within our geographically diverse community of journalism-technologists.
More importantly, our new name, visual identity, redesigned and re-launched blog are all symbolic efforts of the significant shift in strategy and focus since we first launched our web presence less than two years ago.
New name, new branding and visual identity
First, you have probably noticed that we have modified our name. Northwestern University Knight Lab is shorter and friendlier than our previous name and it comes with a tagline to help us better communicate our mission: Advancing news media innovation through exploration and experimentation.
Second, we’ve developed a new logo, introduced a brighter, more energetic color palette and a more congenial typography palette that we think is a reflection of not only the Lab, but our little journalism-technology community as well. We even painted the walls in our Evanston office space the Knight Lab orange! Stop in for a visit.
The new site design places a more significant emphasis on readability, usability and accessibility. While it will be an on-going, labor-of-love for us, we sure do hope you like it.
We have been super fortunate to work with two professional fellows who are well-known, highly-credentialed members of Chicago's Web-nerd community — Aaron Salmon and Scott Robbin — over the past few months. They have been heads-down, hard at work on the Lab's new visual identity and branding, our site's redesign, a style guide and a front-end framework for Lab-sponsored projects.
We feel like we hit the lottery … Incredibly lucky, and blessed, to have them play such impactful roles on our team.
An army of hacker-journalist students
For the past six months, we have been growing our family, expanding the team of faculty, students, staff and fellows that contribute to the Lab's complete body of work: technology, and educationally-focused events and editorial.
In addition to our Ph.D. students, we've been offering fellowships to an army of graduate and undergraduate students who not only write and work on community building with us, they also contribute to the technology development. Pivoting to an increased editorial emphasis has allowed us to create more opportunities for students who are interested in finding a place journalism's technology future.
Currently, we have a student who tweets for us, a number of them who write, and quite a few who commit code and develop projects. Plus, this summer we'll be taking our first research intern who will contribute to our business development and product design research efforts.
New content, new strategy
As the Lab continues to evolve and grow we plan to use our nerd-blog to share as much as we can about what we are working on in-house — experiments, prototypes, projects, products and services — as well as news from around the industry.
You can look for updates on project development, lessons we’ve learned, and entry points into our code repositories. You can also expect profiles on interesting people, how-tos, and best practices from around the community.
We will focus particularly on artificial intelligence and information design — two areas in which the Lab has particular expertise. And, occasionally, we might share a team update or an event recap … you’ll be you'll be able to find it all here.
Our content strategy is illustrative of some of our core values: Community, outreach and education. As we move forward, we will continue to improve our project and content presentation, as well as evolve our content strategy. When it has matured just enough, we will share our "living" style guide as well as our content strategy and product development process documentation as a collection of resources for all. We hope that publishing these guides and documentation will be useful for web-making teams everywhere.
What will we be developing in 2013?
At just under 18 months in, the Lab has produced one stable product, deployed seven systems and 32 prototypes. In the coming year, in addition to our new editorial content and events, we are committed to the following core technology development and educational initiatives:
- Social Loupe Project: Experiments and ideas realized into technology which seeks to find meaning and utility in social media data.
- Reporters’ Notebook: These are tools, services and technology intended to help reporters practice journalism, be journalists. These projects and products are geared toward assisting in information gathering, data management, recording and correlating information found in online data repositories, virtual beat reporting, and more.
- The Publishers’ Toolbox: These are tools and services intended to help with content publishing and aid in faster and easier web development around storytelling. Since 2012′s Timeline JS was so popular, we are in the middle of building a step-by-step mapping tool we hope journalists will find equally, if not more, valuable. We are also developing a in-text, embeddable audio player that works with SoundCloud. We have a couple other ideas in the hopper, but please don’t be shy if you have a request!
I am beyond honored to be a small part of this incredible team and truly inspired by the thoughtfulness put into the design of the Knight Lab's new communication tool.