Aaron Draplin at HOW Design Live

I have a confession to make. As I prepare and plan for this year’s epic HOW Design Live event, like many HOWies, I have my own list of “designers I’d like to meet” …

This year will be my second opportunity to soak up all of the goodness that is HOW Design Live, and I want to ensure that I make the most of every second I’m in Boston. And let’s be honest: HOW has NEVER been bigger or better. So, who’s on my list? Well, there are the usual suspects: Stefan Sagmeister, Stanley Hainsworth of Tether—and an entire line-up of thought leaders I never imagined I’d be in the same room with, like Dan Pink and Seth Godin.

But when I think about the designers I’d love to have a chat with in Boston, it’s down-to-earth, on-fire-about-what-he’s-doing Aaron Draplin who comes to mind. After reading interviews where he’s described as “equal parts talented and humble,” I realize he’s not living out some rockstar persona as I might have assumed. Instead, he’s as salt of the earth and midwestern as one can get.

Aaron Draplin

Aaron Draplin at HOW Design Live 2014

Being a midwesterner myself, I can relate to Draplin’s fierce family ties and strong work ethic. And I think it’s his varied and colorful design career – one that’s moved him to the west coast and back again (including a stint with Charles Anderson) – that brings such wisdom to his life (and his conference presentations).

If you’re not familiar with Draplin or Draplin Design Co., you’re in for a treat this year. He seems to always have his hands in a number of really cool projects. Sharing his time between multiple gigs with Wilderness and his own Draplin Design Co., it’s safe to say he’s utilizing and “diversifying his craft,” so to speak.

I first ran across his Field Notes brand notebooks in a local Cincinnati shop a year or so ago and realized they were the exact product I was looking for in graduate school. Well-sized, designed and easy to carry, I was immediately inspired to buy a three-pack (having no idea then that they were an Aaron Draplin creation).

“Work hard. Do good Work. For good people.” – Aaron Draplin, DDC

Aaron Draplin

This is a motto I believe most designers can get behind, and Aaron Draplin lives it. What’s he into these days? You name it: “Things We Love” posters for new states (I purchased Ohio recently for a friend), Field Notes of course, Space Shuttle tribute posters, new DDC merchandise, logos, top secret projects and a whole lot more.

Why does Draplin like to attend HOW?

“It’s always fun. One thing I always think about at the big events is this: Check out how we get to share and celebrate what we do!”

What can I expect when I introduce myself to Aaron Draplin?

“People who come up to me to talk are always super nice and we have great conversations. I like sharing, and hell, I’ll talk to anyone. Try me, America! Always down to yap about a wide array of subjects. Categories like, ‘Crappy Indie Bands of the Mid-’90s’ and ‘Field Notes New Product Speculation,’ and maybe even a little ‘How Do I Do What I Do?’ sorta stuff.”

Sounds like just the kind of conversation I want to have, and it’s not every day an opportunity like HOW Design Live presents itself. I’m not going to miss this chance to be face-to-face with the most inspiring designers of the day.

For more interviews with Aaron Draplin, check out Michael Dooley’s interview with him on the heels of the 2011 AIGA San Diego Y Design Conference, and the two-part interview series by Bryn Mooth from 2013. 

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