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Junior Gillian McMahon gets first place for logo design at journalism conference

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Gillian McMahon's strongsuit is in graphic design, she says. West Linn teen Gillian McMahon's logo, designed for Constitution Day, will soon be seen by the nation in an effort to promote the September holiday.

During the 2019 Journalism Education Association's (JEA) National Journalism Convention in Anaheim, Calif., 14 West Linn High School newspaper, yearbook and broadcast journalism students competed against the top journalism schools in the country. About half of the attending WLHS students received awards or special recognition for their journalism work, and junior McMahon brought home a "superior"award — the top award — in graphic design for a logo competition. Her work will be seen on public platforms.

"To me it makes me feel like I achieved the next level of my graphic design because beforehand, I was just doing it on my own, getting feedback from peers but not really from anyone else," McMahon said. "It makes me feel like I have gone to the next level as a graphic designer. It makes me feel kind of more valid."

The JEA — a national nonprofit organization that supports journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities, and rewards to students and teachers — holds conventions twice a year, though WLHS students generally only attend in the spring. The 2019 spring convention in California ran from April 25-27.

"The spring convention is a great place for them to get inspired and find ideas for the next year's publication," said Glenn Krake, WLHS journalism and English teacher. "This past fall was the first time we attended the fall convention. They have a national convention in the fall. ... We had 14 students this spring in Anaheim. In Chicago (last fall) we took 10 students."

Students can enter contests at the convention in several categories including writing, photography, layout and graphic design.

McMahon said the graphic design competitors were given the prompt about a month in advance. During the conference, judges showed each submission and students critiqued the logos, though judges determined the winner in advance.

"There were some other logos that I saw in the competition that were really nice but either they wouldn't work as a logo or they were more like an advertisement," McMahon said.

COURTESY PHOTO - Gillian McMahon's logo will be seen to promote Constitution Day. This wasn't the first time McMahon entered the convention's logo contest. Last year, the convention was held in San Francisco and though McMahon didn't receive an award, she said the critiques and feedback she received helped her this year.

"They don't want it to be cluttered. They don't want it to be very long or very tall (and) they want it to be kind of square or circle shape so it's easily transferable," McMahon said. "It shouldn't be too bold but it should still stand out so I kept that in mind when designing my logo."

Graphic design is nothing new for McMahon. She started learning at age 11 from her father, a graphic designer. Since then, she created a logo for her own website and has been employed by various companies for her graphic design work. She also produced graphic designs for a locally made movie.

"I'm an artist and graphic design is an extension of my art. The ability to create clean and cohesive designs with limitless possibilities is incredible," McMahon said. "Graphic design has helped me see art in a different way than I ever imagined. It's helped me understand layering and color theory, which in turn translates into my painting and drawings."

One of McMahon's favorite aspects of the convention was bonding with peers while attending journalism workshops and learning from professionals.

"You meet so many interesting people there and if you're really interested in journalism — if you want to know more even if you don't intend on becoming a journalist — it's just a great opportunity to bond with your staff and to meet other staff," McMahon said.

Students could earn superior, excellent or honorable mention honors in lieu of first, second and third place awards.

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Gillian McMahon received a "superior" award in graphic design for a logo competition at a journalism convention.Other WLHS students who received awards are: Wallace Milner for Blog Best in Show and Literary Magazine: Poetry; Gigi Schweitzer for Themed Photo; Karly Durbin for Graphic Design: Advertising; Gracie Cao for Yearbook Layout: Inside Pages; Remy Gottschling for Review writing and Skylar Moore for Newswriting.

Gottschling, Matilda Milner, Wallace Milner and Philip Chan were also National Quiz Bowl Finalists. The quiz bowl is a competition where teams of four students take a qualifying journalism-related test onsite at the convention. The top 16 qualifying teams advance as finalists to the "buzzer" rounds where students answer questions that include topics on current events, news headlines, pop culture and AP style.

"They are seeded based on how well they did in the qualifying test. For the past two years, the West Linn quiz bowl team earned the number one seed," Krake said. "This year, unfortunately, despite being the number one seed with the highest qualifying test, they were knocked out in the first of the buzzer rounds. Another Oregon high school, Lincoln High School, went on to win the championship. So, in 2018, West Linn was the national champion, and in 2019, Lincoln High won the national championship. Back-to-back years for Oregon schools. That's kind of cool."

Reporter Clara Howell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-479-2384.

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