Aaron Draplin always has a record on. Over the course of a day, he chops away at his to-do list, working away in his backyard studio until the late hours of the evening.
So what keeps one of the most respected designers in the industry going? As he says, it’s the understanding that this isn’t forever. And when he’s not getting things done or on the road speaking, Aaron likes to do what most of us enjoy: spend time with family and friends, listen to music, complain about Netflix and so on.
Aaron joins us to talk about Pretty Much Everything, from Bob Dylan to Shepard Fairey, getting your priorities straight and working the crowd.
Warning: This podcast contains strong and hilarious language.
Come see Aaron live in just two weeks at Design Leadership Days. There are just a few spots left, so get yours before they disappear.
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Carl: Hey everybody and welcome back to The Bureau Briefing. We got something special for you today. It's a man who you probably know. If you've ever been to a web conference you've probably seen him speak. You've probably seen his book, Pretty Much Everything, if you know Field Notes, I don't even have time for the intro, it's a 20 minute show. It's Mr. Aaron Draplin. How are you Aaron?
Draplin: I'm all right man. Thank you. Thank you.
Carl: I got to ask you, what keeps you going? You have a crazy schedule of speaking and then you also do client work with amazing clients. How do you keep going?
Draplin: I love those pay checks. I'll just say it. I love money. I love getting it. I love paying bills. What do you mean it takes? I have to, what else am I going to do? I love when people are confused like, "How do you find time to do all this?"
And I say, "Well, I work late." I make a list and I chop all the shit off the list and then I go to bed at some point. You know what I mean? Like there's some sort of special sauce that I'm not sort of letting them dip themselves into and that's just so weird. No it's me sitting here and then, of course, my girlfriend [Lee 00:01:14] doing all the shipping.
So I mean that's the secret right there. Today I've got a nice long list and I'm trying to enjoy it and trying not to be stressed because one of the projects... What we're doing right now this is the fluff stuff. This is the fun stuff. Good to talk to talk to my buddy [inaudible 00:01:38].
But one of the projects is like due today and I just need a little more time. And I can go ask the guys for some more time, but they're these fidgets in a undisclosed location called New York City and it's an undisclosed project. It's publishing, and the author of the thing is a guy whose name rhymes with [Shmon 00:02:00] [Hurojman 00:02:00], okay? There you go.
I'm doing a new book cover for John Hodgman. He's a sweet guy whose my kind of coach or den mother, but I just know he's lying to me, you know, about the dates because he knows I'm going to cry and cheat and steal to get more time and when it comes right down to it it's like I need to be able to like, you know... I have seven other things going on but I need the whole day to do theirs, and it's like how do you juggle all this stuff?
And that's really just the bigger ball of wax of all of this is like just trying to enjoy that. They will get their file. They'll get it. I'll work until midnight tonight. Fine. They'll get it but I'm not going to mess around with my buddy whose got... Just before I talked to you I was talking to a buddy in Idaho whose dad died and he's going through the process. He knows I've been through the process.
And so the idea is like well whose got more weight? Some project for a couple thousand bucks or my buddy whose hurting? Well, guess whose going to get the attention? And it's like and I don't give a shit. If it came down to brass tacks, right, to tell some kid in New York like, "Man..."
What a time to be in and we're in this culture now and like I said there's seven things I'm working on today. One's due, right? And that just changes the entire tone. If it was yesterday I'm just flying, but today it's like serious. So I don't know it's like this weird thing. We're in a culture of an email from say the East Coast shows up in my inbox at 9:00 in the morning and when I wake up, you know?
Carl: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Draplin: And by the time it's noon my time, they're wondering why I haven't replied. And there's all the little games. See "I'm just checking" and all the little quips and it's like these little sound bites. It's like does Google have a little thing in your email that you can kind of... They're not the canned response. It's more the canned reach out kind of shit like, "Hey, I'm just checking to see if you got my email?"
I just wrote a kid back last week and said, "I've gotten every email since 1994. Today I slept in. Today I went to the bank." And then I just gave him my list and I said, "And you know what? You can't check email when you're driving." And I said fucker, "You get to use this four days after I haven't replied to you, but you don't get to use it three hours later. You just don't get to," you know you fucking turd. I'm sorry about the language. I'm sorry about the language.
Carl: It's okay. It'll get our ratings up. It's a good thing.
Carl: It's good.
Draplin: Carl. Oh okay. Is it even on? Is it recording? Okay, okay. Okay, I'm going to quit talking. You will ask me the next question.
Carl: Here's the secret: I don't even have a podcast. I just want to talk to you.
Draplin: Well you can call me. How many people do you got? If I find out that there's 7,000 people listening to this I'm going to be all freaked out, but if it's seven, I'm okay, you know? [crosstalk 00:05:10] Crawford and all his buddies, right? So that's, okay, okay, don't even tell me.
Carl: I'll tell you after the show. How in the world do you decompress, man? [crosstalk 00:05:16] It's like what do you do that just relaxes you because I've know you for a while, we've hung out a couple of times but it was always in a group setting.
Carl: And you always seems like you're on. Like what happens when Aaron Draplin just let's his hair down?
Draplin: Well, that's so cool. I don't know. What a fun question. I mean I just get to a point in the back here, I'm working in my back yard, right? I built a studio in my backyard. I was downtown for 10 years and it was wonderful. I had two older brothers I worked with these like two buddies and we had people to watch over each other and six eyes were better than my two and all this kid of stuff and I'm in my backyard which has shaved down commute times and things and stuff which allows me more time, you know, back here to like really hammer it.
Draplin: Also screw around and play my guitar. So it's kind of a process over the course of a day. It's like if I'm just slamming, and I always have a record on. I always have a couple things to listen to. And I'm always bringing in new stuff and filing the old record away and there's always about three or four or five, six months worth of records in our little cubby that's the stuff I've been playing.
So there's always that. Music helps. Grabbing my guitar helps and just trying to learn something. And then over the course of a day whatever... I think it's seven things I'm up to right now. And I'm chopping them off the list. I'll just get to a point where I just know, like I'm tired or it's 10:40 and it's just time to go and have a couple hours to myself. But in the last couple weeks after I got off the sort of tour, which there's kind of a couple modes.
I mean yes when you see me at those events, man, you know the kids are coming up to you and you're on. I would just hope that you see me in that environment where yes I'm being paid and it's a bit of a job and I'm doing my job. That's really no different than if you saw me here in Portland. It isn't. There it's heightened because what a fucking privilege to be able to go and tell your story to a bunch of people.
I will never, ever, ever, never lose that and that appreciation. So you see me out there. Yeah I'm a little bit saying more bullshit or whatever but where it hits me on the road is after a long day of that stuff I go back to that room and I'm done. People want to always go and drink and fight-
Draplin: ... and screw and you know whatever they do on a trade, network and shit and I'm good with all that, sure, whatever. But I really look forward to getting done and I can be like I'm going to go back to that room and just maybe work a little bit and do some email, call Lee and then I really appreciate at. So home here, there's just been some long days.
It's very schizophrenic sometimes because if I just get up to go outside like I piss behind my place. Why waste a flush, okay? Let's spare ourselves all the decorum. [inaudible 00:08:27] oh that's so gross. Man, you know what? [crosstalk 00:08:31].
Carl: That's the way God wanted it.
Draplin: That's right. [inaudible 00:08:32] the universe. It's exactly what she wanted. So I go outside to take a pee. If I'm out taking a pee in the backyard there's a five foot... What do they call it? There's a barrier so the fire doesn't jump from my new facility to the edge of someone else's property, right?
And in that [inaudible 00:08:50] that's just wide enough to get my big gorilla body back there and I'm back there peeing and on the way to go take the pee I'll see posters that need to be numbered. I'll see boxes that need to be broken down. There's something coming in that needs to be addressed be it sign this kid's book and then put in the thing and put the stickers in the thing and write him a little note and all this kind of cool shit.
And I just love, I love that. Even though I should just be chained to the desk and doing my time and getting the projects knocked out and sending the invoice and getting the money, money, money, money. There's a big long day of just kind of like wow this all adds up into something pretty amazing and understand that this isn't forever and you're not going to be 45, that's the year I'm in now, forever.
What's it going to be like when you're 55 if you even make it? What's it going to be like when you're, I mean whatever. I like to think about these things in between the haste and waste and fidgety-ness of just trying to get a lot of stuff done. But my favorite thing to do would be I guess go record shopping or see my nephew.
Go with Lee and go get a little meal or go plop down on that couch and fight about what we're going to watch on Netflix and, by the way, if any people from Netflix are listening right now you really got to get your shit together. You're pumping out a lot of stuff but it's unwatchable at best. It's unwatchable. So if you're listening... Of Carl's 47 listeners if two of you guys... Man, if you work for Netflix get it together.
I'm spending more time scrolling through unwatchable shit then actually watching shit. So last night I landed on the Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder thing and it was pretty amazing. A little overwhelming, a little overwhelming because you get into a Netflix mode where it's kind of in one ear and out the next and you're looking at your phone and whatever you're picking dingle berries out of your ass, whatever you're doing on the couch, okay?
Just the basics. Family time, and yet after last night I had to put the phone down and really focus because it hasn't quite hit me how amazing Bob Dylan is as a poet, as a thinker, as a mystic, as a weirdo who punches his words and talks in sort of code and riddles and shit.
And you know here you are in this. I don't know if you've seen that documentary, that Rolling Thunder review. It's from 1975 and America's coming up on its 200 years. It's in the time of Nixon getting out of office and it's a weird time and America's looking to reinvent itself. There's this bicentennial, this big party coming up.
And yet Dylan can go do whatever he wants and he's going to do this kind of like minstrel sort of... I don't even know like kind of a review. It's like a variety act. The one he did before this was the band. He was with the band, which of course was a monumental thing, right? And whatever, it's Bob Dylan. But you see, there's all these stars in this thing and then just the way he talks.
He mentions at one point Robert Frost and he mentioned Walt Whitman. These sort of classic American poets. And, of course, he's one of them also. But see, I don't have that context. One of the records I listened to a whole bunch over the winter was Planet Waves and I'm hooked, I'm hooked.
But it took me all of my adult life to get to this point where I kind of relented and said Bob Dylan time, you know what I mean? Because for a lot of those years it's like well who really gives a shit about Rolling Stones but I had my Stones about four or five summers ago and now I'm a Stones fan, right?
I think I got a little taste of why they are important. I mean it happened for Led Zeppelin and long time ago, but what we're getting here is yes it's classic rock but what I'm listening to in the last week and that would be The Raconteurs and Baroness and Purple Mountains and Orville Peck and the Shellac and Calexico and Iron & Wine and Sebadoh and all the crap I grew up as a kid listening to it from the 90s.
I have to make room now to say, "Wow, there's a reason why the Beatles records, the Stones records, the Dylan records continue to, I mean we're talking actual physical record, hold their value. There's a reason why this stuff is important in culturing. There's a reason why... Like the next one I'm getting ready to dig into and really go deep and I'm waiting is Frank Zappa.
And listen, I've heard all the garbly kind of Captain B part shit over the years and craziness but Lee, my girl, whose very you know... She's really got a sort of a curiosity for like finding new stuff. I am okay with listening to Dinosaur Jr. for the rest of my life. We were on the road a month ago and I just said, "Man, what is that you're playing?" And it was a song off the Grand Wazoo, a Frank Zappa jazz record and it really grabbed me.
So I went and bought a couple records and I've been digging into some of that and trying to wrap my head around just how prolific he was, but also with an edge. He wasn't a Dylan. He was a music nerd's kind of hero. But when you hear him talk in interviews and stuff back in the day be it on, I don't know, like whatever like the Johnny Carson was you know show or whatever it was.
Carl: King Biscuit Flower Hour, man.
Draplin: Yeah Dick Cavett or something. He was angry. You know he was angry. And he was really cynical about corporate structure and music and how it was... And if you remember in the 80s when he came out pretty hard against Tipper Gore I was like seeing those stickers on Public Enemy records and Dead [Camis 00:15:20] records and all this other kind of shit and it was like I don't remember him being one of the voices.
But anyway, every year there's something new that punches me in the face and really grabs me. About four years ago it was Steely Dan.
Draplin: I am a giant Steely Dan fan now. And you know that guy when you listen to him talk in his interviews, he is horribly pretentious. And I think he has a right to be. And he's also kind of like... They have all these inside jokes and stuff you know and so I'm learning to tune into that stuff.
But I'm also like a week ago I was so angry. We went to a new Jim Jarmusch film which is about zombies and I'm not a big zombie guy or any of this stuff, but it was a Jarmusch film. The last one I saw... I was never a big Jim Jarmusch fan. I know he's a Indy guy. I know he's a provocateur. I know he's an artist and all this kind of cool stuff in the grainy film and all, you know neat collaborations with Johnny Depps and all this kind of shit.
Okay but when you go see that it was called Only Lovers Left Alive or it's a vampire thing from a couple years ago, and that thing was really, really good. That one makes a cut where Lee would like to own that one. Like would like to have a DVD or something of it. Like Lee, my girl, wanted that one.
Draplin: Because we could watch it that much. There's a couple moments, but after that I go see this next one. It's a zombie film. It was such a hunk of shit. It was such a hunk of shit. And I'm so bummed like I thought Jarmusch... I was going to have a Tom Petty or a moment like that. I was going to have a Keith Richards moment with Jim Jarmusch, and I think I'm just done.
So I don't know where this applies to graphic design but I just want to... What I'm getting at here is if you're asking me what decompresses me or whatever it's like I mean I've loved records all my life. I've loved just the idea of always having something new to listen to and learn. But as I slow down a little bit I'm going back to some of the classics.
And it might be stuff that like... Sandy Denny and the Fairport Convention. I remember reading that stuff and people's lists, and I love Sandy Denny now. It's this real dreamy kind of folky English kind of riff raff and it's just beautiful. And that's right along side Guided by Voices and the new Jeff Tweedy and all the junk I listen to right, right, right? You know the next whatever.
But last summer was a big Deep Purple thing for me. And I went deep. I mean I went all the way back to the real kind of psychedelic shit and it kind of stops when they get David Coverdale and they got a little too rocky. But the stuff in the early 70s... Like I remember I used to hear this thing about the big three and what the big three was it was the British metal invasion which was Zeppelin, Sabbath and Deep Purple.
Draplin: And I mean of course I loved the first two, but the idea that like at the record this still exists. It's sort of like you just pull that first record out and go, "Wow." You know of course you know every Tom Petty song, but until you really listen to all the records in a row you see why he's a classic. You know what I mean?
Draplin: Dylan's kind of next and I've probably got 10 records but there's like 60 records. And then when you go look at Zappa, holy shit man. There's like 75 records, you know?
Draplin: And I mean so I mean these are the things that I'm curious about like because what it does is it helps me get through the day you know? It-
Draplin: ... they're tools I use to get through all these projects in a lot of weird ways. Another thing that helps me get through the day, podcasts. I've been very limited because I just know that there's been a worm hole kind of down the rabbit hole kind of quality to that shit.
So you know I mean I'm on a bunch that's fun with these youngsters and then every now and again I get a Carl Smith, a heavy weight of tech. You know allowing me my 20 minutes. You know my shot, my big shot. Coming down from tech mountain, gator infested Florida and coming out of the swamp to allow me on this thing.
I mean I love [Marin 00:19:54] but I've been going a little deep with Joe Rogan. And I have a hard time with the whole MMA shit. I listen to none of that. I could give two shits less about these gorillas fighting themselves or talking about cross fit or whatever. I don't know what they do. I don't really know.
But I do when they get, you know they get in some conspiratorial kind of stuff or psychedelics or a government kind of shit. I don't know. I mean it's background noise. So I'll just say if anyone has another... A friend heard me say something to this effect on some podcast and said, "Oh, man, I've been really finding some neat stuff in there."
And then he wrote me and said, "You got to go listen to The Nine Club." What I'm getting at is that there was a nice recommendation from a friend. But The Nine Club is about skate boarders, right? And I just have to say I just don't give a shit. I was a skate boarder growing up. I mean, of course, I loved it. But I tried to listen to some of these knuckle heads, heroes I had on my wall, and then you realize they're just a bunch of fucks on a beach somewhere.
Live live in Redondo, Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, the big [inaudible 00:21:13]. Who gives a shit about any of it? I just don't even care. My nephew is starting to skate board now and it's been this really exciting thing because I grew up doing this. It was part of my identity. It was part of my go fuck yourself to lock like jocks, you know?
Draplin: I mean I was called every name in the book from, I mean because I'm a big kid. I've always been a big kid. And I got called shit for that. Then you get called shit for like I mean what, you know, I don't know. But I'd say, "But I'm not gay. And what's wrong with gay people?" See that's what was so wonderful in 1989 that I was... I mean call it woke or whatever the term is.
But I was already enlightened to understand that you need to be gentle with the earth and you need to be fair with women and you need to be fair also to different genders. You know where I got that shit from? Through [Gazi 00:22:07].
Draplin: Like what an education. You know from punk rock or whatever you want to call it or thinking for yourselves. Or understanding clearly that not the shiniest things might not be the coolest. There's beauty and whatever the... There's beauty... This is going to sound a little crass, but I remember a buddy of mine going, "When the lights go down she feels like Cindy Crawford" or some shit like this, you know, and I go, "What? What are you talking about."
I mean it was something like that. I remember like it was pizza guy I worked with and I was like, "But she's a pretty girl. What are you..." Like whatever the standards are. I had just enough of these fucking meat heads around me when I was a kid to kind of say, "Wow, man, like whatever I wanted to do with myself I'm going to know a way to attack it." Be it music or graphic design or moving out West or living or any of this stuff. I don't know.
So yeah, at 45 is probably my start of the mid-life crisis. It's like wow I'm really thinking about where I started and what luck I had to have a cool mom and dad and how it's filtered all these years later yeah. God I can talk, huh?
Carl: You're the best, man. No but it's [crosstalk 00:23:26] so engaging.
Draplin: Gross, terrible.
Carl: It's like it's amazing. [crosstalk 00:23:28].
Draplin: Bill me, bill me, bill me.
Carl: I'm going to quickly go back. A few things I want to share. First of all, with Dylan. When I was probably about... I remember I was pretty young. My brother had taken off for college. I found Blood on the Tracks.
Draplin: Oh wow yeah.
Carl: Yeah and then from there it went Blonde on Blonde. Freewheelin' with Bob Dylan.
Carl: And then I guess it was the late 80s, early 90s when Time out of Mind came out and I went shit he's still got it. Unbelievable.
Draplin: Oh yeah.
Carl: But the thing about Dylan, and I realize, I think you share this in common with him. He said in an interview after he went electric at that famous show where everybody, all the-
Carl: ... he was the God of folk and all this stuff. He was back stage laughing when everybody was booing him. And they said, "Why are you laughing?" He said, "I don't care what they feel as long as they feel something."
Draplin: Sure, sure, sure, sure, wow.
Carl: Because, you know, you get that too because you like to rile the crowd up. You like to say things and it's funny because I think everybody in the crowd always agrees with you. But then you'll say this crazy thing in some way and everybody's like, I don't know why you took on intentional ice cubes. And I was just like who is he attacking? I don't even know what those are.
Draplin: Well, pretentious [crosstalk 00:24:41] that bullshit in Portland, Oregon. It's so true, you know? I got in trouble last summer and I know you know Dan Mall, right?
Carl: Danny, Dan. I do know Dan.
Draplin: Sweet guy. Well here's the deal. We have no bad blood. I love [crosstalk 00:24:54].
Carl: That hair. Oh my God that hair.
Draplin: Well I mean got it you got it so I was telling him, "Look, Dan, when you got it you got it." I just got to see him and his family and stuff there a this thing called Epicurrence, which is pretty cool.
Carl: Oh Epicurrence is pretty cool. Yeah, yeah, yeah. [crosstalk 00:25:07]. Dan Petty, right, yeah?
Draplin: Yeah. And Dan Petty yeah, but see sweet guy but I don't really know Dan Mall all that well, but last summer I was at - What? I think I saw you there. Where you at the one in Toronto?
Carl: Nah, I didn't make it.
Draplin: Okay well I was at something. It was a UX/UI thing in Toronto. And when I walked in my buddy, who I don't know all that well, Dan Mall kind of goes, "Oh, graphic designer." You know something like this, you know, from the crowd. And I heard this and I knew it was kind of Dan because I've met him a handful of times and I love what he does. I don't really know what he does.
I always say things like, "Can you help me get a better plane ticket? I mean what is it that you do? Can you re-route a plane? I don't really know. Can you help me with this parking ticket I got?" I always fuck with these guys because I know they're going to inherit the earth. Fine. Have a good laugh, UX/UI people. Have a good laugh.
Well, when he says this to me my mic is like on and I go hey this... I kind of do the pump, pump, pump, pump. "Is the mic on? Is the mic on?" I go let me warm up the crowd with a little bit of crowd work before we get going here. I go, "What's the old adage? What's the old adage? If you can't be a graphic designer there's always UX/UI."
Draplin: And the place goes wahhh. The place goes fucking crazy you know and like and then Dan who knows I'm a piece of shit and he just maybe in the heat of the moment he laughs at me and flips me off or whatever it is and then he just, he tweets it. He does a tweet that says, "Graplin says if you can't be a graphic designer there's [inaudible 00:26:39]."
Now where Dan Mall fucked up is that he didn't put a thing on it, you know a hashtag that says, "Har har" or hashtag guest or hashtag 800 pound gorilla in front of me just saying stupid shit to mess with a bunch of UX/UI fidgets. He didn't put that hashtag and then I get all this stuff back like "You're like the Don Trump of design men. You try to divide us" and all this shit you know.
Draplin: And I said, "No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no."
Carl: You invoked the devil?
Draplin: No, no, no. That's not, no, no, no. That's not the deal with me, you know, whatever. Anyways here's the thing. I'm how lucky to do any of these things? How lucky to do all of them? How lucky to go to a UX/UI and tell my story to these kids who may or may not really even... Because frankly if I had to listen to them talk about their code stuff I really don't know.
But I enjoy someone whose got... Who was the guy who I didn't even know what he was talking about but he just had a presence? Chris Coyier?
Carl: Yeah, Coyier. Coyier's amazing.
Draplin: Okay now you know him and I've been pushed in front of him to say, "You really need to know this guy." And it was like well, you know, I don't really know what he does but here's the thing. It was engaging even though I didn't quite know so the idea that I get up there and there's a sprinkle of yuck yuck and there's a sprinkle of this is very serious. Please listen to this.
And then there's a sprinkle of can you even believe this shit ever happened? You know this kind of stuff, that the idea is I saw just enough of these that were monotone. I don't care what they were showing you. They were boring as shit and they weren't compelling.
And I remember paying money for those things in Minneapolis and having to stand because it sold out so big whatever show I went to, whatever event I went to it sold out so big. And I was so excited to get in and be like I'm close. You know what is was? It was a Shephard Fairey thing but I remember it was a big name and I've never met the guy. I guess he's a fan. He has friends. Some of the [inaudible 00:28:49] that have worked with him have told me, "No, Shephard likes your shit" and it's like well cool.
I mean he follows me. I know of his, and we all know his you know, of course.
Draplin: But I've been a fan okay shit since 1991 as a skate boarder. And I knew about this for a long time before it became this big thing. So when you get to go see it I wanted to show him like, "Hey, I had your stickers in 1990. I knew, I knew." And it was so big and so... Unless you're part of the little set there you're not going to get up and be able to shake his hand, you know?
Draplin: And then the mic didn't work and it was this big Walker Arts Center production or whatever and you couldn't quite hear. And we're all in the back standing room only. We paid our tickets too. And I remember just saying like, "If I ever got to do this not only would I engage with every kid whose interested, but I wouldn't..."
You know he was good. He was fine. But I've been to other ones that were just, and I'm not going to name the names but I just wanted my money back. Like I can go look at her book. I can go look at her book. She's great. She tells me she's great, but she's as boring as fuck. It was boring. You know like we're here, show us.
Don't just show us the hits too. Show us the misses. Show us the worts and moles. So I really try to really think about the roller coaster of bullshit that I'm unloading on someone up there and say yes he's a big goon, but he's showing us something that attaches to a good spot in us and he's showing us something that freaked him out. These are roller coasters. It's some ups and some downs and some sideways and some stops and starts and some dumb shit too.
And the idea is you just try to keep them and I mean you know who does that? Comedians do that. I'm not a fucking comedian, right? I don't craft these things, but I'm learning how to make a bit. I'm learning how to get my message in and then show them, surprise them with the process or surprise them with the stuff I'm not supposed to show.
Or surprise them with the things where they were like, "Wow. No one would ever show that kind of vulnerable shit." Just so you know you make yourself look kind of bad. It's like, well, it wasn't my best moment. Why wouldn't I tell it any other way? I mean that's the truth. I might not get any more speaking engagements because of this but no, but at least I can leave saying it's real. It's real. You know that kind of shit.
Carl: I don't think you're going to hurt for speaking gigs. I think you're going to be just fine. I told somebody the other day I've seen Aaron speak probably 14 times.
Draplin: Oh wow.
Carl: And I've seen Ghost Busters probably 12 times, right? And still today is Ghost Busters comes on I'm going to sit down and watch it. I can see Bill Murray not acting. That's how many times I've seen it. I can see him [crosstalk 00:31:48] just standing there waiting on his line. When I see you it's the same thing. Even if you were to tell the same stories, you do it in a different way. You put a different emphasis. You bring something new to it every time-
Draplin: Oh well thanks. Wow.
Carl: ... with so much energy that it's just it's fabulous. And I'll say, and I'm blowing a little smoke right now, but it also inspires other people to get on stage. Not to phone it in, you know?
Draplin: Well [crosstalk 00:32:08].
Carl: Because there's a way to do it.
Draplin: Yeah I mean I know that some of the content is very... And I'm not going to use the word nerd because that's not fair. People have spent years and years crafting how to make this code and how to... teach a person how to you know this is this little fold or flap that they discovered. And I'm not going to discount that because I don't understand it.
I understand that they hit something that they should be sharing. But you're right, there's a way to do it, you know, and it's like it doesn't need rockets and pyrotechnics. It's more just like, man, show where you fucked up to the point where you made it because that's going to get us. We're all there. We're all kind of there.
And now that's where I can go apply that to my life, and then get me to a space where like okay things aren't working. But if I know how to flip the switch from how they did it, maybe I can flip that switch in my life. And now I mean on top of that I know I can wow them just with color. What I mean by that is I can just show lots of work in lots of color and flip on through it.
But there is a story to why I won't mention like Don Trump on my social media. First of all, all these fucking pigs will come after you leave just troll bullshit.
Draplin: I mean and fuck them. You know may they, may they, they have to live with that the rest of their lives if they even have that sort of sixth or seventh sense to say, "This just isn't a good way to live your life." But that's on them. But there's reasons and it's like because you know negativity and all this kind of stuff we're like... Listen I have... You know I'm on the edge of tears with this piece of shit all the time.
Because I know in my heart of hearts what a con man he is and that's just for me to be like for me to be like, to make, to hurt. But I would rather spend my time donating graphics to things that... Sure resistance efforts. But I'm not going to come out and just... I have bullies who are so beside themselves with the injustice of all this that every single post of theirs is so vitriolic you know? And it just terrifies me because it's like that's exactly what these assholes want.
Carl: You get pulled into it. You become part of it.
Draplin: You become part of it and then you're not going to change it. And that's when it's like no okay but instead I'm going to make a poster that's going to inspire some kid to go sign up his buddies to vote. I'm going to do that. I'm going to do that because that's where the change is going to come.
It's going to come from people getting off their ass and saying, "I can't believe this stuff happened. And is happening." And there's angles to everything. A couple days ago when I was so disgusted by his, the daughter sitting on his lap at this world event. None of the other people had their daughters there. You know whatever.
Draplin: Or their other fucking creepy son. Okay. Well there's another angle., Well no, he's changing the way that people do this and now whatever you know? I don't know. Fuck all these people. And shame on them. Shame on any of them who have any bit of angle. I mean seriously like so I get hit hard with this... Because I know how I feel about it.
And I'll just say it. I'll just say it you know right in front of all those people. And it happened about three months ago when I was in North Carolina where I had a dad sitting in the front row like shaking his head at me and I just said... He said something. And I said, "Cool, man. You know this one's on you. If you can- Your daughter's sitting right next to you. If you can tell her who you voted for knowing his behavior and stuff then that's on you. That's on you."
And I just I go, "Let's get back to the show." Because he challenged me. And I'm the one up there saying all this junk. Well, I'm just learning like you know like man I don't know. Like I don't want to litter that stuff on my... I don't want to litter that shit my feed. I want my feed to be positive.
Draplin: And prop things up and not be this feed of like you know. So I get hit really hard from a lot of really interesting opportunities for people to come and fight these guys, but I'm working for the Bernie campaign right now. I'm working anything, a number of things that I can't even mention because there is no money involved and they're coming to me and saying, "We just want to get a graphic just to like help promote this like kind of idea of like tolerance or peace or understanding or something?"
It's like yeah just, baby. You can have it. You can just have it. I don't care if there's a paycheck. You're helping kids who are having a hard time coming out or going back in or whatever you want to call it. Okay you kidding me? Take it. You know? And I would rather tell that story on stage and say, "Hey, there is no money. In this next section there's no money. But you know what? It's in every one of you guys and I don't want anyone saying no. Don't be afraid to say yes a little bit." You know? So.
I don't know where that computes [crosstalk 00:37:05]. I just got released. I noticed my notification from my guy and he said, "If your podcast, like my trainer." But the way, everybody, have your laughs. Party's over. Party's over. Next time you see me I won't be 800, 666 pounds. Next time you see me I was 640 pounds. I've lost 35 pounds.
Draplin: I have a trainer. I hate him. He can do one arm pull ups. These vain fuckers man, God damn it. Party's over and you ought to see me eating these little salads. The little protein bars and shit. It is just pathetic. But he gave me reprieve and said, "If your podcast spills over because you told me you like to talk, then you can just be here at 1:30." So eat that extra time, Carl Smith.
I am excited. I am not kidding. So I want to say this real quick. You are, again, I'll just keep this part for myself, but you're just a fucking force of nature and a force for good and the times I've spent with you this is you.
I mean it's like people who don't know you may see you on stage or hear you on a podcast and think, "Man, I bet he's really quiet in real life.' No, he's not. He's like... He's going to say what he believes. He's going to fight for what he thinks is right. And he's going to wake up a lot of people who forgot that they were doing the same thing.
Carl: That's why I love having you coming out to see us in Seattle. It's like you're going to make... Everybody's going to be leaving and it's not going to be about I'm a designer, I'm a design leader. It's going to be about I'm a human and I've got skills and I've got ways I can make things better.
Draplin: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. [crosstalk 00:38:40].
Carl: So just thank you for always doing that because [crosstalk 00:38:42] like I'm frickin' pumped up right now. I'm ready to go.
Draplin: Oh thank you. First of all, Carl, you've always been awesome and thank you for all this. I mean this opportunity, any of this stuff. But, you know, I meet a lot of people on the road and sometimes there's an angle and sometimes... I remember people introducing me to you and then before I got to meet you going, "You really need to meet that guy. He gets around."
And I was like well what does that mean? You know what does that mean? And then you kind of realize like... And then I met you and you're sweet as [inaudible 00:39:18]. So like a Gene Crawford.
Draplin: That's a guy that I will be buddies with the rest of my life whether or not he was hiring me to come and rile up a crowd. What a sweet guy. A sweet family, you know? And I mean Lee and I have these jokes about internet friends and then we have jokes about conference friends. And I just kind of stop her and say, "You know what? I have met some pretty sweet people." I would go try to hang with Dan Petty and his family. You know what I mean?
Draplin: But and I got to tell you and I won't get into it but there's definitely some people I've met I wouldn't want nothing to do with. I mean we're talking... I mean he knew I was speaking after me or speaking before me or I was the... I started the day off and then sat at my [merge 00:40:06] table the rest of the day and then that person comes up to me a little later and they're confused and...
I had a thing go down last summer. Here's a fun example. I'll talk a little bit of shit about the type, the typography community, why not? I went to a thing called Type Com here in Portland, Oregon and I tried to back out 19 times and say, "You guys, I'm not a typographer. I'm a graphic designer I guess. I make logos." You know, whatever.
And a couple of kids there had fans and shit. And this guy, 60-year-old guy, I kind of knew who he was from you know either someone pointed him out that day and said, "Ohh.This guy's here to talk about him working on the 14th cut of Garamond." You know and I remember making a joke. "The 14th cut of Garamond? Who gives a shit when the first one kind of sucked," you know, whatever, you know?
I know it was on the Apple products and stuff back in the day. Okay [Garrett 00:40:59] what is this type nerd shit? But fine he's going to talk about his project and whatever. And he's like kind of a heavy hitter, but there is this kind of middle age quality to these... Nothing wrong with 60-year-olds. But he's this kind of older guy and he works on type. So anyway, I didn't speak at this thing. I was just there to sell merch.
End of the day you know it's a couple hours to go and he comes up to my table and he's kind of confused. He's looking at all this shit and he's like, he's looking at me and says, "Like what is all this?" And I kind of go to this mode of not knowing if he's going to be a dick or if he's kind of a sweet guy.
Draplin: I kind of go, "Well, sir, this is a poster. You put them on your wall and there's things to look at on it and they're flat and I can roll it up and we sell them and I make these designs." I go into this whole thing and he looks at me and he goes, "But you're not a typographer."
Draplin: And I go, "Well, sir, I had a type face come out a year ago and I go, "Know what? No I'm not a typographer. I'm profitable."
Draplin: Yeah and I shouldn't have said that, but-
Carl: No it's okay.
Draplin: ... you know it's a moment of like... It's just this moment where it's like you don't need to come and like let me know that I am some screw up. I don't do that to kids. I don't do that. I don't need to go up and say, "You're not on the stage with us." You know what I mean or something?
Draplin: And I don't need to do that. I meet a kid it's like, "Where are you from? What do you do? Oh are you speaking here? Well cool." Oh and you're to see the show? Hey go make sure you talk to him and her. You know these guys I just met them in the back," whatever you know. Like it can be this kind of thing.
Like listen the bands I loved when I was a kid you got to meet the bands. You know why? They were like loading their shit on the stage.
Draplin: They were ,loading up their van. They were sitting at the merch table. And yes it got bigger and bigger they got a little bit bigger but it really was a one-on-one kind of thing, you know? And those are my heroes because it could be that way and I you know you go to these things and I... You go to these things and I'm not going to trash anyone, but I've met a couple people who a little bit of I'm a little bigger than my deal-itis. You know what I mean?
And I just kind of have to just laugh because it's like you're fucking talking about code. You work in a agency making shit for credit cards. Stop it. You know? The girl who was just out there talking about actually changing the world on the project she works on at Facebook. Now there's something to listen to.
Draplin: You know what I mean? And I have to go after her and talk about wiener dogs? [crosstalk 00:43:37]. They are bringing water to developing countries you know what I mean like through some kind of social media and I don't know. And you're going to be up there you're like, "Hmm." So going back to all this stuff I appreciate always what you have to say.
You know but I mean like anything when I got to go to a couple of these things when I was a kid-
Draplin: ... it was cool that like wow she's going to hang out and meet us all. I love you know whoever, April Greiman, that much more for the rest of my life because I just got to shake her hand. And she's not really even like a people-y kind of person it seems, but I remember that when I was in school and so you know the privilege of doing these things and sharing and telling a funny story.
I just got to go to Bratislava. I just got to go to the Philippines. I'm getting ready to go to Berlin in December. I'm talking with guys because you know we've been doing a lot of workshops and shit because I'll just lay it all out.
Draplin: You know and say, "Hey here's some tips, tricks, actionable items" you know? Like I'm terrified right now that this wave, and I'm not going to name any names, but one kind of is really big is like these kind of Gary V. guys.
Draplin: Who frankly scare the shit out of me. It has nothing to do with design, but you know what else scares the shit out of me? Tony Robbins. You know who else scares the shit out of me? Basically snake oil salesmen-
Draplin: ... pulling like this, basically like slight of hand kind of shit and like there's this new crop of these kids who are going out there and like, "Take our lettering course and we'll fix the rest of your life" like no you won't. There's bigger issues than lettering. I mean you know like cool lettering kind of stuff?
Draplin: Or let me come and solve your brand for this much per hour. Who the fuck do people think they are? You know? And then selling that stuff? So I've been at these things where there's a workshop across the hall and that's kind of what they're selling.
In their mind it's like, "Man, fuck all that. You want to know how to connect this line to this line? I'll show you right now. You want to figure out how to find the center of a star with math? I'll show you right now." You know shit like that. Like I'm not go and just talk, you know. It always turns into a, "Hey, how do you handle bad clients? Let me tell you how." Am I an expert? Not even close. Did I even know what an RFP was up until about five years ago? Didn't even know what it was. Didn't even know it's a request for research. I don't even know what it is. I'm just saying. A proposal thing.
But I have to tell them you're not sitting with an expert. You're sitting with someone whose like a working person just like you, but I'm going to give you how I solve this. Take it for what it is. I cannot handle the certitude. I cannot handle the expert quality. So when I do these workshops and we have a couple big ones coming up in the UK in London.
Carl: That's awesome.
Draplin: It'll be very profitable. It's incredible. I mean, but here's the deal there are 30 to 35 things that I show. Tips, tricks, transparencies. We're not talking the fluffy stuff. We're talking like no here's how you save a file in a little bit more of a strategic way. And stuff like that. Like instead of just being like all this goopey horse shit like you kn ow fluffy like you know I don't feel good. Basically motivational speaking kind of shit.
That just terrifies me so as these things present themselves, these opportunities present themselves, I'm just being really careful to come crashing back down to earth because I'm seeing some other shit out there that's really scary to me and it's like there's going to be a backlash to that shit.
I mean does Tony Robbins ever have anyone call him up and say, "I did quit my job. I did break up with my partner. I did do this and my life sucks because of it." You know what I mean?
Draplin: And then they pay $10,000 to have some big gorilla tell you that shit, man? I don't know about that. So I'm real careful with that shit, you know what I mean? I mean on the stage I'd say some dumb things, but I'm not going to tell people go quit your job. No. I'm going to tell them stay at your job. Keep your bills paid. Pay your rent. Pay your life. [crosstalk 00:47:47].
Carl: Put yourself in a position of control and choice.
Draplin: I mean at 5 o'clock when everyone else is going to go hang out and plop down and watch Netflix, you have to go into the backyard and work on your shit, you know? And you got to go invent yourself because here's three examples of people who are doing it right this second.
Take my buddy Rob [Generate 00:48:07]. Was a teacher. He's a dad and now he's becoming like this incredible illustrator guy. He's 46-years-old. I love that shit. I'll show that shit all day long because well frankly selfishly applies to me, you know? So the idea that like I try to talk to a young kid, I try to talk to a fellow 40-something and I try to talk to someone whose already kind of over the hump whose in the back stage kind of like grilling me like...
I ran into a lot of that too. I ran into a lot of 56-year-olds now who are 10 years past me and aren't flying as many places and they're in the back stage pissed. Aww, man. I run into some of that too, man, and I just kind of like, "Hey, man, I know you have your art baby. You had it. And you may be at the end of it, and I don't know where I'm at in mine. It could crash down tomorrow. If it crashes down tomorrow, I've had 408 shows on the road, man. And I was cool with each one. I tried to be a good person with each one."
You know what I mean? If this stops tomorrow I'm okay. I'm not going to be mad at the next Jessica Hische or Jim O'Brien or Clark or whoever the hell is coming up that's doing the next hot shit thing. And you know they're actually big names. But the next so and so. And it's just I don't know, you know. So. What was the question again? I can't remember.
Carl: I don't know but I know that everything has its season and I'm glad you're still in your, Aaron. I really am.
Draplin: Aww, thank you buddy.
Carl: And thank you so much for swinging by the show today and just letting us inside that mind a little bit. I appreciate it.
Draplin: Well, we got a couple weeks until Seattle. I can't promise anything. If I'm even alive then I promise you, Carl, I'm gonna get... As one of my favorite... Listen, I keep you around because your name's Carl, okay?
Carl: I'm in.
Draplin: I got a buddy named Dale. I got a buddy named Dale. He's a piece of shit but I keep him around because his name's Dale. I have to have a Dale in my life. I'm actively interviewing for a Bob. I don't know any Bob's. I know a couple Bob's. I'm actively interviewing for that. I have one Bill in my life right now that does all my skill share videos and I just love... "Hey, Bill. How you been, Bill?"
I say his name so much because if I have to say one more smart Ethan name or some shit I'm going to go nuts. I'm going to go nuts. I got a lot of Dan's in my- You know what I mean? Like these simple names. So, Carl, I can't wait to see you in Seattle. I'll give them a hell of a show. I'll hang out. The kids can climb on me. It'll be fun.
Carl: I can't wait.
Draplin: I'll do my best to blow them away so all right we'll talk to you later, man. Thank you so much.
Carl: Sounds good. Everybody listening thank you and we'll talk to you soon. All the best.