The newspaper I work for wrote up a little blurb about me and the design awards I won this past winter. I really have to thank my fraternity brothers for helping me to hone my skills as a designer — by allowing me to photoshop their heads on ridiculous bodies when I was in school. That’s real education right there. The second half of the article is about my coworker who won for her humor columns. I am posting my half of the article here, but if you’d care to read it in full – complete with graphics – you can find it at:

“Newspaper designer, columnist win statewide acclaim” by Holly Wenzel

Nik VanDenMeerendonk, MN ’05
Alpha Delta Phi MN Alumni Board


Holly Wenzel
managing editor

They’ve done it again.

Graphic designer Nik VanDenMeerendonk and columnist Heather Edwards earned top spots in the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s annual contest.

VanDenMeerendonk won first place in the newspaper’s circulation category in “design portfolio” and both first and second place in “use of information graphics and graphic illustrations.” He received an honorable mention last year for information graphics and first place in that category the previous year. This is Edwards’ fourth MNA award; she has been recognized previously for both column writing and photography.

How do they do it?

VanDenMeerendonk’s entries included a spooky take on the storied Griggs mansion, long rumored to be haunted. In the “Ghost Busted” layout, he sets the scene for Edwards’ interviews with former and current Griggs residents who say no, the live people looking for the specters were the only annoyance associated with the ghost stories. His page highlighting Minnesota apple orchards dots apple-leaf-shaped photo cutouts with bright red bushel baskets, even carrying over the leaf shape into the headline.

VanDenMeerendonk is a Hill-Murray alumnus who graduated with a double major — art and advertising — at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. VanDenMeerendonk credits his win to his broad interest in all manner of media – movies, book covers, posters, paintings, sculpture, websites and photos, all of which he pulls from to craft his newspaper graphics.

The highlight of a recent trip to Europe: a visit to the M.C. Escher museum in the Netherlands. Escher’s fool-the-eye perspective drawings are apparently just an introduction to the three-dimensional experience he designed into the museum, where just a step across a carefully crafted room can turn people from Lilliputians to giants. VanDenMeerendonk himself pursued drawing through most his education.

“I was always into art — I had been doing mostly charcoal drawings until college,” he says.

Surprisingly, he was in his 20s when he encountered his first design course using computers, but he quickly adapated the technology to reflect his visions. VanDenMeerendonk has been able to create magic with even a couple simple snapshots, as in the apple layout. With the Griggs design, he had just one photo to work from. He found the image of the moon on a “desktop wallpaper” site, took the font from a free typeface library and adjusted the whole with deft touches of vapor and shadow.

“He seems to set the bar even higher for himself when we don’t have much source art to offer him,” executive editor Mary Lee Hagert notes. “We’ll think we haven’t given him anything to work with, and he’ll come back in a few hours with a stunning layout.”

VanDenMeerendonk is something of a double weapon: he often comes up with his own headlines — such as “Ghost Busted” — thanks to his advertising training and avid reading. He hits the mark in both content and tone in just a few well-chosen words.

“I really took that ‘brevity is key’ message to heart,” he says.

MNA judges’ words for his work were equally brief and punchy: “Awesome design,” “great photo illustration” and “pops off the page” are a few.

“This was a very tough category, so this newspaper should be proud,” one concluded.

We are.