The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Society’s design-sprint and rapid prototyping program series, SNDMakes. If we have missed a topic, please don’t be shy! Send an email to sndmakes [at] gmail with questions and requests. Find particulars, details about the team and contact information at the bottom of this page.
What is SNDMakes?
SNDMakes is a design-sprint series for the news and information design community, and colleagues. Over 2.5 days, these boutique, rapid-prototyping events use the principles of design-thinking to create solutions for modern news and media companies. SNDMakes events are focused community, not competition so we do not describe them as “hackathons” per se, even though past participants have said “SNDMakes is a hackathon for smart people”… LOL.
We want to be known as the friendliest and most considerate event. All teams are cross-disciplinary and multi-functional. As a technology-focused event series, we are proud to report our community (broadly), as well as each of the participant cohorts, meets gender parity consistently and is over 50 percent non-white.
We publish and maintain a Code of Conduct and the SNDMakes community would not exist without the generous support of a diverse group of partners, hosts, sponsors and funders.
Find us out in the wild: #SNDMakes, Instagram, Facebook. For updates about future SNDMakes and other programs and events, follow SND on Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo or Facebook and consider supporting programs like this one by becoming a member.
How does SNDMakes work?
Each year, we offer three SNDMakes events as an open application process and one event as an invitational. Each event is produced in collaboration with a local partner and supported by event hosts and scholarship funders. Each cohort is curated and each event facilitate ~45 participants, assigned to cross-disciplinary pre-designed teams, to take their prototype idea from concept to release in under three days.
So, it’s not a hackathon. What is it then?
Nope! It is a three-day design sprint and a ton of fun. Think of it more like a designed dinner party, rather than a hackathon free-for-all. We curate every aspect of each event, and tailor our program to the unique needs of each group of participants.
We do not award a “winning” prototype, or encourage working through the night. The schedule helps with time-management and helps to avoid burn-out or fatigue. We want everyone to feel invigorated at the close of each event, not exhausted.
We encourage all teams to open source their code, and we are currently growing our open-source and GitHub community management to be leveraged across the entire information design and visual journalism community.
What are the event themes?
Each event has a pre-determined and announced theme, which has been collaboratively determined with each event’s partner, and is written in the form of a “How might we …” challenge statement. Some of the past event themes include, “How might we better tell digital picture stories?” “How might we design tools to enable news communities?” and “How might we grow the gaming, games designers and gaming media community?”
At each event, the producers assign participants to a team and each team defines an idea in response to the challenge statement. Event producers facilitate each team toward a clickable prototype/demo of their project idea by the close of each event. Each team does a five-minute presentation of their project and a five-minute Q-and-A with the audience.
Its easiest to understand what we do at an event by attending, but you can also read some great posts about SNDMakes events and write-ups from our makers in the “Join us!” section at the bottom of this page.
Who should apply?
Society for News Design’s SNDMakes community is a group of digital specialists in the journalism, media and information design space. Whether you’re an engineer, front-end developer, print designer, reporter or product manager, at SNDMakes everyone has a seat at the table. We’d love to find a place for everyone no matter the role you fill at your nine-to-five.
While we rapidly develop prototypes of ideas, participants don’t necessarily need code-writing skills to make meaningful contributions to a team. Above all else, we look for a passion for media, innovation and a desire to collaborate.
How much does it cost?
For most events, the registration is $50 for SND members and $150 for non-members (you get a one-year membership with your enrollment fee). Registration fees cover five meals, snacks and supplies for the duration of the event. For the event timed with the Society’s Annual Workshop, we develop a discounted package for those interested in attending both.
7p // Welcome! Social Hour, hosted
9a // Breakfast and coffee
10a // Intros, info and ideas
11a // Team work time
12:30p // Lunch
1:30p // Team work time
5p // Team reports, feedback and bevs
6:30p // Leave partner facility. Dinner on your own and/or Social Hour, hosted.
9a // Breakfast and coffee
9:30a // Team work time
12:30p // Six lightning talks and lunch
2p // Team work time
5p // Team reports, feedback and bevs
6:30p // Leave partner facility. Dinner and evening on your own.
9a // Breakfast and coffee
11a // Prototype presentations
This takes a minimum of 2 hours as each team has five minutes to present and demo, and five minutes of Q&A / feedback. Live-stream via periscope as well as real-time sharing urls to team demos.
Get involved! And program support details
We would love to have more involved as supporters of the SNDMakes program, and here are a few options:
Event partner: Event partners provide event space, internet/wifi, power, printed materials, and significant communications support (blogging, social, video, etc). Event partners make a in-kind contribution of ~$7k to $15k depending on the city. Our past event partners have included Vox Media, Code for America, Cards Against Humanity, Austin-American Statesman, Upstatement and Ball State University.
Event host: The “event hosts” make minimum $2,500 commitment which includes branding opportunities as well as mentions on all digital announcements and some complimentary admission to evening gatherings, prototype presentations and lunchtime lightning talks. This minimum commitment also covers one registration fee and guaranteed seat. Some past hosts include Vox Product, CodePen, InVision, Alley Interactive, Northwestern U.’s Medill School and Knight Lab, Facebook-Austin and Pitchfork Media.
Some sponsorship opportunities: We have made some some additional opportunities upon request only, of which range from the more substantial to the startup-budget friendly. For example, past sponsors have covered the cost of one or more of the meals and hosted an evening gathering, nosh and some light beverages. And, we also have a platinum-tier hosting commitment which supports all four of the SNDMakes events over an entire calendar year.
Scholarship sponsors: The scholarship sponsors enable student and professional travel by covering registration fees, flights and hotel stays. Current and past SNDMakes travel / registration scholarships have been made possible by Dow Jones News Fund, Knight Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, and Scripps Howard Foundation.
As mentioned above, we would love for more to get involved. Please contact Miranda at sndmakes [at] gmail for more information.
Join us! And more about our events from the community
The Society’s SNDMakes events are about community, not competition. SNDMakes events are not “hackathons,” though we do produce workable prototypes in less than three days. Read our event recaps throughout SND.org:
- San Francisco – Challenge: We’ll be focused on designing tools and experiences to grow our own news- and information-design community. Announcement, Participant list, Mid-sprint update, Event recap, Video recap. Partner: Code for America. Hosts: Alley Interactive, CodePen, InVision, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships, Medill School / Northwestern U. Knight Lab, and Planet Labs.
- Chicago – Challenge: “How might we grow community around games, the artists who make them, the fans that love them?” Announcement, Participants list, Mid-sprint update, Event recap, Video recap. Partner: Cards Against Humanity. Hosts: CodePen, Medill School / Northwestern U. Knight Lab, and Pitchfork Media.
- Austin – Challenge: “How might we design tools to build community?” Announcement, Participants list, Event recap, Video recap. Partner: Austin-American Statesman. Hosts: Alley Interactive, CodePen, Facebook-Austin, OwnLocal and Vox Product.
- D.C. – Challenge: “How might we better tell picture stories?” Announcement, Participants list, Event recap. Partner: Society for News Design and Vox Product. Sponsor: Knight Foundation.
- Boston – Challenge: “How might we improve the content creation experience?” Announcement, Participants list, Mid-sprint update, Event and video recap on Nieman Lab. Partner: Upstatement and Society for News Design.
- Indianapolis – Challenge: “How might we use technology in our story presentations to enhance and deepen understanding of the story?” Announcement, Participants list, Mid-sprint update. Participant prototype recaps: Sluice, Skim, Moving Stories, and Backstory. Partner: Ball State University and Society for News Design.
Or, check out some great posts about SNDMakes events and write-ups from our makers:
- Chris Courtney (Lead mentor at Bloc, CampSND program director, SND Board member): “How to unsuck the hackathon experience in five easy steps: Building the next great billion dollar company in a weekend is only one of many vastly overrated hackathon myths”
- Chris Coyier (Designer. CodePen founder, CSS-Tricks founder and author and Shoptalk Show co-founder and talent): “My Experience at SNDMakes Austin” and at “SNDMakes Chicago” on CodePen Blog plus a quick mention on CSS-Tricks.
- Ryan Nagle (Lead developer, designer at Institute for Nonprofit News): “Prototyping With The Gaming Community At SNDMakes Chicago“
- Nicole Zhu (Developer and student fellow at Northwestern U.’s Knight Lab): “Why you should do a news designathon“
- Nieman Lab article by former staff writer, now BuzzFeed, Caroline O’Donovan: “Six fresh ideas for news design from a #SNDMakes designathon“
- Mike Swartz (Upstatement co-founder and partner): “SNDMakes at Upstatement” recap and video, plus SNDMakes-Ind and Backstory team project recap and demo.
- Dheerja Kaur (Developer and API nerd. Product at theSkimm, previously ESPN): “Nerding Out with News Nerds“
- And, find plenty of recaps from the amazing Vox Media technologists on the Vox Product team blog.
Contact us! And more about the team
- SNDMakes Co-Director: Ramla Mahmood, @ramoved, Designer at Vox Media. SND board member, Diversity.
- SNDMakes Co-Director: Miranda Mulligan, @jmm, Consultant and innovation events producer. News design veteran. SND board member, Digital and technology.
- Communications manager: Lauren Katz, @Laur_Katz, Audience development at Vox Media. SND member.
- Technology manager: Adam Schweigert, @aschweig, Product at Institute for Nonprofit News. SND member.
- Design manager: Emily Yount, @emilyyount, Interaction designer at The Washington Post. SND member.
Or, you can always reach out with general questions to Tiffany Shackelford (Executive Director) at Society For News Design.