By Jessica Bennett
Megan Anderson, a senior in graphic design at Iowa State, has already designed two complete magazines for a major publishing company. After singlehandedly laying out each page, she’s eager to see her name in the masthead of the 2017 issues of Best of Flea Market Style and Elegant Homes.
“That’s definitely a huge portfolio-builder for me,” Anderson said. “I don’t think most people can say they have a magazine to put in their portfolio at this stage, so that’s pretty exciting.”
Opportunities like this don’t often come around in an ordinary internship, but the Meredith Apprentice Program is hardly typical.
Each year, Iowa State sends three graphic design students to complete yearlong apprenticeships at Meredith Corp. in Des Moines. Organized through the Greenlee School, the program originally comprised only editorial positions, but it was expanded in 2008 to include design opportunities as well.
As one of the graphic design apprentices for the 2016-2017 school year, Anderson works in Meredith’s Luxury Home and Holiday department, creating spreads for magazines such as The Magnolia Journal, Christmas Ideas and Halloween Tricks and Treats.
Aside from laying out pages, Anderson frequently assists with photo shoots in Meredith’s photo studio or on-site at local homes. She has also created crafts to be photographed.
Like all other Meredith employees, students selected for this opportunity are held to high expectations, said Deb Gibson, Greenlee’s Meredith Apprentice Program coordinator.
“You’re going to go beyond getting your feet wet,” she said. “You are going to be expected to perform like any other staff member.”
Madison Finney, another 2016-2017 graphic design apprentice, knows this well. She works in Meredith’s Agrimedia department on *Successful Farming* magazine. Besides the creative director, she is the only on-staff designer working on the publication.
Her daily tasks include designing layouts, creating illustrations, producing infographics and pulling images from Meredith’s digital asset library. She is typically assigned one- to four-page spreads in the magazine, but she has also designed two Successful Farming covers.
“Working on a cover as an intern is a big deal,” Finney said. “My boss told me I was the first apprentice to work on a cover so I was happy I got to do that.”
In addition to supplementing their portfolios and adding a leading media and marketing services company to their resumes, Meredith provides apprentices with numerous mentors who can help guide them throughout their careers, Gibson said.
“So much of this experience is also just learning from the people who’ve been there for a while and who are willing to mentor you,” she said, “and there are a lot of those people down there.”
For Finney, Successful Farming’s creative director, Matt Strelecki, serves as both her supervisor and inspiration. Strelecki has been nominated for over 300 design awards in his career, so Finney said it’s important to live up to his expectations and maintain his reputation.
Additionally, apprentices have endless opportunities to network with industry professionals who could become helpful contacts later in their careers.
“It’s nice to know that I have a lot of connections at Meredith now, so if I ever want to go back, I could have that opportunity,” Anderson said.
When it comes to balancing work and school, the Meredith program is an ideal match for graphic design students at ISU. Apprentices put in 15-20 hours a week, and many work only Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“Being a senior in graphic design is really awesome for doing the apprenticeship program because you only have studio Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Anderson said.
Meredith offers a way to fill the rest of their schedules while gaining valuable professional experience. Even before they graduate, apprentices are armed with impressive resumes and a wide skill sets.
“Meredith doesn’t treat you like you’re an intern,” Anderson said. “You’re working a real job and you’re creating real magazines.”