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.
“I did it to work with them,” Justin says of his colleagues, “to create something together, for others, that none of us could do on our own.”
Now he’s helping restless experts redesign their worlds.
Justin recently joined the d.school as its first director of fellowships, an immersive new leadership accelerator for mid-career innovators with the potential to shift their professions. A career journalist specializing in organizational behavior and change, Justin worked for the last seven years for The Washington Post, most recently as the director of digital, mobile & new product design. He brought mobile designers and programmers into The Post newsroom, and enabled collaborative teams of reporters, editors, designers and developers to create groundbreaking work. Also a prolific visual storyteller, Justin’s designed several award-winning projects — including the investigative series “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. He’s spoken on creative culture in many venues, from the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin to Education City in Doha, Qatar, and is an alum of the John S. Knight journalism fellowships at Stanford. Justin couldn’t be more thrilled to join the d.school and its glorious alchemy of human-centered designers.