Valerie Moe, creative director, 2007-2020

Valerie Moe
Valerie Moe

I used to live across the street from the Downtown Minneapolis office of Minnesota Premier Publications (the Southwest Journal’s parent company) in an apartment two floors above the Davanni’s.

I would drive past the office every morning on my way to work in Roseville. I remember looking at the big sign out front — the one that had the big Minnesota Premier Publications logo — and thinking to myself, “I need to look into that place. How awesome would it be to work across the street from my apartment?”

One night, I went on Google and learned all I could about MPP. I found the contact information for the creative director, Lynnae Schrader, and put together a sample folder with my resume and a few design pieces from my portfolio.

The next day I stopped at the office on my way to work. I remember Linda, the receptionist, coming to the front door to greet me. I told her my name and that I was there to drop off this folder for Lynnae. She asked if I had filled out a job application. I had not, so she gave me one. I took everything home, filled out the application, and returned the next morning to drop it off.

Within a couple of days, Lyn reached out to me. She said she didn’t have any openings in her department at that time, but she was impressed by my work and wanted to meet with me.

It was one of the most fun and relaxed interviews I’ve ever had — because there wasn’t a job on the line. We were just two creatives talking about design. I remember when Lyn asked me “Quark or InDesign?” and I think the look on my face must have been pretty telling because she followed it up with, “I know, it’s kind of like asking if you prefer blondes or brunettes.”

About six weeks later, she called and asked me to come in and meet with her and Janis to talk about an ad design position. I got the job.

I started out as a graphic designer working primarily on ads including quality-checking files submitted by clients. I was also responsible for mapping out ad placements for the Downtown Journal. This was a new skill for me, and I wanted to learn it well and quick.

I remember sitting at my coffee table on a Friday night with a blank issue map, watching TV and practicing my mapping skills. “OK, someone just sold a quarter-page and a ninth-page ad; where do I fit those in?” It sounds nerdy, but it helped me a lot and I came back to the office feeling much more confident in that skill.

I’ve always been the type of person who puts their heart, soul and passion into what they’re doing, and I’ve been known to work late or extra to continue improving my skills.

We added a few more team members to the production department and within six months we were functioning as a well-oiled machine.

One of the craziest memories I have about working at MPP has to be the morning when I received a text message from Dana Croatt, the page designer for both Journals (who later became creative director), saying, “There’s a gas leak at the office. Everyone is evacuating the building. We’re bringing the iMacs and heading your way! We’ll finish the issue and upload files from there.”

That was an interesting thing to explain to my then-husband right away in the morning!

The whole production team came over and set up shop in our living room — Dana, Shannon, Lucas and Dan. I believe most of the reporters and sales reps went and hung out at Espresso Royale until we got the all-clear to go back into the building.

We finished the issue doing our final page review completely digitally — like how we’ve been publishing since the pandemic hit in March — which was way different from our usual process of printing the final PDFs onto tabloid pages and then sitting in the conference room passing each page around looking for any typos, making sure the ads were all in the right spots and then making those last changes before uploading the files to the printer. Once we were finished with the paper, we played Super Mario Party on the Wii until we were able to go back to the office.

Southwest Journal cover
This Southwest Journal cover won Valerie second place for page design in the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists’ 2020 Page One Awards contest.

As time passed, my job responsibilities evolved and expanded. I started designing some of the interior pages for Minnesota Parent and Minnesota Good Age. I’ve had the honor of being the lead page designer for each of our four publications at some point over the past five years and have been designing the Southwest Journal for the past three-and-a-half years.

I’ve grown and learned so much at MPP. From being hired as a graphic designer at age 27, getting promoted to senior graphic designer in 2012 and then becoming creative director on my 10-year anniversary — June 1, 2017 — the skills I’ve learned and honed over the years will be something I can take with me to future freelance graphic design opportunities.

I’m grateful for all of the awards I’ve earned over the years for ad designs, page layouts and typography in addition to helping secure wins for our publications for advertising excellence and typography & design. I realize not everyone has the opportunity to receive these levels of recognition. I appreciate the fact that Terry and Janis were always willing to cover the costs of our entries so all of the designers, reporters and editors could be honored in front of our peers.

I’ve worked with so many talented designers, skilled writers and editors, charismatic sales reps and personable client services reps over the years, and I am glad to be able to keep them as friends moving forward.

In many ways, MPP has been family for me, complete with some quirky relatives to keep life interesting. Thank you Terry and Janis for inviting me into the Southwest Journal family all those years ago. The memories of my time at MPP will stay with me forever.