Earlier this year, I joined the Colorado Chapter of AIGA. I’m not a graphic designer but I have an appreciation for it. There is something magical about starting off with a white screen and creating a thing in Illustrator even for the novice. AIGA has a very interesting speaker series. I don’t know what caught my attention in the monthly email announcing speakers but it started me down the internet rabbit hole to learn all I could about Aaron Draplin. He’s a graphic designer and entrepreneur based out of Portland, OR. He specializes in designing logos.
The first thing I came across was his TEDxPortland talk. I love his presentation style. He’s not super polished. He speaks from his gritty, midwestern heart and isn’t afraid to liberally use 4 letter words. He’s passionate about what he does and just exudes it. He left a design firm to start his own business. There is something that draws me to people like this. He makes his own rules and he’s successful doing it. In his TEDx talk he says, “Think about inventing your life, inventing your clients, inventing your day to day.” That sentence is quite liberating. I love what I do but I do it on other people’s terms most of the time.
Part of what makes Aaron Draplin different is the fact that the currency he deals in isn’t always cash. Small businesses, sometimes owned by friends, come to him with work and they don’t always have the budget to pay for it. A professionally designed logo gives a new small company a feeling of legitimacy right from the beginning. I think what resonated with me is his honest desire to help people. I watched the video of his Tall Tails from a Large Man talk and loved this quote “Use your mouse finger to change someone’s life.” That’s pretty powerful. We all have skills that can help others out. Sure you’ve got to pay the bills, but giving away your talents to help others is its own reward. Arron Draplin has figured out how to do both.
Before the book tour talk, I stopped in at the Draplin Design Company pop-up shop to by a copy of Draplin Design Co. Pretty Much Everything. I talked to Aaron for a few minutes and he asked me if I was a designer in town. Well no, I’m actually an instructional designer. He nodded his head and said that he could see the overlap. I’m actually surprised when people know what I do for a living.
I mentioned that I wanted to hear his talk and buy his book because I found his quote about mouse fingers really inspirational. We talked about how someone on the staff traveling with him was an elementary school teacher and how we have the ability to change people’s lives every day. He told me it’s better than digging a ditch or selling something. I laughed because I am designing sales training at the moment. He’s just a humble, honest and nice human being.
So, getting back to the book tour talk. A lot of the material was similar to what he talked about in the two talks I watched on YouTube, which are fantastic by the way. I didn’t come in expecting to learn more about graphic design and I didn’t really. Aaron Draplin talked about his passions and the making of the book. It was interesting, fun and funny. I can’t wait to read the book to learn more about his story. I love his graphic design style, it’s so simple and clean. If he happens to stop in your city, he’s worth listening to.
What did I take away from this? It’s important to live as your own authentic self (I probably borrowed that from Chris Guillebeau). Focus on the things that are important to you and the rest will take care of itself.