Published on September 15, 2020 by Ashley Smith  
Mcdonald Montana

While spending the summer with her family in Bozeman, Montana, sophomore graphic design major Audrey McDonald earned a unique opportunity working with the National Park Service using her entrepreneurial spirit and graphic design talents. 

It started when McDonald volunteered to design coloring pages for local restaurants.

“I used the Procreate app on the iPad the School of Arts gave us last fall. I began by creating a mood board to fully engage with the restaurant's aesthetic, making a few compositional drafts, and finally submitting PDFs of the final coloring page to the client,” she said.  “At this point in the summer, I thought I was done, but the very best was yet to come!”

Thanks to some long-time family friends who run the Yellowstone Park Service Stations in Gardiner, Montana,  her coloring pages were shared with one of the designers in the digital media and planning branch of the National Park Service.

“One morning I got the email of my dreams,” McDonald said.

The head of the National Park Service Digital Media and Planning branch asked her to redesign the children's handouts given to families at the visitor centers all across Yellowstone National Park. 

Image of the National Park page

The original page was an educational piece targeting an older audience. McDonald sought to revamp the piece with children in mind.

“In order to balance education with vacation, I wanted to design a new page communicating joy and engagement, where kids would color animals in a scene as they found them with their families in the park," she said. "Since the page was an 8.5 x 11-inch front and back handout, I divided the work into two sections, one for herbivores and one for omnivores/carnivores. This project was my most difficult of the summer. I haven't grown up drawing these animals, so getting everything anatomically correct while making each Yellowstone animal fun and engaging required a lot of patience.” 

After completing the project, she had the opportunity to meet with her employer at the National Park Service,  tour the digital media branch's facilities and interview for a possible internship next summer.

“This summer was such a blessing as a whole, and the chance to get to use my gifts in small ways to add to the experiences of children in Bozeman and of kids visiting Yellowstone National Park has helped me gain confidence and joy in my abilities to provide designs that can truly help others,” she said.

McDonald is excited to be back at Samford.

“The community here is unmatched; I feel like I've grown so much academically and spiritually in just a year and I absolutely cannot wait for the next three," she said.

She said that her first year in design was overwhelming at times but professor Larry Thompson helped ease her anxiety. “His straightforward teaching style and relaxed nature have been such a calming presence in my Samford experience,” she said.

 Samford was a clear choice for her as she was looking for “a place that would push me towards the most Christ-centered woman I could be.”