Portland-based Aaron Draplin is a force to be reckoned with. He’s a triple threat – a skilled and admired designer, a successful businessman, and a sought after lecturer and teacher. (He’s probably way more threatening than that, but those three are impressive and scary enough)
He founded the Draplin Design Co. in 2004. Check out his work. He launched Field Notes, a line of very practical little notebooks, in 2007. Pick some up. He put out his first book, “Draplin Design Co – Pretty Much Everything” last year… go buy that too.
His clients range from the likes of Target, Nike and AOL to Marc Maron, SupPop Records, Wired Magazine and he’s even done work for the Obama Administration.
Despite all the success, Aaron Draplin remains ridiculously down to earth and humble. He’s funny. He’s loud. He’s relatable. He’s a little offensive. And best of all? You don’t need to be a creative to be inspired by this guy.
We’re stupid excited that your spring tour is bringing you to the east coast. Is this your first time in Newfoundland? (If so, shame on you.)
Actually, shame on you. For not knowing my relatives landed here from Ireland over a hundred years ago. But to answer your question, yes, this is my first time, so… damn… shame on me.
You’re a household name in the design community. The big names respect you, the little names want to be you. Did you ever think you’d achieve this level of design celebrity?
Nope. And I gently dispute the term “celebrity.” In my experience, they hide. Or make things difficult. Or are too busy to say “Thanks.” Not me. I’m accessible, sharing my mess wherever I can, and, hell, kids can climb all over me. Good, clean fun. Thanks!
What percentage of your time is spent working these days versus doing promo? You spend a lot of time touring and speaking at conferences. How do you fit it in?
How’s this for some loose arithmetic? 87.45%, divided by the angle of the dangle, multiplied by the coefficient of the hypotenuse. More and more, I’m working on stuff I make, and sell to like-minded folks. I love that. It’s a small, comfortable ecosystem. Less and less client work these days, and I have to say, I miss the grind a bit? I still do records for friend’s bands, and logo gigs, of course. But the day-to-day shit, that’s mainly spent on making cool stuff for the DDC. Yay!
Why are your Skillshare.com tutorials so popular?
Hopefully, because we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I’m not afraid to ham it up to get a laugh. That’s how my dad did it, and everyone loved him. I’m applying his scientific “bullshittery” to everything I do, at all times. More fun that way.
Work hard. Do good work. For good people. Easier said than done for lots of us… sometimes you have to work hard and do good work for bad people to pay the bills. Is there hope for all the designers out there working for assholes?
Well, that’s a slippery slope. Who’s to say who the bad ones are? I got just close enough to some of ‘em, and burned a couple times, and that was enough for me. I’ve had the big jobs dangled in front of me—knowing in my heart—I couldn’t be in the same room as the turd briefing me. So I delicately declined the work. No big deal. I’ve done my best to pick people I know I’d love, and thankfully, that’s worked out. It exists!
Does it bother you that Lego sets are really expensive now and all have shitty themes?
F*ck, it does! Those don’t appeal to me in the least. I only do the city, space and Star Wars stuff. Just like when I was six.
What is worse, Dave Matthews or cheesecake?
It’s like the pile of shit looking at the pile of puke and going, “Wow, you stink.” I’m not down with either. But man, what a harsh answer. I know for a fact that Dave Matthews is a decent guy. But you won’t catch me listening to that cheesecaked stuff.
Let’s call it now… what’re the chances we get a snowstorm and/or hurricane in April and you and Leiah get stranded in Newfoundland?
87.45%, divided by the angle of the dangle, multiplied by the coefficient of the hypotenuse.