At Home with Megan Gonzalez of MaeMae & Co.
written by Kim Conway • photographed by Gina Zeidler
A quick scroll through Megan Gonzalez’s Instagram gives only a hint of the colorful, lively, daydreamy world she’s building around herself and for her clients as the creative mind behind MaeMae & Co. From her work to her home, it’s abundantly clear that Megan has an eye for creating visual magic through color, texture, and design. She’ll take your daydreams, guide you to believe in them, and bring them to life.
What began as a wedding stationery business during Megan’s college years, MaeMae & Co. has come to flourish and evolve over the last nine years—that’s nine years of Megan creating, learning, and working only for herself. She’d grown used to contacts approaching her upon noticing her graphic design skills, asking her to design their logos and websites. At that point, she was set on taking on any and every opportunity brought to her, “I was very much ‘say yes’ to everything when I started the business. I basically had to try so hard to make anything work. So anytime anyone asked me for something, even after business had picked up, I was still very much in the mindset of ‘say yes to everything, this could be your last opportunity, you have to do it.’” This mindset led Megan to the realization that she didn’t fully understand the vast difference between beautiful graphic design and meaningful branding—but she needed to.
She found herself getting wound up, always going in circles on her projects, “I didn’t understand how to drive and ask the right questions, and how to present options that really represented different thoughts.” It’s no wonder that at this point, the feeling of defeat loomed over Megan. After all, what good is a driver who doesn’t believe in what they’re doing behind the wheel? And so began a revamping of her process—and a mission to learn deeply.
“I think one of the things that is really tough when you work in a visual industry is you look at people’s final product and you say, ‘oh that is what I’m going towards,’ but you don’t know all the process behind it. And that is so much more important than the final product.”
While still working within the wedding industry, Megan co-piloted a project with a friend who wanted her help with branding. Their collaboration allowed her to see a fellow creative’s thought process and ultimately gave her more faith in her creative self. She knew there was deeper potential buried within, but the frustration of not knowing what to ask or how to explore what felt missing was holding her back.
Many think branding is simply a logo and the fonts and colors it’s built with. While that may be true on the surface, Megan developed a more thorough understanding for the practice—she studied, read books, and filled in the blanks. Below the surface, it’s about creating a cohesive representation of your story and your product, “I help people in a fuller capacity with not just a logo and website, but their photos, language, strategies, things like that.”
Armed with a newfound confidence and understanding of branding as a whole, Megan made the call to part ways with wedding stationery and dedicate herself solely to branding. From there, MaeMae & Co. bloomed into a more mature, grounded stage of being.
Where Megan truly ‘sings’ is in her favorite part of the branding process: creating mood boards. In the same way she has continued to evolve as a branding professional, Megan’s mood board process has evolved in unison. For some, it’s a matter of speaking to a client and diving right into a thirty-minute or hour-long session of creating. For Megan, it’s a deeply important, fulfilling, detailed step, “creating that mood board is me coming up with a very full picture of what the mood, tone, and depth of this project is.”
She further explains that while it may seem like the hours she spends building her boards may appear as a base-level focus of a project, it has much more significance and value, “there is something about that actual process of gathering and assembling that is clarifying to me. I realize I have to do that, because that is where it becomes a part of my own creative soul.” This is her way of establishing the roots of each project that, from there, will continue to grow and branch into a more tangible creation. Much of what she pulls for her boards has a level of personal significance as well. From vintage stores and old book stores, to gardens and museums, to ephemera from trips (she’s been known to have a plastic bag filled with found items while traveling), Megan seeks inspiration in things both old and new.
To really appreciate the thought behind Megan’s mood board process, you need to follow suit and switch off your brain to allow a sort of free-flow meditation. Next, think of this mood boarding as Megan’s sketching—where some creatives might doodle, Megan explores the mood of her projects and compiles a world around that. Everything she picks for her boards is in some way determined by a gut feeling, which allows the genuineness of her creative style to always stay intact. Whether she’s out shopping, exploring during her travels, or simply browsing through magazines and digital sources, Megan’s mindset is gather, gather, gather. Anything that grabs her attention to some degree is worth pulling and saving, as her gathered items will be sorted and refined later on. Her ‘more is more’ logic proves to work when it comes to the desired balance of her final board, “it’s all about having photographs, paintings, sketches, objects with a clipped background, patterns, fonts, things that show layout, things that show light quality.”
Megan is always collecting, whether it’s for a project on deck or a project that doesn’t exist yet. With that amount of content coming in, there’s bound to be some level of organized chaos—her version? Keeping things loose and in piles, “I think piles are so great. There is something about sifting through things and not putting things in categories that helps you think in a new and fresh way.” Even though it’s very much a matter of gathering anything and everything, her collections, while vast, are very intentional.
After a thoughtfully curated mood board is created, it’s onto the blank screen. Don’t get her wrong—that once-dreaded white void at the beginning of a project instills some level of fear, but Megan approaches it as an opportunity; with the mindset of what is this going to become? And behind that question is the energy and determination to realize she’s prepared for it. She’s given it hours of thought, she’s pulled together bits and pieces, she’s got her roots. She acknowledges that she likes the empty screen—it’s an opportunity to say, let’s do it!
Knowing what she considers necessary as a means of finding balance with her boards, it comes as no surprise that Megan’s style is known for being “layered and cheerful, with a mix of old and new.” If Anthropologie comes to mind, she will be the first to tell you that the store’s catalogs and variety of branding ephemera served as a sort of perpetual source of inspiration when she was a student. Even so, she was pushed to think bigger than that—to think beyond layers, to look at things differently, and to not imitate one style. In doing so, her own style made itself clear.
Incorporating elements of cheerfulness and loudness led Megan to realize that her work was finally syncing more with her personality than when she was dedicated to delicate layering, “my style is very reflective of me on the inside. What I make is truly a reflection of who I am.” In realizing and embracing this brighter side of things, she found more power to continue making what she wanted. And people were drawn to that. Even as she began photo styling, there was a visible link between her style as a graphic designer and as a photographer, “I make what I make and it ties together.”
When Megan isn’t busy gathering, refining, and creating her mood boards, she’s pushing herself to create more outside the boundaries of branding—she’s bringing daydreams (both her own and others’) to life elsewhere. To explore the food space, Megan teamed up with her photographer friend Lauren Kirkbride on a food styling project. They set out to shoot photos within the range of moody, contrast-heavy dark and light, bright white. In the process of gathering baking products and playing with lighting and textures, Megan had a moment where she realized her heart was singing, “yes, this is what I wanted to make!” Is there ever a thought so refreshing and deeply fulfilling? The end result—the magic of collaborating between two creative minds—left Megan with real, incredible imagery that began within the confines of her daydreams.
Typically, Megan finds balance with MaeMae & Co. through her three versions of workdays: graphic design and consulting days—these days are key in holding herself accountable to keep up with self-imposed deadlines; photoshoot prep days—these days are built on the intensity of shopping, prepping and packing; and shoot days—these are the super fun, always moving around, twelve-hour days. When she’s not prepping or shooting, she finds the opportunity to visit her co-working office space. Sometimes she needs the socialization and distraction to reach her most productive.
Given there’s only so much work she can get done in her office space, Megan’s home environment is extremely important—it’s full of visuals and textures to serve as inspiration and is mixed with enough blank space to allow room for ideas and breathing. While there’s definitely a reflection of Megan’s style in her home’s decor choices, her husband, Jason, is actually the reason behind the breathing room and minimalist touches. She credits him for steering the overall design toward peaceful and restful.
Their home itself is transitional and, like Megan’s design style, feels both old and new. “We let the design elements and colors we weren’t changing about the home guide us and direct the master plan.” There are traditional details seen in the glass-handled doors, crown molding, and many chandeliers (one of the original elements they decided to keep); and modern details, seen in the high ceilings, large rooms, and french doors connecting the master bedroom and living room. Three months and the borrowed hands of fifteen friends later, the house was finally rid of the wallpaper that once cluttered every wall, freshly painted, and filled with neutral, clean-line furniture.
Megan’s touch is most noticeable in the layered shelves, collected art, and pops of pink and orange. The artwork hanging in two of the bathrooms and above the buffet were collected from old book stores, calendars from high school, and vintage stores—and serve as a visual representation of Megan’s eye for hunting and treasuring bold graphics. Come Christmas season, Megan’s touch is further seen in her homemade ornaments hanging alongside ornaments collected together during their travels.
From the windows and crown molding to the master bedroom’s colors and layout, there are elements that bring a perfect balance of energy, light, and relaxation. All of which makes their space together truly feel like home and plays into Megan’s love of simply being home. Her favorite space? “My kitchen! I love sitting at the table, listening to the birds outside, and soaking up the light.” Whether it’s a long breakfast and cooking, lounging around with her husband, or soaking up the glowy afternoon light in the house, Megan embraces her homebodiness. That’s not to say she doesn’t love socializing with their church community, meeting up with people for lunch, or exploring and gathering—like everything in her life, there needs to be balance in order to be fully present.