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VisCom student adrienne tong interns with National Geographic

Julia Brown | Oct 18, 2017

School of Visual Communication student adrienne tong worked as a design, graphics and cartography intern at National Geographic this past summer. / Photo provided by adrienne tong

VisCom student adrienne tong interns with National Geographic

By Julia Brown

ATHENS, Ohio (Oct. 18, 2017)—Growing up, senior information design major adrienne tong* had the work of National Geographic designers and graphic editors hung on her walls. This past summer, the Cincinnati native was able to work alongside some of the very same people whose handiwork she admired growing up as a design, graphics and cartography intern at the magazine.

“It’s amazing to be a part of a high-functioning team that creates such impeccable, information-dense work that people can sit down and interact with and walk away having learned something,” tong said.

During her summer internship, she was able to work with the likes of Emmet Smith, creative director at National Geographic, and Fernando Baptista, who works as a senior graphics editor. Currently, tong is in Washington, D.C., for the Scripps Semester in D.C. program and works as a design, graphics and cartography contractor with National Geographic, working directly under Design Director Michael Tribble.

Naturally, working with world-renowned creative minds would be a little daunting, but tong was quick to point out that “they’re all the kindest, most encouraging people, and made it really easy for [her] to adapt.” Perhaps the most crucial part of her internship was being able to critique and be critiqued by her coworkers. “Those comments are so important,” tong emphasized. “They are the difference between okay work and fantastic work.”

Critiques like this are a daily part of life at National Geographic, but tong admitted there is no typical day. “In between meetings with various teams, I design print page layouts and iPad stories, sketch redesigns for graphics, do research for various projects and digitally draw things...It’s something new every day.”

How does someone prepare for an internship at National Geographic? By taking a wide variety of classes. tong credits her general education classes for her preparedness. “I have really strong research skills, and a wide net of interests and a solid foundation of knowledge,” she said. She’s used information from a biological anthropology class to draw a phylogenetic tree and her knowledge of chemistry to do significant figures for a graphic. “It’s crazy how much you have to know how to do to perform really well in a design, graphics and cartography position.”

tong originally applied for her internship through the National Geographic website, and with recommendations from professors and mentors Julie Elman and John Grimwade, was offered the position. Her advice for other students pursuing internships is to apply everywhere. She applied to 50+ places before landing her first internship at MTV, working on their Snapchat Discover story, and at least as many places before landing her National Geographic internship.

“You’re going to get rejected, but that doesn’t mean you’re not good,” tong said. She offered this advice: “Approach every project you have like you want it to be a portfolio piece. Make work you’re proud to show people. Listen to what your professors, classmates and industry professionals have to say, but always take the feedback with a grain of salt. The rest will come.”

One of tong’s supervisors, Fernando Baptista, will be speaking on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. in a collaboration between the School of Visual Communication and the School of Art + Design in Schoonover 145. More information about his visit can be found here.

If you have any questions about this internship or are in search of others, please contact Karen Peters, Scripps College of Communication internship specialist, at

Visit the college Internships and Jobs page for more information and internship assistance.

*adrienne tong prefers her name to be lower case in the style of bell hooks because she believes her work should speak for itself. According to her website, she believes that “sexism and racism are so built into language that in some ways you have to defy it.”