August 27, 2010

Draplin in Detroit

The first joke his dad told went something like this: "For Christmas one year when I was a kid, my parents were torn between wanting to get me something to wear and something I could play with. So my mom had a breakthrough— she bought me a pair of jeans and cut out the pockets.

Smallest present I ever got!
I still play with it today."

Aaron Draplin's dad tells a good dirty joke. No wonder his son grew up to have a taste for the gritty, old fashioned things in life.

Last night Aaron Draplin came to 1515 Broadway to speak to the Detroit design community as part of an event put on by AIGA Detroit & Team Detroit.
100-plus people packed into the sleek, backroom theater to hear the man speak. But first they were treated to his father's warm-up.

Draplin told tales of his start as a designer— heading out West from Michigan to find some "real mountains" and snowboard as much as possible. After designing graphics for snowboards and seeing them on the slopes, he had a revelation: he could make a living doing this!

Aaron's career grew out of this snowboard culture. He took on work making ads for friends' clothing companies, designing logos, painting signs, etc. He figured out how to do what he loved and scratched out a living doing it.

Aaron's done the big firm thing, and done it well. He tore things up at Snowboarder Magazine— earning Printmedia's Art Director of the Year award for 2000. But the big firm thing wasn't where it was at for Aaron. "They kept saying, we'll bust our asses this week and so we can take time off next week. But next week never came— instead it was just more work."

So after a few more gigs (and a body of stunning work), Draplin headed out on his own— taking commissions for clients, and more often than not— making work that he dreamed up himself. The lecture started with Aaron passing out trinkets— vintage slotted rubber coin purses, plastic pocket combs, old wood carpenter's pencils, and his infamous Field Notes guides. Mostly, these are products Aaron rescues form extension— shelved away in the back of some stockroom waiting to be thrown out. "Look at these black combs- the company that made these is now on to making crappy USB drives and stuff like that. They salespeople get disgusted when I ask to buy them. They've gotta go dust em off & bring em out. I'm saving them from the landfill."

He adds his own touch to these objects- Draplin design Co information, sometimes a new name (like the comb that's labeled a 'Hair Organizer'), or facts & dates written in classic type. He always keeps it fun.

How does he have time for all this?- Aaron follows the motto sleep when your dead. And he fuels his imagination with lots of junk shop runs.

Take a look at a clip from the recent film he made called the World's Longest Yard Sale. The real juice starts about 2 minutes in when he stumbles upon the goods:

Thanks for coming out Aaron, and c'mon back soon! More pics can be found on the flickr page.

Photos by Rebecca Goldberg.


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