Stevie Snow

As a certified childhood doodler who dreamed up a fictitious restaurant called Minty’s, you could say Lauren was destined to become a professional designer who spends a good portion of her free time in the kitchen.

Here’s a peek inside Lauren’s world as a lead designer at Brafton and budding connoisseur in the kitchen:

The before years

While Lauren has lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Texas and Missouri and spent countless summers visiting family in Singapore, she always made it back to her home state of Illinois. And the trend continues: Lauren currently lives in Chicago.

Lauren studied design and illustration at Washington University in St. Louis, where she honed not only her design skills but also her bookbinding abilities.

Lauren Monaco Life @ Brafton

“People ask me ‘What’s the most useful class you took in college?’ ” she said. “When I say bookbinding, I usually get blank stares.”

Lauren uses her skills to make sketchbooks, but has also repaired some of her grandmother’s old recipe books. (More on Lauren’s love of cooking to come.)

“I am constantly saving beautiful scraps of paper and the cardboard backs of notepads so I can upcycle them into hand-bound books,” she said.

So she’s talented and resourceful? She’s a keeper!

After graduating, Lauren joined the Americorps for two years, splitting her time between St. Louis and Chicago. From there, she started working as a designer for nonprofits in Chicago.

The Brafton years

Lauren joined Brafton’s team of designers back in the fall of 2013. While the rest of the design team is in Boston, Lauren is the unofficial design authority in the Chicago office.

“I love my co-workers and the community of the Chicago office, so I don’t really feel like the lone designer,” she explained.

An average day in Lauren’s world begins with a cup of tea to accompany sorting through emails and working on outstanding edits.

“After I feel like my inbox and edits are in order, I settle in on my larger project for the day – like an eBook or infographic,” she said.

As a veteran on the design team, Lauren also helps out by reviewing other designers’ work.

Along with the people, Lauren appreciates the flexibility and diversity of the Brafton world. That means designing at home when she needs to and working with clients spanning various industries.

“I like having the opportunity to shift from one type of branding to another,” she said. “It keeps your day interesting!”

True to her roots, Lauren also continues to freelance for nonprofits in the Chicago area when she isn’t killin’ it on her Brafton accounts.

Creative in the kitchen

As if you weren’t already convinced that Lauren’s a definite keeper, her talents extend to the kitchen.

“I’ve gone through different culinary phases,” Lauren explained. “Once upon a time, I was really into fermentation and would make my own kombucha, sourdough starter, yogurt and any kind of vegetable I could.”

The fermentation phase ended when Lauren kept forgetting to feed the scoby and sourdough starter and “ended up with a few jars of questionable vegetables.”

Lauren’s current cooking interest is learning the traditional ways to make foods from her family’s diverse heritage. The menu includes Nyonya rice dumplings, Italian sponge cake and challah.

“Once in a while I’ll try to combine techniques,” she said. “My favorite was a curry puff knish.”

Design + food = love

Naturally, Lauren’s favorite projects at Brafton are food-related.

She illustrated this map for the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts:

Plus, she’s created some incredible eBooks for Pampered Chef. Her design skills bring the essential grocery list and coffee guide to life with a distinctively clean and chic look.

Beyond the walls of Brafton, Lauren combines her love of cooking and designing on her illustrated food blog – which I swear is the most aesthetically pleasing food blog you ever did see.

If you can’t get enough of Lauren’s work, check out more on her professional site.

Words of design wisdom

Lauren provided her gems of advice for aspiring designers and fellow creatives, which starts with looking for inspiration everywhere, all the time.

“Design trends are constantly changing, so you should always be looking at what’s happening around you,” she advised.

Doing so can you help you find inspiration in places you least expect it, especially when traveling to new environments. Lauren’s personal favorites are tiled floor patterns, color in nature, vintage signs, leaf shapes and paint layers on old buildings.

Finally, don’t forget to put pencil to paper.

“Take a break from your computer,” Lauren suggested. “Sketch and doodle even it doesn’t look beautiful. Just make yourself do it.”

When asked what makes her tick, Lauren got specific: 1960s Cambodian rock and roll. I imagine it makes for some lively background music as she creates the designs and dishes her friends, fam and co-workers know and love.