Justin Ferrell joined the the d.school in 2012 to redesign and direct its fellowship program. A career journalist specializing in organizational behavior and design, Justin worked for seven years at The Washington Post, most recently as the director of digital, mobile & new product design. He brought mobile designers and programmers into the newsroom, and enabled collaborative teams of reporters, editors and developers to create groundbreaking work. Also a prolific visual storyteller, Justin designed several award-winning projects — including the investigative series “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. He has spoken on creative culture and human-centered design in many venues, from the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin, to the Norwegian Research Council in Oslo, to the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, to Education City in Doha, Qatar. Justin teaches Stanford graduate courses in design thinking, creativity and organization design. He also teaches executive education at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and his consulting clients have included Hewlett-Packard, IDEO and Citi Ventures. He has led many innovation workshops, including sessions for Alestra, Facebook, Google, Knight Foundation, Nokia, SAP, the U.S. Department of State, The United Nations and the World Economic Forum. Justin visited China in the summer of 1990 with his two older brothers and their Dad. The day they were going to Tiananmen Square, a local guide escorted them to the massive public space, the largest of its kind in the world. Justin remembers the jolting giant images of Chairman Mao; though he’d followed the student uprising on TV the summer before, there hadn’t been much footage to watch. It was mostly audio from a few western reporters describing the chaos they saw.
“Is this where the demonstrations were?” his oldest brother interrupted. The guide ducked his head, concerned. He motioned for them to come closer. “The lamps, there are cameras,” he warned. Then, “Look over there. See where they repainted the steps.”
That day, at 15, Justin decided to become a journalist.
Years later, the commentary section of The Washington Post named a new editor. Justin had been the section’s art director for about a year, but had never met the veteran foreign correspondent taking his first assignment in the newsroom. It wasn’t until the editor arrived that Justin learned he’d covered the massacre at Tiananmen, where hundreds of civilians, if not thousands (no one knows for sure), were killed when Chinese troops opened fire. Then they repainted the steps.
Justin worked with hundreds of dedicated journalists during his 15 years in news, and he challenged himself to be as good at the skills he brought to their collaborations as they were at theirs. He designed for newspapers, books, websites, tablets and cell phones. But most importantly, he designed for people, with people.
His work included “finding the right team of people (on a project) and enabling them to do their best work together.”
Now, at the d.school, he’s helping restless experts redesign their worlds by taking the same approach with the fellows as he did with colleagues at The Washington Post.
“I’m helping them connect with others and learn ways to create something better together than they could on their own," he says.
“For me, that’s what human-centered design is about.”
Follow Justin on Twitter at @jferrell03.
"A learner's perspective" Caroline O'Connor, d.school
"Knight Talk: Justin Ferrell" (video) John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford
WaPo’s Justin Ferrell on designing “a user experience that really adds value to people’s lives on the iPad" Justin Ellis, Nieman Journalism Lab
"The Washington Post launches a new site design" Lauren Rabaino, 10,000 Words
"Digital Guru of The Washington Post speaks on merging content with technology" Northwestern University in Quatar.