Montana State University

MSU graphic design student wins internship at National Geographic Adventure

May 1, 2008

Paul Johnson, a senior at MSU majoring in graphic design, won first place in The Society of Publication Designers Student Design Competition, earning a $2,500 cash prize and an internship in New York City at National Geographic Adventure magazine. Johnson's winning entry was a humorous, four-page layout about the virtues of his native North Dakota. Photo courtesy of Dan Morton.   High-Res Available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
Paul Johnson has put both his North Dakota roots and his Montana State University design skills to good use to win first place in a prestigious national student contest and an internship at National Geographic Adventure magazine.

Johnson, who calls both Tioga, N. D. and Red Lodge home, won first place in The Society of Publication Designers Student Design Competition.

Johnson won top honors in the national contest for a humorous, four-page layout about the virtues of North Dakota as a travel destination. He will receive a $2,500 cash prize, complimentary housing and a summer internship at National Geographic Adventure in New York City beginning in June.

Johnson said the genesis of his idea was a television show that documentarian Michael Moore once did on North Dakota as the least visited state in the country.

"I knew that (his contest entry) was funny," said Johnson, whose family farm is about 40 miles from Williston. "I knew that it had humor. I wasn't sure how they'd react to it, but they must have gotten a big kick out of it. They said they all had a good laugh over it. Actually, the art director for National Geographic Adventure was one of the judges."

Johnson said that the winner of the contest could pick an internship from one of five magazines. He picked National Geographic Adventure because in addition to design, travel and outdoor activities are his passions, including skiing and backpacking.

Johnson said he had planned to seek work in the graphic design field in Portland, Ore. or Seattle after he graduates in May. Instead, he will begin his internship on June 5 in New York City.

"It's always been a pipe dream of mine to work for a period of time in New York City," Johnson said. "It's extremely exciting. It's a huge honor."

Jeffrey Conger, MSU graphic arts professor, said Johnson won the award in competition against students from the top graphic design programs from across the country. This is the third year that an MSU student has won one of the top prizes in the national contest, Conger said. MSU students enter the annual contest as part of a practical programs series organized by Conger and fellow MSU graphic arts professor Stephanie Newman.

"These wins are a wonderful indicator of our students' talent and abilities," Conger said. "For this annual contest the seniors are competing against the toughest design programs on the East Coast including the School of Visual Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology and City University of New York."

Last year's MSU winner in the SPD contest was Allison Mclean, a 2007 MSU graduate, who is now working for Marie Claire magazine, part of the Hearst Corporation headquartered in New York City.
In 2006, MSU students won second (Jennifer Grainger), third (Michele Moe) and honorable mention (Michael Russo)

"All of us in the Graphic Design area very proud of what (these students) have accomplished," Conger said.

Johnson's winning entry will soon be posted at:

To learn more about the graphic design program visit

Jeffrey Conger (406) 994-2292,, Paul Johnson (701) 641-3197