Introducing Design Thinking: Design Swarms

As Gannett consolidated its Design teams onto one UX team, I introduced Design Swarms with 4 main goals:

Help an Enthusiastic Team Embrace the Role of UX in an Organization

Design swarms helped the team break out of the role of “pixel-perfect” designers and to begin to think critically about the current landscape, emerging trends and users needs, as well as working collaboratively with Editorial and Advertising to match their goals with user needs.

Develop a Targeted, Iterative and Timeboxed Process for Dealing with Current Issues and Emerging Opportunities

Gannett hadn’t approached a substantive redesign since 2011 and this gave the team the chance to work with new ideas in a fluid, fast fashion, focusing on the goal and story behind solutions.

Encourage Thinking Ahead for the Planned Redesign

Design Swarms gave us a chance to involve Development in the ideation process, giving them a sneak peak into what demands might be placed on the publishing platform and the chance to ideate collectively.

Bring Users Into Our Ideation as a Core Part of the Process

Design Swarms helped the UX team absorb a new strategic approach to target audiences and encouraged everyone to think of users as our key stakeholders.


A typical Design Swarm would run as a two day “hackathon”, starting with a kick off session that described the key challenge, including input from Strategy on key target audiences, Editorial on current challenges and future goals, and trends from Advertising.

After the kickoff participants would break up into teams of Designers, Architects and participants from other departments (usually Editorial or Marketing) to define their solution and prototype. The initial prototype would be tested with users, revised, and finally presented to stakeholders.


These ideation sessions contributed to new features and helped UX and Dev collaborate on ideas for the proposed publishing system. Additionally, they built stronger relationships between departments and a greater shared understanding of each departments goals and concerns.