Tall Tales from a Large Man

Tall Tales from a Large Man
Terry Sieting
June 25, 2015
Attention Sign

I had been to the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City only a handful of times in my life. The highlight reel would show middle school field trips to the never-aging Inuit exhibit and sketching the inside of the building during what seemed like a never-ending summer art class. These events were what pushed me there before. But this time I entered with excitement and an open mind. The reason: Aaron James Draplin.

Through our commonalities, you could see why Draplin would be a person I’d look up to. We both grew up in Antrim County along M-88 and spent our winters hitting the slopes. But quite possibly the biggest thing we share is a resounding passion for branding and design.

Amidst the commonalities Draplin spoke of during his presentation at the museum, were far more important lessons. Draplin, owner and founder of Draplin Design Co. (DDC), had several inspiring points on design, life and the pursuit of happiness, most of which can be found at the heart of our respective companies.

1. Work Hard. Do Good Work. For Good People.

With vim and vigor, Draplin drove home this concept through each story he told. In fact, the above statement is DDC’s mission statement. On his website it reads, “What comes around, goes around, man.”

He told the hometown crowd the story of his friend who owned a hot dog stand named Cobra Dogs in Portland, Ore., the town in which he currently lives. Due to the nature of his friend’s budget and the company’s current identity problem, no one would design the Cobra Dogs identity. Out of the goodness of his “mouse finger” and at price of $0.00, Draplin took on the project with passion and flair just as he had for such high-profile clients as Nike, Patagonia and so many others.

Today Cobra Dogs is a living, breathing company that has found success from which Draplin receives nothing. He spoke that it’s these types of projects that are the most rewarding. In these stories of giving is where I found the biggest similarity in my new position here at Güd Marketing: the need, want and ability to give back to those who truly deserve it.

2. Reviving Design: The DDC Design Philosophy

“Design was better before computers. I think it’s because people were more thoughtful about what they were making.” – Aaron Draplin

If you were to peruse Draplin’s Instagram account (@draplin), you’d find a lot of logos and design that hearken back to what Draplin considers the heyday of design. Thick lines, minimalist geometric figures and precision typography. During his travels around the country, he finds himself at pretty much any kind of sale that involves relics of years past. It is in these eclectic pits that Draplin finds the portal to reviving design. Logos from companies such as New Holland, American Revolution Bicentennial and AgriGold are Draplin’s holy grail. These little pieces of design not only provide ample inspiration for him, but also currently live in one of his poster series.

This type of thoughtful design that Draplin is passionate about should be the standard to which we all hold ourselves. As we navigate the creative process, heed the words of Draplin to be thoughtful about design. Find meaning in your process and executions. Be deliberate about the product you produce.

3. Current Success and Featured Work

“I’ve done logos for thousands of dollars and for as little as a burrito.” – Aaron Draplin

Draplin has quite the dream portfolio from a designer’s point of view. He’s had the honor of working for clients such as Sasquatch Music Festival, Chrysler Motors, the Obama administration and Redwing Farms (owned by the John Hughes). But most know him by his current point of pride and brainchild brand: Field Notes.

Draplin started Field Notes as a side project making memo books and now has evolved the brand into selling a variety of products. The original pocket-size memo book now comes in varying editions, colors, inside designs and back-cover content.

“Founded in 2007 with just 200 handmade notebooks, the company now produces roughly 75,000 per run and last year sold almost half a million of them.”Adweek.com

Upon arrival to the stage, it was unquestionable that Draplin would be without one of these books in the front pocket of his self-described “beat-up Carhartt jacket.” He showed pictures of his sketches in the books and portrayed the importance of starting his process on paper. It was in these Field Notes books where Draplin demonstrated the beginnings of thoughtful ideation and design.

After looting the merchandise table and a quick photograph with the legend himself, I again walked out of the Dennos Museum – but this time with a refreshed perspective, not only on branding, logo design and Gene Simmons (a story only Draplin himself can tell), but also on being a do-gooder in the creative industry. It’s a perspective we encourage at Güd Marketing. Draplin demonstrated this do-gooder quality not only through his tales of selflessness, but also in the moments he shook everyone’s hand as he worked his own merchandise table.

Great Designer. Even Better Human.

His self-labeled “Tall Tales from a Large Man” tour is currently traveling the world. You can find the schedule on his website or listen to his talk on the AIGA website.