Draplin Interview

Aaron Draplin is visiting Louisville this week. The Louisville Graphic Design Association asked me to interview him. Of course, I obliged. Even better, so did Draplin.

Here is the interview from The Paper in its entirety:

You’ve been traveling a lot this year—to every and any corner of the United States. What have you gleaned from the places you’ve visited? How does it inform your design work?

Oh man, it’s been such a wild ride! I love going wherever they’ll have me! So fun.

One thing I’ve learned is this: No matter where you live, there is work to be had. And, work comes to the people who work hard in that community. That’s the kind of stuff we talk about before and after the gig.

How does all the travel inform my design work? Each adventure is another little flap of inspiration to go digging into, in my quiver. Now, I know what “antebellum” is all about? Before, it was just an idea. Now I know what it smells and tastes like. Like, the trees in the south come to mind. They are way different than Oregon trees, or the trees I grew up around in Michigan. I want to know about every kind of tree!

You include the phrase (or similar phrases to) “I didn’t even care if I got paid” regarding some design experiences. Why so carefree? Have you done much unpaid work? And does that willingness to churn out something without pay undermine your ability to make a career out of design?

Hold on a second, hardball journalist. Settle down! We all need to get paid. And, fairly I might add. But the thing is, sometimes, you have to compromise…and that might be creatively or with the loot being offered. That’s what I’m talking about. Just cuz you had to compromise doesn’t mean all hope was lost. Just cuz the numbers weren’t as big as what you wanted or expected, you can still do a good job. That’s just life, you know?

Some folks know how to go after cash cows. For me, there’s been some penny cows, that grew into cash cows. You know what I mean? I wasn’t afraid to take it on the chin, when everyone else passed on the gig. I’m proud I made room for the underdogs. Those underdogs…they gave me life! Think about that for a second.

You say, “Exhibit a little humility.” Muhammad Ali said, “It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am.” Where do you draw the line between marketing yourself and exhibiting humility?

We’ll all market ourselves. Whether I do it with stupid tweets, gratuitous posts or clammy coin purses, it’s just a fun twist on more or less saying to the world, “I exist. Dig me. Or don’t.” On some level, everything is marketing, when you really think about it. When you don’t think about it, it just becomes kinda fun.

And the humility quip in my talk: That’s simply a reaction to some of the turkeys I’ve crossed paths with who have and maintain some pretty big heads. Physically, I have a large head. Like a medicine ball. But I know what it’s like to suck. And what it’s like to be underneath someone’s thumb. Say thank you and be thankful for the work we GET to do. You gotta keep it all in perspective. I remind myself hourly of how great this shit is.

Who is your favorite Louisville band or musician?

Will Oldham is on top of the list. So weird and beardy. I just love that little elf. And a close second would be Slint. I got that record so long ago and really didn’t know what to make of it. It was so out there. And so awesome.

Ken Kesey or Hunter S. Thompson?

Tough one! I’d go with Hunter. Kesey expanded our brains, but Hunter expanded everyone’s brain.

Portland beer or Kentucky bourbon?

Beer sucks. I’d much rather get an ass pocket of Kentucky Gentleman and howl at the moon. I don’t like beer. Plus, I have to watch my figure.

By Michael Buchino
Published May 21, 2012
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