The Bemidji Way

It’s sometimes said that a magazine is a reflection of its editor. But I’ll be honest: I’m not half as colorful or deep as the newly redesigned magazine you’re reading now. It’s comfortable in any setting (living rooms, dental offices), and it’s a much more agreeable companion than yours truly on road trips or long flights.

My friends will suggest it’s also slightly less square.

Minnesota Monthly’s redesign is largely the work of our creative director, Brian Johnson, who joined the magazine in 2000. His vision is infused into every design element of the magazine’s editorial content—from covers to captions—and it’s his ability to work with photographers, illustrators, stylists, and the magazine’s two assistant art directors, Kirsten Mortensen and Jeremy Nelson, that results in a publication that’s consistently well designed and beautiful month after month.

It may surprise you to learn that this sumptuous, sophisticated look is produced by a guy who rides a motorcycle and wears his wallet on a chain. He’s 6-foot-1 and has a shaved head—so naturally, I choose my battles. But Brian is also genuinely nice, and a Minnesotan through and through. A native of Bemidji, he seems particularly pleased when his name is mentioned alongside fancy-pants designers from East Coast publications at design-award banquets.

Brian often regales our editorial staff with quirky tales from his hometown. When someone raises an eyebrow, he simply responds: “It’s the Bemidji Way.” Case closed. The implication is you’re the provincial one.

I confess I’ve never really figured out what the Bemidji Way is. The phrase hints at something vaguely spiritual, and I’ve sometimes wondered if it’s a mystery best left unraveled—like the origins of human life, or the ingredients in SPAM. Over the last few months, however, I’ve watched Brian spend countless hours noodling the elements of this redesign. The floor of his office is an ocean of magazines, and what you can’t see is the clutter of scrapped ideas. Turn a few pages and I think you’ll agree that the end product was worth the time and effort: If this is a reflection of the Bemidji Way, the city itself must resemble Xanadu.

Joel Hoekstra, Editor


Minnesota Monthly’s new style editor Katie Dohman showed up this spring wearing—appropriately—a mix of new and old fashion. She brings a great eye for fresh products (and bargains) to the job, as well as considerable professional experience (she once served as beauty editor at another local magazine). She lives in St. Paul with the two loves of her life: her husband, William, and a cockapoo, Molly.

John JodizoMinneapolis author John Jodzio wrote this month’s “Last Word,” p. 162. A short-story writer whose characters often find themselves in desperate circumstance, Jodzio recently published a collection of short fiction, If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home. Jodzio is a past winner of the Loft-McKnight Fellowship. His stories have appeared in One Story, Barrelhouse, Opium Magazine and various other publications.

Sara RubensteinPhotographer Sara Rubenstein has a knack for creating honest and compelling images of strong women. So, she seemed like the perfect choice to photograph St. Paul homicide detective Anita Muldoon, featured this month in “To Catch a Killer,” p. 100. Sara not only captured the cold-case cop on camera, she also interviewed Muldoon about her job. To watch the video, go to