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.

type tuesday: The Heads of State at TypeCon

The Heads of State are masters of saying a lot with very little—and without sacrificing style or visual interest. They're special presenter's at this summer's TypeCon in Milwaukee:

"For ten years, Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers have been working together as The Heads of State for clients as diverse as The New York Times, Starbucks, the School of Visual Arts, Penguin, and bands like R.E.M., Wilco, and The National. Throughout those years they’ve had an up and down relationship with typography. This talk will feature various typographic tales in which our heroes fall in love with letters, rebel against fonts, forsake letterforms to become illustrators, and then beg for forgiveness."

Are you going to TypeCon this year? We're looking for a few correspondents to report back for the blog. Leave us a comment with your website or send us an email for more details.

Shoegazing Notecards featured at Papyrus

This happy assortment are the Shoegazing Notecard designs from the set I curated and designed with Chronicle Books.Pretty shoes and confetti—a combination suitable for lots of occasions or even an everyday hello.The pretty box with a scallop motif.

Kate Woodrow, who was my editor at Chronicle Books on this project, emailed today to share that our Shoegazing Notecards are nicely featured on the Papyrus website. (Check them out in the banner!) Papyrus is also having a big sale: buy one stationery set, get one for 50% off. So, start with Shoegazing Notecards and perhaps the lovely Polaroid set as well?

Surtex: a learning experience

Image by Mark Hoffmann, represented by i2i Art Inc.

Shelley Brown reports from NYC:

There's lots to learn about surface design and the more you learn, the more you discover it's just the tip of the iceberg!

The past two days I've attended seven seminars at Surtex. Some of the info covered challenges the right brain big time, and the seminars are held in underground suites away from the hustle and bustle of the show. There's no eye candy here, just the nitty gritty stuff. It's important, though, for anyone thinking of pursuing the business of surface design. Each session was an hour and a half long and included lots of Q+A.  It's great to get real specific answers to your questions.

Day 1: 

  • The Basics of Art Licensing - Part I + II, and 
  • Understanding Legal Basics - Contracts and Copyrights

Day 2:

  • New Legal Strategies - Royalties, Terms and More
  • Strategies for Working with Manufacturers
  • Futurecast:  Business Trends in Art Licensing
  • Understanding and Enhancing Retailer / Manufacturer Relationships

Some of the educational highlights from the Surtex seminars: 

Licensing is a $192 billion dollar business worldwide.

The artist is the Licensor and the buyer of your art (usually a manufacturer or retailer) is the Licensee.

The business is changing but there are always opportunities for great art.

It's not absolutely necessary, but it's preferable to register your copyright on any art you have licensed (in case of any infringement). To save money, don't register everything you create until you license it. 

You need to be prolific because it's best to have lots of samples to promote yourself to potential Licensors.

If you're looking for an agent, make sure you choose someone you get along with. Good communication and transparency make for a good marriage (in life and in the artist/agent relationship!).

If at all possible, try to get your name on any products you license.

When you're selling your art to a manufacturer or retailer, get an advance and royalty as part of your license agreement, if possible.  

The average royalty is 5% - 7% for household products, and up to 10% for paper goods or wall decor. 

Words to avoid in a contract: assignment, all rights and work for hire.

It takes about 1-2 years to get to know and achieve some level of success in surface design, so don't get discouraged a few months in.

Before you do a deal with a licensee check their reputation. Do they send royalty statements on time and pay royalties owning according to their agreements?

Before you sign a licensing agreement, have a copyright lawyer who specializes in licensing review the contract.  

Beware of exclusivity and make sure it is only for a narrowly defined category.

Don't be afraid to conduct an audit (through your copyright attourney), if you have reason to believe your royalties are not being correctly reported. In most royalty agreements you should receive a statement quarterly. 

There is a great online tool for finding your images which may be in use without your permission. It's called TinEye. Go to tineye.com and do a reverse image search on any of your images.

Familiarize yourself with a manufacturer or retailer's style or brand before you approach them with samples. Also find out in what format and how often they prefer you submit your art. 

Attend a show like Surtex. Take the seminars to learn as much as you can about the business.

Contemporary Days: The Designs of Robin & Lucienne Day

Inspiration: Lucienne Day

Lucienne Day, circa 1952The work of Lucienne Day inspires a lot of contemporary interpretations, but it always worthwhile to know more than the surface of a designer's work. Day's work is part of Designing Women: Post-War British Textiles: a current exhibition at the British Textiles Museum. The book Robin and Lucienne Day: Pioneers in Modern Design by Lesley Jackson (Chronicle, 2001) is also worth adding to your library.

Around the web:

• Lucienne Day 1917-2010, remembrance in the Guardian

• Robin Day obituary

• An interview and home tour of Robin and Lucienne Day with Wallpaper magazine, December 2008.

• V&A Lucienne Day archives

Classic Textiles' reissue of some iconic designs



photo by Anne-Katrin Purkiss

Surtex coverage!

When Alanna Cavanagh offered to be the UPPERCASE correspondent at Surtex of course we said yes! And even better, Alanna's rep from i2i Art Inc, Shelley Brown, will be sharing her experiences as well. The two have travelled to NYC from Toronto and will be sending in their daily recaps. Surtex is THE place to go to buy and sell licensing of art and design and I know that many of you aspire to be represented there some day.

To set the mood, here are some of Alanna's pattern designs:

National Stationery Show: wish you (i) were here


National Stationery Show: Blackbird Letterpress

An instagram of the Blackbird Letterpress booth at NSS.

I'd like to thank Kathryn Hunter from Blackbird Letterpress for all her support of UPPERCASE magazine — she's an avid reader, takes lovely photos of the magazine on location in Louisiana, provided samples for our letterpress issue #8, and advertises in our pages as well.

We wish her much success at the Stationery show in NYC.

These animal cards are great for including paper gifts like birthday money."Get Whale" funny pun!hmmm...this "missing U" card could make a good reminder for former subscribers who've forgotten to renew!

National Stationery Show: Happy Cactus

The National Stationery Show is the ultimate destination for a lot of small papergoods companies. At the show, they'll be exposed to buyers, media and potential partners from across North America—contacts that could determine the future of their creative business enterprise. Happy Cactus Designs is a new company, less than a year old, and this is their first time at the big show. Proprietor Brannon Cullum has a good post on the Happy Cactus blog about her road to the NSS.

The name of a stationery company can go a long way in helping the success of a brand. The name should communicate the aesthetic style, appeal to its audience and denote quality. The Happy Cactus name suits the friendly illustrative style of their cards. Brannon explains the name:

So just where did the name for the design studio originate? While living in New York City, Brannon bought a tiny one-inch tall cactus to remind her of her Texas roots. With loving attention (and a lot of sunlight), the little cactus grew into a thriving plant…a very happy cactus indeed! Now in Texas, the happy cactus is enjoying the warm Texas sun. Just like the plant, Brannon’s goal for the studio is to take her tiny seed of an idea for a paper goods company and grow it into a line of products that bring color and happiness to everyone. 

Best wishes, Happy Cactus, and all the new companies debuting at the show!

Calling all fearless designers

Chicago's Firebelly Design came up with an interesting solution to all the internship requests they receive. Camp Firebelly, an intensive apprenticeship experience like no other, was created for 10 talented folks looking to break into the design profession and use their powers for good. Camp Firebelly challenges students and recent grads to address social issues through a collaborative project of their own design.

Are you a fearless and highly talented designer? Get your application in by May 4.

In rainbows

Sitting here in the Calgary airport awaiting my flight to the UK, I've been browsing the websites of some of the folks who RSVP'd for next Friday's Meet and Greet at Ray Stitch (see the sidebar at right for details). Pui Yee Cheung has a nice design portfolio and this rainbow fits our weather theme of issue #13. This rainbow invite, below, is quite clever.

See you on the other side of the ocean!

Call for submissions: What's in a Name?

What's in a name?

Illustrate, illuminate, design or otherwise render your first name in a way that expresses who you are. Submissions should be 6 inches wide at 300dpi and uploaded here. Please follow the directions and fill in the submission form at that link.

DEADLINE April 30.


The silver foil on the cover turned out great! When I decided to do a foil, I imagined that the rain would appear to turn start and stop depending on how the light hit the cover. It worked out perfectly. Thank you to Eloise Renouf for her wonderful illustration. Thank you to Chris Young and the talented team at The Prolific Group for the fine print job.

A neighbourhood bridge

Today we went to the opening celebration of the new pedestrian bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava. There were far too many people once the bridge opened to get a good picture of the structure, but I look forward to adding this route to my walks downtown. 

See a few more pictures here.

type tuesday: keep calm

Also from Letterology!

Work in progress: time lapse design

Here's a glimpse into the layout for the abecedary spread for the forthcoming issue #13. As you can see, I just start with the letter A and go from there. Eventually, it all fits!

Head Start conference

Hey, Toronto-area designers and students! There's an excellent conference this Saturday. I've heard Matteo Bolagna at a few events and he alone is worth the effort.

Emerging Designers Conference
Saturday, March 10, 2012, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Toronto Reference Library; for directions and to see a map, click here

excerpted from the RGD Ontario email alert:

Be inspired by Design Visionaries from New York:

• Matteo Bologna, Founder + Creative Director, Mucca Design, NY
At Brand New, his talk was described as "Closing the show with a bang, Matteo won over the crowd with his awesome facial hair, amazing work, poignant one-liners, designy jokes and delicious sense of humor"

• Hjalti Karlsson, Founder + Creative Director, KarlssonWilker Inc.
Hjalti spoke at one of the most prestigious design conferences in the world, Design Indaba, in 2008 and was invited to return in 2011.

Other speakers of note:

 It's All Been Done Before: Trends in Advertising – Dave Tupper, Associate Creative Director at Y&R Toronto

• Typography in the Key of Life: Regional + International Movements in Typography – Dominic Ayre of Hambly & Woolley

• How do you get noticed in a competitive industry – Andrew Fraser Stewart of public relations firm Edelman Toronto

• Becoming a Design Entrepreneur – Business Owners from Up IncCatalyst and Context

ONLINE REGISTRATION CLOSES MIDNIGHT, MARCH 7. (After this date, you may register at the door)


type tuesday: pink pop up

store design by Clase BcnGraphics for a pop-up design shop by the Barcelona-based company Clase Bcn. Check out their workspace: