Go to CAMP with Aaron Draplin!

The magnanimous Aaron Draplin is coming to town!

I've had the pleasure of meeting Aaron a couple of times now, most recently at the How conference in Chicago this past May where we were both speakers. I think it is safe to say that we are polar opposites when it comes to presentation style. Me: small, soft-spoken, trepidatious... while Draplin commands the room with his gregarious, entertaining and heart-felt delivery style. His presentations are AWESOME (he'll bring tears to your eyes) and I am happy that's he's delivering the love once again at this month's CAMP Festival in Calgary, September 21-22.

You can also get some time with Draplin and his design expertise in an afternoon workshop entitled "Logo Tips, Tricks, Triumphs, Turds, Threats and Tales from the DDC" on Sunday, September 20th. The fee is $150 and I'm sure you'll find it was well spent. Sign up now while there's still room!

UPPERCASE is involved in quite a few local events in the coming months. I'm sponsoring CAMP by giving away free magazines in the goodie bags!

Now let's step back a few years when Draplin was last speaking in Calgary. UPPERCASE writer Brendan Harrison interviewed him for issue 16:

Aaron Draplin photographed by Heather Saitz in the Lion's Den, Calgary 2012

Aaron Draplin photographed by Heather Saitz in the Lion's Den, Calgary 2012

Aaron Draplin is an American archetype, a kid from a small town in Michigan who moved west to become a self-made man. His pursuit of happiness led him to the American dream after his search for good times and deep powder put him on a path to becoming one of the best-known graphic designers of our time.

His love affair with thick line logos and Futura Bold began while he was still living hand to mouth in Bend, Oregon. His first design job was a graphic for Solid snowboards, but he was soon picking up work lettering café signs and designing logos for local businesses. This early taste of design success spurred him on to see if he had the chops to play with the big boys. To find out, he signed on for a degree in graphic design from the Minneapolis College of Art + Design. After graduating in 2000, he started to make his mark in the design world, doing a stint art directing Snowboarder Magazine before taking a senior design role at a big studio in Portland. 

Throughout it all, he continued to design personal projects that were close to his heart. In August 2004, he quit his full-time job and hung his shingle as the Draplin Design Co. In the years since, he’s worked for clients as large as Nike and the Obama administration and as small as the Cobra Dogs hotdog cart. And while a lesser designer would have enjoyed some much needed rest, Draplin co-founded Field Notes and transformed the way hipsters everywhere scribble down their ideas.

The phrase larger-than-life comes to mind when talking about Draplin, not because of his imposing physique but because of his oversize personality. On his recent Tall Tales from a Large Man speaking tour, he travelled the country holding audiences captive for hours with little more than a profane PowerPoint presentation and a gift for the gab.

On the day of his visit to Calgary, I pick him up from the lobby of a Best Western. He’s been working in his room all morning. We pile into my truck and drive to a diner on the outskirts of downtown, a place with taxidermy on the wall, ashtrays in the washroom and golden oldies on the jukebox. It’s the kind of place where Draplin seems right at home.

Writer Brendan Harrison and UPPERCASE publisher Janine Vangool have a chat with Aaron Draplin. Calgary, 2012. Photo by Heather Saitz.

Writer Brendan Harrison and UPPERCASE publisher Janine Vangool have a chat with Aaron Draplin. Calgary, 2012. Photo by Heather Saitz.

We sidle into a booth and order breakfast. I turn on my recorder and plant it in front of him, opening my notebook to a page of questions I’d jotted down the night before. I ask him where we should start. “Wherever you want man, wherever you want. I can talk, man. So don’t be afraid to be like, hey, chill out a little bit.”

Photo by Heather Saitz.

Photo by Heather Saitz.

I do no such thing. I’m happy to play the part of passive participant in our conversation, sitting back to enjoy his rambling replies. His stories meander and digress in the most enjoyable way, revealing plainspoken wisdom and insight into the life of a creative professional. Throughout our discussion, Draplin comes across as something of a cultural magpie, a life-long junker who figured out a way to incorporate his love for old memo books and ration tins into a signature visual style.

“As a designer, I always had an appreciation for old stuff,” he says. “Not in the sense of it’s like a movie prop – because I get a lot of that too. Kids are like, what are you, some kind of sentimentalist or something? I’ll take that word and run with it, no problem. I mean, what are you, a futurist? I’d rather look back at the restraint and try to use that in my new work. Using one colour effectively. Making a killer logo… There’s just a sense of like, that stuff’s on the way out and I don’t want it to go away.”

Aaron Draplin in the Lion's Den, Calgary, 2012. Photo by Heather Saitz.

Aaron Draplin in the Lion's Den, Calgary, 2012. Photo by Heather Saitz.

Read the full article in UPPERCASE issue 16. And if you're in Calgary, please make a point of coming to CAMP and participating in Aaron Draplin's workshop. Other workshops on offer:

Learn How to Draw (Better) in One Day With Yuko Shimizu
Sunday, September 20th, 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Going Digital: Bridging the Gap
With Edward Keeble, David Nagy, Marc Binkley
Sunday, September 20th, 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM

As well as a programming workshop for kids.