Episode 7 / Making the Rulebook for Your Life
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Aaron Draplin is as iconic as his work for Nike, Esquire and the Obama Administration. His companies Draplin Design Co and Field Notes have made an invaluable, lasting impact on the design world, and along the way, Aaron has learned a lot about how to work hard while making lasting relationships with all the people who matter. 


In this episode, Stephan talks to him about his new book Pretty Much Everything, his tendency for optimism, and how his dad shaped his personality.

 Making the Rulebook for Your Life

Stephan: Aaron James Draplin, welcome to the show. 

Aaron: Thanks, man. Thanks for having me. 

Stephan: I just want to start by saying a big thank you because, I don't know, ten years I've had these little friends in my pocket. Talking about Field Notes right now. I feel like I've had a little part of you this whole time. 

Aaron: You have. In your pocket, you've had me, squiggling around, allowing you to put your innermost thoughts and feelings on paper for ten years. I mean, it's just a weird thing. Is it 10 years? I know it's getting real close. 

Stephan: I think so. I started when they were just the plain old kraft ones. 

Aaron: So you got your hands on those 2007s, and 06s, and stuff, right? 

Stephan: Probably, yeah. Somewhere I've got a ridiculous stack and they look crazy. My favorite ones, I have right here. There's the dark sky. What is it, night sky? 

Aaron: Yeah, Night Sky. I'm going to flip it around a little bit and just kind of say thank you, man. Because for nine and half years now, guys like yourself have helped build this brand, and maintain this brand, and keep us alive, and keep me alive. And anyone who's listening who uses this stuff, thank you so much. 

When you think about it, they were $9.95 then. They're $9.95 now, still. 

Stephan: With inflation. 

Aaron: Yeah, with inflation. I mean, I'm just proud of that. It didn't break the book in 2007 or whatever, and it certainly doesn't do it now. You know, I'm just really proud of that because it's hard not to be a little cynical when you go out and see our little $9.95 books next to $500 pairs of jeans. And I don't want to be that guy but, my favorite places to see these are next to like-minded or similarly priced little things — in a little college bookstore where kids buy them because they need a memo book. 

Stephan: It's a utility and I love that. That's my favorite thing to design, personally. I went to school for industrial design and the stuff that I like is the stuff that people touch every day but don't even notice it. 

Aaron: Yeah. This morning I went to a little design firm and one of the things they asked me is, "Why do you make all these weird little promo items?" Just my first answer was, I just love stuff that isn't cool. That is super functional and it kind of comes back to haunt you. The power of a pencil or the power of a tooth brush. You know a weird, little promo coin purse or promo envelope opener — those are all functional, cool things and we don't really even know how to celebrate that stuff anymore, much less use it. 

I love things that are meant to be used. Things that people pick up and say, "What the hell am I going to do with an emery board?" And I say, file your nails down man! You know, whatever. It's just because they're just sort of uncommonly common items. 

What's everyone selling? They're selling stickers that say shit like "Fuck Haters" or "Believe in Yourself" or just "Make" or whatever. That's all the crap everyone's making. When you walk up on a thing that's a pile of squeeze bottles and stuff, it's embarrassing, first. But second, there's things you can use. 

“I just love stuff that isn't cool. That is super functional and it kind of comes back to haunt you.”

Stephan: One thing that I've noticed, whether it's from your book, or from seeing your stuff online, is you seem like a collector. Are you impulsive about that kind of stuff? 

Aaron: The thing is, I guess "impulsive" almost sounds like a bad word or something. I mean it's like, would it be compulsive? I just love stuff. I'm okay at letting it go if I have to. Some of  the things I've been doing around the shop is I'll just go and scan my books and say, I haven't touched that book in five years, so that one goes in the free bin. Or if it's worth any money, I try to trade, or throw it up on Ebay or whatever. So much of me enjoying buying all this bric-a-brac, and records, and bullshit is because there were a lot of years where I didn't have any money. 

Stephan: Yeah. 

Aaron: I had a budget and I had to stick to it. And the idea now that when I go to the record store maybe once a week and I feel like I'm splurging buying four or five records — that's a hundred bucks worth or something — that's not that big of a splurge for me anymore. That just really tickles me. So of course I'm a collector. I love to aggregate things. I have a little silver thing here filled with probably 200 patches. Of which, ten percent are reminders of what not to do. 

Like all the newfangled stuff you see out there that just doesn't quite feel right. The other hundred and ninety of those patches, they're reminders of what it was like to work under restraints, in the beauty of one color. In the beauty of a red graphic on a white base cloth patch with a red merrowing. There's something about that that's really simple and we forget how to do that. Because now you can go onto stickerturd.com overnight, upload your stuff, and they make some garbage vinyl thing that fades in the sun. You know what I mean? It's like a weird thing to me. 

Stephan: I know exactly what you mean. We do no digital printing. If you think about it in a broader context, those constraints, I look for those all the time. Not just in designing things but it's always where the creative stuff happens. 

 Making the Rulebook for Your Life

Aaron: Well, yeah. I don't know what it is. One out of ten people will come up to me and say, "Your stickers, are those vinyl?" And I'll say, "Yeah, man. That's screen printed ink, gnarly chemicals and all, on dumb vinyl. And they're like, "Well how did you get this color vinyl?" And you say, "Well it's overprinted ... whatever." So it's a weird thing where it's like we need to remind ourselves that you don't need to use every color under the sun in every typeface under the sun, and the idea of packing a thousand pounds into a five pound bag ... you know like what's that one service? Moo.com. I have to say they do a really beautiful job. And the idea that they allow that little hit of gold foil on black, it kind of makes people restrain even the amount of foil going down and that has a special quality to it. Because back when you used to get a foil done, they would measure the size and if it was all over the page, you get charged a lot. And if it's a little tiny thing in the corner, it's a little bit different, so I hate to be this guy who's like constantly like, "It was better back then." No, you just hold on to the things that you know feel the best.

Stephan: Well it's more a matter of how do you make something timeless, and I think we've forgotten how to do that maybe.

Aaron: I would hope that when people pick up some dumb little thing that I made, and it's all pretty dumb, that there was some consideration to keep it that way. To keep it a pad print on a piece of plastic. It's not the same when you get your face printed on a little digital sticker that just gets stuck on some little piece of plastic. So there's a charm and there's a weathered quality and a kind of un-fuck-with ability to some of that old stuff that I try to savor, champion, and use in my work.

Stephan: But these days I do feel like with web design going in the direction that it's going, in a sense that you have many more typefaces that you can work with, it's not just Helvetica. You can work with a few more. You can put some Futura on there. I saw the Field Notes redesign of the website. Looks great.

Aaron: I had nothing to do with it. Honestly, nothing.

Stephan: Well you brought the original brand identity to it. And it looks amazing on my retina display, so everything looks nice and sharp. What I've noticed is that people seem to be going back to more editorial, print style design, and it looks just as natural there. I remember watching this great little video that Lynda.com put together of you.

Aaron: The thing's at like two million views.

Stephan: That was amazing.

Aaron: Thank you, man. I get stopped in airports now for it from people who aren't even graphic designers. That was a fast afternoon — a quick little idea, but it just scared me how big it went. And then you had people coming and saying, "You're ruining graphic design by making a logo in fifteen minutes."

Stephan: What?

Aaron: Oh yeah, man. And those are the comments you remember. You don't know remember the nine hundred, ninety-nine thousand people who are like, "Hey, that's awesome. My kid wants to make logos." I mean, I love that stuff that. It makes me a little bit emotional. Like, really? I've had 10-year-olds come up to me with their parents and the parent's behind the kid going, "Little Ethan wants to make logos," And I'm sitting there with my laptop in the airport and the kid comes up and he says, "I loved your video." Because we didn't really swear in it, and it's gone so, so, so far. Thank you, Lynda. Thank you.

Aaron: But to get back to your point, what's funny is even though we can use a million fonts, a million ways, a million things, why is it refreshing when you go to a website that's clearly thought out? A couple type faces, like a page in Wired magazine. You know why? Because when you're on the shitter reading that page in Wired magazine it feels good.

We were talking yesterday about Gocco machines and Gocco machines only allow you to do a couple colors, and I've been able to modify it to where I was lucky to do base layer of white down on slate grey French paper and then hit it with CMYK dots. And you make a photo with Gocco, which is more of me just flexing my muscle and saying, I'm allowed to do five colors if I want. It's so, like, human.

Stephan: The company that makes the Gocco machine is actually still around. They stopped making those little kits.

Aaron: RISO, right?

Stephan: Yeah, RISO. They were huge in Japan. Every household had one of those little Gocco machines.

Aaron: I was [asked], "Did you have a spider graph growing up?" Of course I did. Well so did [they]. [In Japan, they] had a Gocco machine, because every time you'd go to a party, you'd put your little buddy's little graphic in the corner of their little napkins. That's so cool. So yeah, culturally a little bit different over here, but the first time I ever touched one things changde for me — slowed down in a weird way. It was really cool.

It's empowering. I mean it's very empowering to have the ability to create something very crisp on almost any material. It feels great.

But the idea of there being in-the-moment problems, like a big old gnarly pubic hair that fell on the damn screen, and it's screwing things up, and you have to stop and figure it out. You know one of my favorite things I did in Minneapolis is we had complete run of these screen printing studios at the Minneapolis College of Art. They did this incredible screen print studio. And we'd go in there from 8 at night until 5 in the morning, and go apeshit, and have tunes playing, and make whatever we wanted. And it was all water-based, so you really had to go fast. You had to have your paper ready, and your buddy to pull as things come off because the thing would drop so fast.

I even got to the point where like with my Gocco cards (and that's in the book, if you have the book and you see that little Gocco section) ... I would print with the ink, dip the ink inside embossing powder, sprinkle the powder off. The wet ink takes the powder. You put that in the stack. When those are all done, you hit it with a little heat gun and the thermography ink embossing powder, explodes on there to the point where I was doing blind hits.

Stephan: Yeah.

Aaron: Like the the lightest gray Gocco ink mixed with white, it'd be like a blind hit. It would be wet. You would dip that in clear embossing powder. Hit that, and you get a clear thing over whatever graphic, which is just ... to be able to have that control and then have it be different from one to ten, and then different from 11 to 20, all the way down the line. You know the average run I was doing for Gocco cards — three and four colors on one side and two colors on the back — was 400 cards a run. I would do it every night. I would do one side and come back. It's the idea of touching things. It's fun.

“I would hope that when people pick up some dumb little thing that I made, and it's all pretty dumb, that there was some consideration to keep it that way.”

Stephan: One of the things we deal with all the time is we're trying to teach people about some of the imperfections that come with things because all of our stuff is flexographic printing, litho printing, and flexo printing is not perfect science. And we have startups coming at us that are used to designing on the screen and we're like, "You know it's not going to be exactly like that."

Aaron: I know, but after a while, that's the fun part about this stuff. When they pick up the t-shirt that's six months old — they've washed it a number of times in the shit's cracked, and whatever.

Stephan: Yeah.

Aaron: Like T-shirts now, they've figured out where they don't even have to have goopy ass, regular old...

Stephan: Plastisol.

Aaron: Plastisol ink. Right. You know, now you can dye it because everyone's just so worried it's going to be too crusty on their poor little chest. I mean seriously, I have people send the shirts back because they're like, "I wanted it to be soft and stuff. You know, like the Hulk shirt I bought from Target." Well, go buy that from those guys, man. This thing's a piece of shit. Use it for six months. Who cares? It was twenty two bucks. 

But you'll see people who will go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Look at these little stickers, man." Like this thing, you can tell, it's a crappy paper sticker, but it's got a little patina or something to it. It's got a little tooth to it. It feels good in your hands. I just made a whole kit for the book called The Everything Else Enhancement Kit. One of the pages is a Certificate of Authenticity. I mean how stupid is that? But I sign the thing, I date the thing, and I put a little embossed silver foil sticker on the thing when it's all said and done, and it's going to be so cool. It's like a little diploma or something. But those are those are all extra steps...

You know, people need to appreciate the randomness because on all your cardboard boxes that come into the shop, turn them all over. Look at that little cardboard doodad on the bottom that says edge tests, and crunch tests, and safety standards and all that. I have those things built ten times deep with my own humor, and wit, and whatever the fuck, put into them.

But I just know that if I printed that on my own box, I'd get in trouble because you can't make fun of that stuff. That stuff is there so people understand for safety ratings and things. Why I love those little weight cardboard things is because there's zero pretension. It's just meant to do the job.

“In my little experience in Minneapolis, it seemed like a lot of the design was only for people who could afford it. That messed with me.”

Stephan: What you're talking about also reminds me of what's at the back of the Field Notes or what's on your pencils. It's this description ... like here is a credit to the people who helped me make this. I'm actually looking at one right now and it says, "Bound with the Heidelberg Stitchmaster ST 2270 five-pocket saddle stitcher." I mean this is one line on the entire page of credits. I don't know what you call that specifications page.

Aaron: Specs, or just transparency to say, whoever's running the Stitchmaster that day, he made that thing, that's a nod to them.

Stephan: I have your book right here. And there's a section at the end that's very much like the end of a Field Notes, and it says, "The world's largest appreciation list," and it's literally — I don't know what point size this is – 5 point?

Aaron: 4.5. It's embarrassing.

Stephan: Three pages of every person that contributed in your life, it looks like. And the thing that I learned from from reading your book on top of all the amazing work that you've done, really what it's about it's about — it's about the people. This is a book about people, is what I discovered. Because every one of these things is a story about how you bumped into this person and started doing work for them or whatever, and it's just crazy. I think that's an amazing through line throughout your whole career it seems like.

Aaron: Well, thank you. I had a couple guys come in here and one of the kids is from Minneapolis. And he's a couple years older than me, so I guess he's not a kid. I'm 42. He's 44. One of the guys is from Minneapolis, and we shared this sort of moment where it was like, "Do you remember all the bullshit going on in the 90s?"

In Minneapolis, it like it was uncool to like industrial design because at the time, it was all that pukey, cool fashion bullshit. David Carson-y kind of stuff. And I'm not here to slam that whole ... well maybe a little bit. I mean it's just so gratuitous, but you know where is that shit now? It's gone because it was just puke on a page. It didn't work.

But yet something that's jet set experimental, or just basic Helvetica, still has legs from 1998 that they made and still has legs now. Anyway, what I'm getting at is, the guy who won't let me into the party here ... I wasn't cool enough to get into this kind of high society, bunch of designers, party. I'll never forget the guy's name and I'm not going to mention it, but I just remember looking at his work every couple years thinking, "Man that's the hot shit?" No, no. That guy is so easily led. Still doing the same garbage. You know, if it's antlers this month, or whatever it is next month, he's right on do it. He's easily, easily led. And where I'm going with this whole damn thing is, you know when you go back, I immersed myself back into that world and I met turds like that guy.

And then on the other hand, for one in five, I'd meet someone who was so down to earth, who would go the extra mile in my dumb little one color or two color business card. I had no money and I had to scrape together, wherever I was living. In Minneapolis or up in Anchorage or something. It was the latter who was like, "Man I want to spend time with that person." Because they were cool. They said, "thanks." They knew I was broke, and met it. They didn't have to and they did it, because they wanted me to come back. These are, I guess their old fashioned ways. So I would attach to that way before I would attach to the big buck or the hottest thing, because I knew it was fleeting.

It's hard to make your own way. It was hard to make your own way there, but I remember being like laughed at because I loved things that were really functional. Like a time table for like Amtrak or something. That's designed for everybody, but at least in my little space in Minneapolis and my little experience in Minneapolis, it seemed like a lot of the design was only for people who could afford it. That messed with me. I love things where good design punched you in the face when you were filling up customs forms.

Stephan: Right.

Aaron: I remember my dad ... we would go on these like "Take Your Kid to Work Day." And my dad was a tool salesman. He would go from shop to shop to shop. He would walk in. He would bullshit with all these crusty, Harley dudes. You know, the dudes standing next to a lathe all day long. And that guy's got dirt under his fingernails, and he's kind of hardscrabble. And you know, here's the thing. It's like, my dad could talk to those guys, and bullshit with them and ask about their kids, and how you doing and what are you up to, and all that kind of stuff. And it was like, those were his buddies. And then he would go switch the gear. He'd go up to the front of the joint and he'd talk to the guy who owns it. That guy who owned the place, that's the guy who'd come back and kind of get uncomfortable and be like, "All right. Enough talking, Draplin. Let's do some business." And every one of those guys, they'd turn off the machines and it was like a little respite for all these guys. I watched my dad do that, now I can't really fill those shoes as well. But the idea of being personable to each other, saying thank you, giving each other shit.

Aaron: When I went to French Paper, and Jerry gave me the tour ... have you ever been to Niles, Michigan?

Stephan: No, I have not.

Aaron: Okay, well put it on the bucket list. When you go to Niles, Michigan and you go tour French Paper, and I was there and I'm in awe. I got to put a big ol' glop of the paper pop in my hand and the whole deal. These are the same tools and vats, and cement, and loaders, and shit these guys have been using for six generations. And I look at Jerry, and go, "Jerry, big factory here. How many people are working here?" And he says, "About half." 

So, at least you got the joke, because this morning when I told that story, half the kids were like "Huh?" I mean it was this funny little moment where he gave me a little wink. I will love that guy forever because he knew how to get me down from my being so in awe of being at one of my hero's places. He knew how to bring me up to his level, down to his level — whatever you call it. It was just really, really cool. So when people will come here and they'll say shit like, "Draplin, what's the meaning of life?" Well, it's Nebraska. I don't know. It's weird. It's like I love my shop because I'm with my two partners. All of us are comfortable. We're all whizzing along trying to get everything done. But when the mailman comes, I know John. I've got to know him now for a couple years. One of the guys who are the cleaning people here that comes and does all the hallways and the shitters and everything — there's always a cleaning crew here. I've known Carlos for seven or eight years. These guys are mentioned in my book because, how would it be any other way? These are people you spend your life with.

Stephan: How did you become this way? By the time I finished the book, that's the question I had to ask.

Aaron: Oh, that would be Nebraska. Man, I don't know. I just watched my dad be personable.

Yeah. My dad died. At his funeral, which had, I mean seriously, there was like 500 people. There were a lot of people there, and I just remember at one point, my sister goes up and does her eulogy and everyone's crying and shit, and I just lurked around and there were like hundreds of people there. And one of the guys who was there was this big, giant dude, beard, maybe a couple years older than me, tool shop guy. Here's a six-foot-six guy, three hundred fifty pounds, and he's crying in front of me, and I'm like, "Hey, I'm Aaron. I'm Jim's son." 

"Oh, we know who you are. We heard about you for years from your dad. He'd show us your work. He'd give us stickers you made, and cool things." He said, "I need to talk to you because I owe your mom a little bit of money." And he said,"Your dad, for years, when I wasn't looking and if he knew I was having a hard go because of my drinking or whatever's going ... your dad would leave ten bucks on my grinding wheel tool unit ... and it'd say 'From your buddy Jim,'" or something. That was my dad, Jim Draplin.

And in that moment, I was like, "Oh my god, of course that's where I got this shit, because my dad taught me."

When you go in and get your pizza from the kid who made your pizza, you thank him. And you say to all the assholes on the pizza line ... you know, you get to know these guys. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't mean it to be some hokey thing where you're going from person to person at the bus stop saying, "Well how are you today?" It's weird. But no, it's just more this idea of keeping this general air of levity, and nothing's too heavy.

Stephan: Do you consider yourself an optimist? Do you think things are getting better or worse?

Aaron: Of course, I mean on what level? I mean if you go turn the news on, you're going to be heartbroken with whatever's going on in the last couple nights or whatever. It's absolutely heartbreaking with all this police shit. I mean, I don't have a lot of hope for stuff like that, but of course I do. I mean just in general, in my life, of course I do. I look around me, and I love to bullshit, and I love to talk, and I love to share — to the detriment of my girlfriend sitting next to me who's like "You talk too much." Well these are opportunities to go and spread my seed across the land, over the airwaves. And she's over here freaking out right now as I say this bullshit, but seriously it's like no one even knows how to laugh at themselves anymore. At me or us.

Stephan: Yeah, I see it as positivity and enthusiasm and energy, and sometimes it comes through as a sort of angry sort of ... remember you're there to remind us all: "Hey. Have a little bit of empathy for this person." But it's not negative.

Aaron: Well thanks, man. I remember a long time ago, a real close buddy who never washed his socks. And we were in a hotel room on one of these snowboard trips and he would just bring an eight pack for a seven day trip. He'd use them for a day, and he'd throw them in a corner. Like, brand new pair of socks — there's nothing like it. You know the feeling, right? It's incredible.

Stephan: Oh yeah.

Aaron: And that was his rationale. This is a really quirky guy, but it was so wasteful to me. It was like, "Are you shitting me?" Someone has to go pick that thing up ... it's in those moments, you start to make the rulebook of your life. I'm going to wash my socks. I am going to wash my socks. Or if I can finagle Leigh into doing it, great. But if I was more comfortable on the on the ladder, I would fix my gutters which are going to be replaced next week. But I'm not comfortable on the ladder. If I fall, a certain part of the industry will collapse with it. You know what I'm saying? That's just dangerous moves.

“I'm just really thankful to live in a place where I feel like if you hammer, and you play by the rules ... you can make it. ”

Stephan: This is going to lead to weird question, and maybe you already answered it with the Nebraska statement. I feel like that's your Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "What's the meaning of life? Forty two." In your book, it's Nebraska. You know, I think so much of your aesthetic and your personality is American. You know that I was not born in this country.

Aaron: Where are you from?

Stephan: I was born in Paris, France but I don't sound like it. But I lived there for a long time, and I'm an immigrant in a certain way. I have both passports, but I love America in a very specific way I guess. And I see that in your life and in your aesthetic, and I'm curious what does it mean to you? My best definition of who you are is an American.

Aaron: Wow man, well that can bite you in the ass too.

Stephan: I mean that in a good way.

Aaron: Well, thank you. Like I have this bicentennial logo on my my calf, tattooed. It's my favorite logo of all time. It's so perfectly designed and crafted and clever. It's just everything I love about graphic design, and then on top of that, it's special to me because it meant America. But not in a Lee-Greenwood-drop-fuckin-bombs-on-people-we-don't-even-know kind of way.

Stephan: I guess this is my question – what's your definition of America? What does it mean to be American? 

Aaron: The lead in for this and the long-winded answer is it's weird that we have to be sort of cautious of how we talk about that. Because the Trump version, which is complete bullshit, rallying behind blind ideals and nationalistic fervor and racial bullshit. Man, fuck that guy for a million years. You know what I mean? My idea of America, it's very weird, because I understand just from my face, and height, and weight, and where I was born, in economics and things, that there's a leg up that other kids didn't have and it's a weird thing. From wherever I was born, which would have been Detroit, and then raised in a northern Michigan town where we had jobs since we were 12 and 13 years old, all the way through 'til now. How did I get ahead? I went to Alaska and washed dishes for five months at a time for four summers, and it sucked. It's not something cool. I mean it's beautiful up there, but it sucked.

I'm so proud to talk about that shit, because for other kids it was, "Like, well my parents cut me a check for my first computer. At least I had that." We didn't have that. By buckling down, washing dishes, cooking all summer long, I bought my first computer and then instead of going out drinking, and fighting, and fucking every night like some my colleagues were in 1995, I was in there nerding out on T26 typography, and all the funny stuff from the 90s, and House Industries, and Chuck Anderson. And I was nerding out, and knew if I learned how to do this stuff that maybe I could make a life out of it. If not, I still love my hobby which is graphic design, but the tattoo thing it's like, I've had numb nuts pull me aside at barbecues and go, "What's up with  that, dude? Are you some kind of like nationalistic redneck or something?" And it was like, America was 200 years old in 1976 and that's what the logo was meant to commemorate. And it's amazing, and like they don't know that. But it's not an eagle carrying a bomb and a flag or something.

And it's just a weird thing that to the average yahoo, that it means something weird like that. Like, I love the stars and stripes because to me it meant opportunity and to me it meant to be creative you could make a life. It wasn't always pretty, but to the point where I'm getting now where I get to work on stuff for myself and share it openly with people ... but you know I'm really thankful for that. Or I'm thankful for my mom and dad who didn't have a lot, and we never really knew it. That's America for me too, because their parents weren't necessarily like that. My mom or dad had to both start working at such a young age. And my dad took me down to a pizza job at 13 and said, "Okay this is your new job, man. You're 13. You're going to make pizza now.” And I did. It was a place called Crusted Creations on 14th Street in Traverse City, Michigan. It’s still there, but I worked that job until I was almost 18 years old and grew up there with all my buddies. And you know, we'd skateboard behind the place. There were fistfights behind the place. That's America to me too.

But to further try to put a bow on this thing, it's like I am forever thankful, in awe, blown away by the idea of driving from edge to edge, coast to coast, the diversity you'll see. The frustrating things you'll see. The really uplifting things you'll see. And that's why when I say a funny thing about the charm that I will sense in Nebraska, there's an inverse to that too where you're so frustrated because the people are so nice you can't tell if they just don't like you. Everything has its you know sort of ups and downs, but I'm just really thankful to live in a place where I feel like if you hammer and you play by the rules and you know you don't have a string of DUIs and other weird shit, you can make it. You can make it. I don't know what that definition of success would be to the next guy or gal up or down or whatever you want to call it, but I have far exceeded what I ever thought I'd be capable of making.

When [you're] a young kid and you put your goals at like, "I want to make sixty thousand dollars a year." And I did it, quick. And I went pretty far past that, but it's more like I still live in a $60,000 a year state of mind, because that was the first time I felt like I'm an adult using graphic design to make what adults make, working on factory lines in Detroit.

My parents would say, "Oh, that guy makes good money." "Well, Mom how much does he make?" "Aaron, he made 75 grand last year." And I'd be like, "Whoa! I'm doing that. And I'm an asshole, and I'm working on a graphic design." You know, I guess that's America to me too.

Stephan: I like it.

Aaron: Well thanks, man. I appreciate that. I know it's a weird thing.

 Making the Rulebook for Your Life

Stephan: I think that's great and I'm just glad that there are these facets and these people like you in America that express it in your way. It's very, very visual. There's a historical perspective that comes through in your designs even for stuff that is meant to be modern. You know, you design app logos and stuff like that all day long, and they bring that historical perspective with them.

This has been a great conversation and I really appreciate you taking the time for it.

Aaron: Thank you for your time, and thanks for having me. And letting me ramble. Thanks you guys. Thank you.

Stephan: Where should people go? Obviously they've got to go to the DDC.

Aaron: I've been waiting patiently to get all the plugs in. Here's the deal — Everybody right now go to draplin.com, and it's kind of on a holding page. You can see our little kit that's been sitting there for way too long, but I'm just so excited to have made the book. You can go get that book at ddcbook.com. We've got a number of links there you can start at Amazon and work your way up, or down, or whatever you want to call it. You can find it at MOMA. You can find it maybe even in your Barnes and Noble in Castle Danger, Minnesota maybe. But that book is all over the place. And then of course FieldNotesbrand.com. You have to go to FieldNotesBrand.com because they're $9.95 for those books, and we make them and they are made by our friends in Chicago, and the paper is made by our friends in Niles, Michigan which would be in a French Paper. And we know who even makes the staples and the ink everything else. Subscription services, and all kinds of new stuff, and classics and things. So go to FieldNotesBrand.com.

Stephan: I endorse all of these products.

Aaron: One more. So at some point here, you're going to go on to draplin.com/gigs and you'll see my fall tour that we're currently devising. And so far, by the grace of the Northwest and the power of the Internet, we have two dates locked in which should be October 10 in Ben and October 12 in Bozeman, Montana. So that means maybe some shit's going to happen in Spokane on the 11th and maybe not. Maybe we'll just spend a day driving but, for the rest of those two months we're going to be going apeshit and going all over the place in a van. That would mean myself and then our tour manager Leigh McKolay.

Stephan: What do people expect to see at the tour?

Aaron: For the book tour, we're going to talk about the book. And you can buy the book and have the book signed. There's going to be a bunch of weirdo limited edition shit. Are graphic designers are supposed to go on a tour? No. But they are this fall. So we're going to go, and we're going to adventure, and we're going to stay in hotels that give you bed bugs. And we're going to stay with friends. And we're going to see friends. And we're going to just go kick the world's ass, and then somewhere in there, I have to go to Austin for MondoCon on October 22. Somewhere there, I have to go speak at the big Adobe thing November 5th, something like that.

One guy just found out we're going to be down in San Diego on the 5th of November and we're going to our talk there. And a couple days later we're going to a pop-up in his store in Encinitas, California, so nothing is off the table. Denver has called. Nebraska has called again. Chicago has called again. Three places in Ohio. I'm going to string together this tour and we're going to talk about making a book, and then when this is done, I'm either going to die and then just be sucked back into the woods where I came from, or I'm going to take a big goddamn break next year and just you know really take a break from this shit.

Stephan: You're going to hibernate.

Aaron: Yeah, man. You know, go back to just die in the woods at the hands of the elements and go back to nature. I love when people talk about, "When I die, here's how I want to be buried." I love that shit, because I would love just to be left in a big wood pile, you know? Just a big pile of shit, and just let the wood, and the leaves, and the insects, and the rodents, just come and gnaw at me and shit. I mean seriously, I do not want to be in some perfumed bullshit casket.

Stephan: I agree.

Aaron: I want to be just buck fucking naked, buried in the dirt.


You can find this and all future episodes on iTunesGoogle Play, and here on the Lumi blog. This episode was edited by Evan Goodchild.

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