Gilbert is an assistant professor teaching media product design. He uses a human centered design process in addition to usability techniques to create innovative media products or improve existing ones, such as tablet/smartphone apps, web-based tools and other news media. Gilbert applies usability testing and ethnography study of users to ensure successful news consumption, creation and distribution experiences. He also teaches interactive storytelling, web and print design tools and techniques.
Gilbert designs award-winning mobile and tablet apps. Working with student teams, he builds digital storytelling tools like Refugee Lives and Our First Loves. He co-teaches with professors in the computer science department and created the first journalism and technology collaborative class in the spring of 2008. In that class, his students built new tools for the journalism industry including Stats Monkey, an automated content creation tool that pushes the bounds of storytelling. Over the summer of 2009, this system developed from a rough prototype that could parse baseball statistic and play-by-play became a sophisticated storytelling tool. The system employs editorial judgment-based statistical models and was featured on NPR, in the New York Times and elsewhere. Today it is the basis for a startup called Narrative Science. Gilbert is also part of the core faculty of Northwestern's Segal Design Institute, an interdisciplinary design center.
Classes he teaches regularly include:
- Innovation Projects - The capstone experience that completes Medill’s journalism graduate program is a critical component of the student experience. This is a project-based cooperative and experimental class. Students spend 10 weeks, about 30 hours a week in teams, working on a project that combines research, theory and applied skills. Interactive projects explore the future of media. (Master of Journalism)
- Journalism & Technology — An exploratory course that Gilbert created with computer science professors, which combines undergraduate journalists and technologists. Students work in agile project teams, each developing a system or tool aimed at the creation, consumption and/or distribution of news and information. The goal is to fuse technology and journalism in an experimental context. (Bachelor of Journalism)
- Media Design Research and Testing - Students learn how to evaluate the usability of existing news and information websites, tools and applications. The course explores how design thinking and research can shape human-centered media products. Students learn how to conduct practical user tests, evaluate the results and make improvements to iterative designs. Design research looks to understand user behavior: needs and goals. Using qualitative and ethnographic methods students distill research findings into actionable ideas. This course introduces students to information architecture, low-fidelity prototyping and usability testing. (MSJ)
- Advanced Interactive Design - Students employ human centered design principles to create a single ‘living,’ multimedia storytelling site. The class is challenged with building an engaging website around a meaningful topic. Each topic is explored through multimedia storytelling, including audio, video, photographs, text and animation. (BSJ)
- Interactive Techniques, Digital Storytelling - Students learn theories and techniques for structuring stories and sites in an online environment. They use multimedia elements such as audio, video, timelines and quizzes to augment basic text stories. Students also think about the role of social media and managing a digital identity. All students should learn how the web is structured and understand how to guide users through information online. (MSJ)
Gilbert is also active in the Society of News Design serving as a faculty adviser for the Northwestern Chapter, working on the annual print and digital competitions and doing training. He writes regularly for Poynter Online and is the head of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication's Visual Communications Division.
Before coming to Medill in the fall of 2008, Gilbert led The Poynter Institute in rethinking and redesigning its industry leading website, Poynter Online. He helped the Institute re-segment its web properties, which added new tools and user-friendly navigation. He also served as the Poynter Institute’s design editor for online/marketing. Gilbert also worked as sports design director for the St. Petersburg Times ('04-'06) and art director of The News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla. ('01-'04), helping to redesign both newspapers while there. Previously he worked as a user interaction designer for BrassRing, an online human resources provider, and as a graphic designer for Viant, an Internet consultancy. He interned as a newspaper designer at the The Austin American-Statesman, Portland Oregonian and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In 2000, Gilbert graduated from Medill with Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Journalism.