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Q&A with Aaron James Draplin

Graphic designer from Portland

My name is Aaron James Draplin, I’m 41, and am a graphic designer working out of Portland, Oregon.

How did you get started in design? What is a turning point in your professional career?

Right out of college, but things were analog for the first couple years. Painting, drawing were my mainstay, until I got my first computer. That was where things changed, and I could compete with the rest of the design community. That was the first explosion. The second was went I went on my own in 2004. The world opened up. I could make better money, and, work for friends. I’ve had a hell of a run since then. I’m so thankful I pulled it all off. And it keeps evolving!

What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work at studio all day long or mix a few activities?

In my shop, with no one around, so I can focus. And yeah, if things are going well, I’ll go all day. I try to mix it up with shipping merch and cleaning the place up and stuff.

Where does your work inspiration come from?

The Flat Midwest, The Wet Northwest, The Mean Streets of NE 67th Avenue, Graphic Design, Design Colleagues, A Loose Network of Friends That Stretches From Coast To Coast, Stayin' Outta The Red, Staying Strong, Gocco Slams, Think Inks on Durable Fibers, Six-Stringer Acoustics, the Open Road, Helvetica 55, Trade Gothic no.20, Futura bold, Legos, Vignelli Calendars, Carhartt Jackets, Late Nights, Apple Flat Screen Monitors, Right Angles, Tweed Tube Amps, Impko decals, Carved Chainlinks, Wildlife Art, Rain, Memo Books, Clean Sheets, Levi 501s, Saucony Kicks, The Flaming Lips, Old Buildings, America, Ghost Signs, Fall Foliage...

Where are your favorite places in your city or outside?

Traverse City, Michigan is where Mom lives, so I’m back there 3-4 times a year. The Oregon coast is pretty incredible. We’ll go out three times a year to my friend’s cabin on the coast. Really, really nice. Road trips are oddly soothing, but I notice the long days driving are harder and harder to do. I just like driving across America. There’s so much to see!

Who are the designers you admire most?

  • Living: Art Chantry, Michael Beirut, Charles Spencer Anderson and Lance Wyman.
  • Passed On: Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Otl Aicher, Eliot Noyes, Max Huber and Herb Lubalin.