Ep. 74: Aaron Draplin

Graphic designer Aaron Draplin was born in Michigan and raised on LEGO bricks, pizza nights, punk rock & snowboarding. He spent early adulthood rolling with the “crusty undercurrent of fuckheads” that lives to snowboard before he ventured to Minneapolis to study design amongst the ghosts of his musical heroes. He’s seen some high-falutin’ stuff at the museum, but the steelyard is where it’s at. He’s all about working hard, making a shit whack of money, taking care of his people, and having some fun along the way. Listen:

 Photo: Michael Poehlman

Photo: Michael Poehlman

What is your earliest memory?

Our fireplace in Detroit. Crawling around. Heat. Some kind of brass fire barrier thing to keep me from crawling directly into the fire. I must've been but a couple years old? 1975?

How do you feel about democratic design?

My very favorite stuff! Stamps! Custom forms! Street signs! I like design that everyone gets to enjoy and use, not just those who can afford it.

 Growing up

Growing up

 Little Aaron with a big personality

Little Aaron with a big personality


What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

"You can do this shit on your own." Told to me by friend who left agency life. That's when I jumped out on my own. 2004. Never, ever fuckin' going back. Too many emails about emails, meetings about meetings and whatever else. I can get more shit done before noon in the shop in my backyard, than a whole week dinking around in some fancy, distraction-filled agency. Plus, I don't have to wear pants.

How do you record your ideas?

Funny you should ask? Field Notes memo books is my paper product of choice. Look them up!

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

"Pencil on paper" for sketches. Then "hand on mouse" for sketches to vectors.


What book is on your nightstand?

Closer You Are: The Story of Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices by Matthew Cutter, and The Hard Stuff by Wayne Kramer.

Why is authenticity in design important?

So you can relate. Otherwise, you feel like some turd is breaking off a little piece from the mountaintop, and letting it roll down the hill to all of us groveling for scraps. When you know the right people made the right decisions for the right reasons, the shit just works. And, sits well.

Favorite restaurant in your city?

Chaba Thai on Sandy and 58th. Beautiful food!

What might we find on your desk right now?

Phone, pile of bills, couple sets of car keys, pens, pencils, Field Notes, some Peter Max mini books my sweet Leigh got me for my 45th birthday, 

Who do you look up to and why?

People who kick the shit out of life. 

 Aaron and Leigh

Aaron and Leigh


What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

Working for America! I got to help out on a logo for the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 for President Obama. My little mouse finger! For my country. And not just those liberal heathen Democrats, for all of America. Except Don Trump. Trump can suck it now, and could suck it in 2009. Fuck that guy.

What are the last five songs you listened to?

01. Bob Dylan - River Theme
02. Rodriguez - I'll Slip Away
03. Spiritualized - A Perfect Miracle
04. Howlin Rain - Self Made Man
05. Sun Kil Moon - I Know It's Pathetic But That Was the Greatest Night of My Life


See more of Aaron’s work at draplin.com. Follow Aaron on social media on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


Clever is produced by 2VDE Media. Thanks to Jennie Josephson for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of
El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to
Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.