Meg Gleason of Moglea is as you would expect after looking at her designs — warm, charming, down-to-earth and infinitely creative. She combines a whimsical, craft-and-nature-inspired illustrative style with an instinctive sensibility for typography and color selection. She first caught our eye about a year ago, in the Be Mine Valentine Challenge. Her design, “Message from the Birds,” announced that a new designer with a decidely unique point of view had entered the scene. Since then, it’s been a pleasure to watch her designs unfold and evolve. Let’s get to know Meg a bit better in today’s Meet a Mintie.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got your start as a designer.
My whole childhood I felt destined and determined to become an orthodontist—I really liked my orthodontist and I wanted to improve people’s lives in someway—so I started out in Biology in school. The funny thing is, I had always been good at drawing and had this constant obsession with perfecting my handwriting (even during my biology courses). After realizing that my mind wasn’t really suited for science and with the coaxing of my wonderful older sister, Mary, I ended up in Iowa State University’s graphic design program my sophomore year of college.
My husband, Chad, and I decided to move back to his hometown of Audubon, after we finished school to farm with his family. He farms and has a wood shop (he’s a furniture designer) in our garage and I have an upstairs office and basement letterpress studio. We feel extremely lucky.
(I’m from a family of 8 kids. We had some really fun holidays growing up…and this is one of my favorite holiday photos.)
Who have been your most influential mentors?
My older sister, Mary Raap, has always inspired and challenged me creatively. She was the one person who gave me the confidence that I had the talent necessary to pursue design school. I spent my whole childhood studying and admiring her creative efforts and I know that her passion, determination, and attention to detail definitely rubbed off on me. Mary works in NYC with her partner, Matt Conradt, another amazing artist. I grew heaps and bounds in college thanks to some wonderful professors— Paula Curran + Micheal Golec. My husband is my biggest encourager, and he has an excellent eye for form and composition.
Besides your sister Mary, is anyone else in your family in a creative field?
My mother is a hair-stylist so I know much of my creativity comes from her too. I spent hours of my childhood at her salons, so it was easy to soak up creative energy from her. My mother is an amazing entrepreneur and has been self-employed for practically all of her life. Watching her run her businesses with grace as given me the motivation and encouragement to run my own business.
You have such a warm and striking illustrative style. What informs your aesthetic? How do you strike a balance between modern elegance and accessibility?
Thanks! I think anyone’s personal aesthetic flows directly from their personality. I love making cards and writing letters, and I think most of my design/media exploration is done through correspondence with friends and family.
Animals seem to be a source of inspiration — do you feel like living in Iowa has flavored your design with a unique point of view?
I am definitely an animal lover. I love the distinct personalities that flow out of every creature. I think living on a farm may add a different aesthetic to my work. I’m actually trying to be more inspired by my unique surroundings and bring more of that into Mōglea. Just this morning I carried a calf inside for a photo shoot with my letterpress.
I’m trying to work on a juxtaposition of farm life and design for my branding for Mōglea. We do often take little trips to nearby cities (Kansas City, Minneapolis, Chicago) for a getaway and some inspiration. We’ve never been overseas, so we are really craving some time in Europe, Japan or Thailand.
Take us through the creation of two of your minted designs.
My designs always evolve out of initial thumbnail sketches. If I really like a thumbnail sketch, I will usually move to a full size sketch. Once I the composition pretty close off of the computer, I’ll work it in the computer once it’s complete. I feel more creative away from my computer, so the more I can complete outside of my Mac, the better. Oddly, most of my design concepts pop into my head while I’m doing non-designy things like feeding our holstein calves, doing the dishes, or taking a shower. I think all of my holiday designs this year were created in my head in our calf nursery.
With Quilted Christmas, I wanted to create a geometric mix of pattern and color, similar to a quilt. I think quilts and Christmas really go hand in hand for me….warmth, color, a sense of home etc. I first started by making the collage out of many triangles of random papers. (Mostly papers I’ve saved from antique finds.) Then I took the collage into the computer and cut it out in Photoshop. I reworked the colors to make them more “christmasy” and then worked on the type layout.
With Scarf and Garland, I was attempting to make a colorful design with lots of movement and texture. I love christmas greenery, so I attempted to work that into the design. I somehow wanted to use a banner that flowed throughout the design to make some sort of greeting or saying. Later it ended up being a scarf. This design started with many sketches and the final illustration was painted with gouache and finished in the computer.
What inspires you/what do you geek out on?
As for designers and artists: I love Robert Rauschenburg. His collage style paintings almost make me breathless…especially when I see them in person. I like texture and anything intricate. I adore Ray Fenwick for his beautiful lettering and amazing sense of humor. Check out his Hall of Best Knowledge Series. It’s so so funny and creative. Ray was super sweet to give me some guidance and encouragement when I started doing more illustration.
Stefan Sagmeister’s work never ceases to amaze me. The conceptual framework of his work is impressive, and his self-initiated project, “Things I’ve learned in my Life so Far” is so smart and creative. I love Yulia Brodskaya’s paper typographic art. I really like and wish I could afford designer furniture (a love inherited from my husband). Luckily, I married a furniture designer (I would love to own a Barcelona Chair [Mies van der Rohe] someday). I love infographics and admire any designer who excels in organizing tons of information in a way that’s both innovative and educational.
I tend to scour antique shops for lovely vintage finds (mainly books or paper items ). Lately I’ve started collecting vintage feed or flour sacks for the amazing typography. For the longest time, I used to collect vintage neckties for all of the sweet patterns. The tie pictured is from the shop, FORAGE.
I got started in letterpress about two years ago. I took a few classes on how to hand-set type and operate a letterpress and eventually purchased a Chandler & Price 10×15 Letterpress, which we’ve named Patty. I’ve always had a love for crafting things and having my hand in a project from start to finish, and the press allows me that kind of creative control. I truly have a lot to learn and feel every project I print I learn a little more about printing technique. I also work in a few other mediums: gouache, ink, watercolor, and collage.
I love cooking! My husband and I are in a gourmet cooking group, so we are constantly learning new cooking techniques and recipes. We are also remodeling our four-square farmhouse, and it will be a creative outlet for many years to come.
Color is the biggest issue. For letterpress, one has to print individual colors on separate passes. I tend to be create more minimal, simplified designs for letterpress, so that more emphasis is on the paper and the impression, which is the unique quality of letterpress. I have lots of lead type that I set by hand, and I enjoy setting type the old fashioned way once in a while.
How do you balance a freelance business, family, your farm, and being a part of the Minted community?
I feel like I have zero time-management skills other than being self-motivated. Like most designers, I need deadlines to keep me going. I honestly work a lot (especially during busy farm seasons like harvest and planting) because my husband does. My only advice would be to make a daily list and stick to it.
Don’t put too many things on that list. The longer I’ve worked in design, I know what I’m able to get accomplished in a day. (I love Action Pads by Behance for list making.) It has also helped me to set certain times to check email during the day…so that I’m not checking it and responding to emails constantly.
Overall, I just think it’s important to remember priorities. My husband is my first priority, so I really try to not be working when he’s home and be ready to help him out when he needs me. I love being self-employed because of the flexible schedule…I’m able to be totally available if I need to be.
What is your dream for yourself, 10 years from now. Where will you be, what will you be doing?
Hmmmm….Hopefully ten years from now I’ll have a successful letterpress stationery + design studio running, with maybe a couple more presses. If my a card of mine ever gets sold at Anthropologie, I think then I’ll feel successful.
I would love to have employees or interns by then. That might sound like a funny goal, but I love working with people. I miss not having co-workers. I constantly trying to lure people to come live in Western Iowa.
What’s on your holiday list this year?
2. frye boot
Hard question….there are so many designer whom I really love!! I really admire Amy Ehman (Design Lotus). She’s a great positive leader for our community and has the ability to constantly execute creative designs with flawless typography. (And raise 3 kids!) Crazy.
Sydney Newsom is a super talented designer and gives excellent constructive feedback and encouragement. You can tell Sydney is super driven to grow and excel as a designer and that’s motivating for me. I’m super excited to meet Sarah Lenger someday. Especially since we’re both from Iowa and she is an amazing designer.
Lately I’m so impressed with a lot of the new Minties. Especially self-taught designers who are working hard each challenge to improve their conceptual design and typography skills. It’s so fun to watch designers improve and grow each challenge. I LOVE the team-like closeness of this community. Everyone is competitive, but in a really good encouraging way.
What tips or advice do you have for designers who are just starting to enter challenges?
Don’t give up even if you haven’t won an award. You will continue to improve your design skills….I promise. I’ve improved so much since the first challenge I entered. Be sure to participate in the forum and critique phase. It pays to stick around and offer/receive criticism. Remember typography and design composition is so so important. Everything is about contrast…shape contrast, type contrast, color contrast etc. And don’t be afraid of white space. I think Kelli Hall might be the Minted white space champion.
Find more of Katherine on her blog.23 COMMENTS