Blog Archives

Design Dabbling & Exploring Hoodline

Good morning, DMIers. We’re just over a week away from spring break, so I wanted to give an overview of deadlines and tasks we’ll be completing prior to the break.

Today: DMI Brief 4

We’re going to be reviewing how to effectively name products. It’s a tricky proposition to name your product: it’s got to be creative, connect with your market and not already owned by someone else. Here are some tools that might help you with this task:

  • Name Robot: this site offers some free elements including tips on naming, how to research ownership and tools that might help with the creative process.
  • Sticky Branding’s article The Power of Symbols in Branding provides a good review of symbolism and how the eye processes visual info.
  • Startup Stash has a long list of tools focusing on various aspects of product naming.

After our naming exercise, we’ll review Homework 6, which leads us into Monday.

Monday: Dabbling in Design


  • DMI Brief #5, which focuses on money and how to get your market to part with it.
  • Mini-Pitch #1: You’ll present your Problem – Solution segment to the class in 60 seconds. Remember, you’ve got to tell an interesting story, not just spew data.

Most of this class session will be open lab time to work on two big design projects:

  • Developing your company color palette, font sets and logo.
  • Creating your product mockup via wireframing tools.

If you’re new to design principles, you’ll find these sources are helpful:

Wednesday:  An Introduction to Hoodline

Brittany Hopkins

J&PR alumna Brittany Hopkins will be joining us March 8 to talk about Hoodline, a San Francisco based digital media news company. Hoodline started in 2010 as a blog about the Lower Haight and has built itself into one of the “largest news sites in the city, with dozens of freelancers writing about their neighborhoods.”

Hopkins joined Hoodline in 2015 as a neighborhood editor and is currently the associate San Francisco editor. Photo above from her LinkedIn profile.

Homework 5 Deadline

The outcomes of your market research must be submitted no later than 3 p.m., Friday, March 10. This is a change from the course schedule. You’ll be submitting it via email.

Depending on the file sizes of your interview recordings or video sessions, you may need to provide this segment of the assignment via Dropbox or loading it into the course dock in the Mac Lab. Let me know if you have any questions or problems in this area.


Featured image source:; CC Zero License


Marketing & PR Strategy for Your Startup

Happy Friday, DMIers. We’ve made it through week 9, which means we’ve only got 4 weeks until the drafts of your Make $ Plan and product mockups are due.

Next week we’ll be focusing on Section 7 of the Make $ Plan, which is all about how to market your product.


We have two J&PR alumni visiting class Monday from InkHouse PR in San Francisco. Julianna Young and Kayla Wilkinson will be sharing what it’s like to handle PR for startups and venture capitalists.  This is a great opportunity for you to throw questions their way that can help you be successful with Section 7 of your Make $ Plan.

Here are a few items from Start Co that might help with your tasks:




Nice job with the new biz ideas

A really nice range of new business ideas was presented in class yesterday. Since the presentations took far longer than I anticipated, I’m using today’s post to do a bit of catch up and an overview of where we’re going next.

CATCHING UP — Action Item for You

As we ran short of time in class, I feel that those students presenting toward the end were a bit short-changed in idea review. To be fair in grading and assessment I’d like everyone to give me access to your presentation files (i.e. Prezi, Haiku Deck, etc). Please send me links/access via my email:

If you included your presentation links in the write up you sent to me via email prior to class, you do not need to resend the presentation link.

Blog Front: I will be fixing the link problems with your personal blogs that were mentioned in class. Blog 2 grading will be done by noon tomorrow. I’ll be sending grading notes to your email. See the DMS Blog handout for this week’s blog topic.


Now that everyone has a new business idea or two or three, here’s an overview of our next steps:

Customer Profile

This is a new document I just added to the website and class dock in the Mac Lab. This is a brainstorming tool, and not a required homework assignment. If you choose to use this form it will help you develop content that is required in several upcoming assignments.

You need to start creating a detailed description of your market — who is it that will purchase this new product you’re creating? Through my many years of PR work, I have found that it helps to identify demographics and psychographics, but also to gather images that help paint a photograph in your mind of your customers.

I strongly encourage you to get photographs of individuals you perceive as prospective customers (these can be stock photo images that help you visualize your customers). And get images of the wide range of customers you may have — primary and secondary. Having those solid images fixed in your head can be very helpful as you move through your product development process.

Homework 2 (Deadline: Monday, Sept. 16)

This assignment gets you to start planning both primary and secondary research. The customer profile exercise above will help you with the primary research aspect. As will the Briggs’ text chapters identified in the course schedule and the Mashable article you’ll find linked there.

The secondary research component focuses on your perceived competition.

During Monday, Sept. 16 class we’ll be brainstorming how to conduct primary research with members of your market. We’ll most likely do this in small groups based on industry focus.

Homework 3 (Deadline: Monday, Sept. 30)

With this assignment, you’ll execute the primary research plan you created in Homework 2. You’ll be testing your new business concept with members of your market. This initial testing can provide important insight into your idea as it stands now and where it might go in the future.

Where Do Great Ideas Come From?

Collaboration is key during this whole startup process. Take a few moments to check out this video by Steven Johnson illustrating how innovative ideas come about.

Solving The Problem

According to Mark Briggs, author of our course textbook Entrepreneurial Journalism, some of the most successful startups began by solving a problem that the company founder faced in her/his daily life. In Chapter 5, he cites Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith as one example. Bhatia and Smith wanted to have the ability to access their work email accounts from any computer with Internet access regardless of firewalls used by their employers. To solve their problem, they created Hotmail.

With Homework 1 you’re going to start identifying some possible startup concepts for your new business venture. One way to think about new products is to identify specific problems you face in activities you perform on a regular basis. Ideally, other people face this same problem, and they would be interested in the solution you develop to the problem.

Chapters 4 and 5 of the Briggs’ text will help you get started on this endeavor. Chapter 4 focuses on innovation: How does one innovate? What are the essential elements of innovation? Chapter 5 helps you to identify if your idea is just that — an idea — or does it have the potential to become a viable business concept.

During our Sept. 9 class you’ll be presenting two to three initial digital media startup concepts. See the Homework 1 handout under the Assignments tab for complete details.

We’ll help brainstorm your ideas during Monday’s class session.