FIELD NOTES – "Do Good Work For Good People"

By Matter

(Image courtesy of DDC)

My fellow graphic designer, Gretchen Walker and I were excited to attend a lecture at the Boston University College of Fine Arts by Visiting Designer Aaron James Draplin, a pioneer in the graphic design community. He is known for for his clean, bold stroked logos, an obsession with orange and reinventing antique inspiration into modern works of art.

‘Do good work for good people’, he quoted throughout his lecture, professing his infatuation with rummage sales and the beautiful pieces found there. We both can easily relate to Draplin’s professed “hustle” work ethic, but the amount of work he has created at such a high standard makes us curious to how he started in a small Oregon town and has built such a legendary design studio.. During his lecture, Draplin shared his life story, beginning with how he accompanied his father to rummage sales and began sketching, collecting, and taking the pictures that ultimately feeds his timeless aesthetic.

Draplin appears to actually marvel over the past twenty years – from the very beginning when he saved $9,000 to purchase his very first top of the line computer and design equipment and later moving on to work at Snowboard Magazine. He spent some time in the agency world and found that the best designs are done for those who appreciate the process and who believe wholeheartedly in their brand. His breath of work ranges from being paid $26,000 for a single logo to creating an entire brand identity in exchange for a burrito. However, for Draplin, the underlying reason for each design is to be a part of the story on both ends of that spectrum. ‘Nothing is too small,’ he states at one point with his large, infectious, bearded smile.

His clientele ranges from Nike to Barack Obama, and a plethora of outdoor sport brands to owning Draplin Design Company (DDC) and Field Notes, his own brand of notebooks that has grown to cult popularity. His impact on today’s world of graphic design has become immeasurable.

Being two graphic designers working at an agency we know how competitive the field is, growing everyday with divergent styles and techniques, so when Draplin speaks about his aesthetic, he stresses to quite simply make sure you are not trying to be something you are not. Draplin’s love for the Flaming Lips, snowboarding, the classic font Futura Bold, his father and their bond over rummage sales are all reflected in every aspect of his personality and his designs. So whenever starting a project, before jumping to the computer, he stresses to make sure to be true to who you are and to ‘slow down and put it on paper.’ – Aaron Draplin