What if you could strike a balance between your passion and work ethic? Join us in this intriguing conversation with Aaron Draplin, a wise friend and mentor of mine, as we unpack the life lessons and experiences that have shaped our approach to work. We navigate through the notion of slowing down, embracing the simple things in life, and the privilege and responsibility of delivering over 500 speaking/teaching gigs.

This isn’t your typical chat. Beyond sharing our individual journeys, we dive into the role of creativity in keeping us grounded. Our discussion traverses from skateboarding to snowboarding to graphic design, showing how these modes of expression have helped us stay motivated. Equally captivating is our reflection on humility, encapsulated in a funny memory from Aaron’s college days that underscored the importance of sharing knowledge and possessions. As we wrap up, we touch on our goals and the time investment in our careers, underscoring the necessity of investing in oneself and taking time off. This episode is an enlightening roller-coaster of wisdom, humor, and warmth that you don’t want to miss!

Aaron Draplin: A Creative Force in Graphic Design

Aaron Draplin, (http://draplin.com/) an American graphic designer, is a creative force in the design world, leaving an indelible mark with his distinctive style and innovative approach. Growing up in the small town of Traverse City, Michigan, Draplin was exposed to the power of design from an early age. His parents instilled in him a strong appreciation for craftsmanship and aesthetics. These early influences would later shape his design philosophy, emphasizing the value of simplicity, authenticity, and attention to detail.

In pursuit of his passion, Draplin attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where he honed his design skills and delved into various disciplines, from graphic design to sculpture. After graduating in 1998, he set out to explore the vast landscape of graphic design, embarking on a journey that would lead him to his true calling.

Draplin’s career took flight when he joined the design team at Snowboarder Magazine. This opportunity exposed him to the world of print and editorial design, and he quickly made a name for himself with his bold and eye-catching layouts. His innate ability to infuse designs with a sense of authenticity and nostalgia made him a sought-after talent in the industry.

In 2004, Draplin founded Draplin Design Co., a studio that would become the hub of his creative endeavors. Located in Portland, Oregon, the studio became a melting pot of ideas, where he tackled an array of projects ranging from logo designs for small businesses to collaborations with major brands like Nike, Burton, and Esquire.

One of Draplin’s most notable contributions to the design world is his involvement in the creation of the Field Notes brand. This project, initiated in 2006, emerged from a personal desire to have a practical and well-designed notebook. Draplin’s design philosophy revolves around the idea of “working hard, being nice to people,” a mantra that he holds close to his heart and applies to every project he takes on. His humility and down-to-earth nature have endeared him to clients and fellow designers alike, earning him the respect and admiration of the design community.

Aside from his design work, Draplin is also a captivating speaker and educator. He has delivered numerous talks and workshops, sharing his design insights and inspiring aspiring designers to pursue their passions wholeheartedly. His engaging and humorous approach to storytelling captivates audiences, leaving a lasting impression on those lucky enough to witness his presentations. We worked together on a number of conferences and workshops I produced while running my company Unmatchedstyle.com.

Draplin’s impact extends beyond his professional accomplishments; he is an avid collector of vintage design artifacts and has a deep appreciation for the rich history of graphic design. His book “Pretty Much Everything” is a testament to this passion, featuring a curated collection of his work and anecdotes from his career.

With his authentic and approachable style, Aaron Draplin has become more than just a graphic designer; he is a beacon of inspiration for the design community. His contributions to the field of graphic design have left an indelible mark, shaping the way designers approach their craft and emphasizing the value of hard work, authenticity, and passion.

He is my friend and mentor and I am so glad he chooses to share himself with the world!


(0:00:02) – Life Reflections, Challenges, Podcast Interview
Aaron and I discussed taking breaks, sustaining businesses, 538 gigs, slowing down life, and the importance of simple things.

(0:12:37) – Balancing Passion and Work Ethic
Aaron and I discussed our parents’ influence, balancing work and adventure, and managing multiple projects.

(0:21:38) – Exploring Creativity, Passion, and Identity
Aaron and I discussed creative expression, perseverance, and how it can bring joy and motivation.

(0:33:01) – Reflections on Skateboarding and Humility
Humility, sharing knowledge, taking risks, staying connected to passions, and lifting up young people discussed.

(0:47:54) – Finding Fellowship and Legacy
Aaron and we discuss fellowship, martial arts, tenacity, and shared high fives.

(1:00:49) – Sharing Experiences and Appreciation
Aaron and I discuss self-development, helping others, creativity, camaraderie, and humility.

(1:04:14) – Goals and Time Investment in Design
Aaron and I discuss life lessons from skateboarding, investing in oneself, fellowship, and inspiration.

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