Winter 2017

Notes from the American North-West

Draplin Design Co. Pretty Much Everything

By Aaron James Draplin
Abrams, $40, £25

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With a notebook and pencil poking out of the top pocket of his denim work jacket and wearing an American seed cap, Aaron James Draplin looks out from this book every inch the man who is a distinctive voice in US graphic design. He has spent his life between the Midwest and Oregon; and there is an inspirational honesty and authenticity to his design approach and the way he tells his story (Draplin Design Co. Pretty Much Everything, Abrams, $40, £25). It’s about hard work, taking the initiative and no bullshit. And it is about a design aesthetic that is neither East Coast corporate nor Californian digital. He likes both early Modernism (Paul Rand, F. H. K. Henrion) and American vernacular design: the kind of logos you find on mid-century tractors and machine tools. ‘Design is a trade to me,’ says Draplin, ‘Artist? I guess? Tradesman? Closer. Hard worker? Always, always, always.’

A passion for snowboarding led the young Draplin to the new world of snowboard graphics and sport fashion brands like Coal Headwear. Busy working for these start-ups he began making and selling his own Draplin Design products (‘DDC Merch’). In the long tradition of American promotional items: caps, pencils, patches, T-shirts and posters, they spread the Draplin name. One idea, Field Notes, has become a business in its own right. Originally handmade by Draplin and designed to be uncomplicated pocket books, they use Futura Bold ‘out of respect for the old memo books in the Midwest … dead agrarian communication devices.’

Cover of Draplin Design Co. Pretty Much Everything.
Top: Spread showing Draplin’s Field Notes designs.

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Simon Esterson, art director of Eye, London

First published in Eye no. 93 vol. 24, 2017

EYE93

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. You can see what Eye 93 looks like at Eye before You Buy on Vimeo.

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