Aaron James Draplin (draplin.com and @draplin on IG). If you don’t know the name, chances are you still know his work. That signature style of big bold fonts and thigh-thick lines reaches out and pulls you in with both hands. These marks have been on everything from Aaron’s own Draplin Design Co. merch, to brand collaborations, to giant projects with giant brands. The client list is too long to type, but some heavy hitters include Nike, Patagonia, Coal Headwear, Nixon watches, Jack White, and Tenacious D. Oh yeah, and he really did both a US postage stamp and iconic logos for two Obama administration recovery programs. He’s personally trotted the globe to hundreds of speaking stages, graced Skillshare screens, Adobe MAX conferences, and tickled the mic on the Marc Maron Podcast. In the midst of all that, our man wrote a book (Draplin Design Co. Pretty Much Everything), co-founded another company (Field Notes) and designed some fonts (ddcfonts.com). That doesn’t even include the long list of clients he took on for fun and not profit. We’re not sure where he finds the time, but let’s get into what he does with his space.
With all that work running through his head and hands, where does he sit down to bring it all to life? When Copper Rhino first asked Aaron about his setup, his exuberance and contemplation both shone through: “[I am] totally down to do this. It’s an important thing. I think about my cockpit ALL THE TIME, cuz shit, I spend the bulk of my life in it!” Turns out, logos aren’t the only thing he designs. He designed his entire backyard studio and workspace from the ground up. He’s not done yet, either. Architectural lines catch his eye as much as illustrations do. He has preliminary designs on his next space already. We’re here to check out that current cockpit, though, so let’s go.
Apple Pro Monitors
For Aaron, screen real estate is the most important part of the setup. It’s so important that he went deep on credit cards for his first Apple Pro Display. Many years later he’s got two of the big Apples and an LG. As he puts it, “Understanding that this is where you spend so much time of your life and less clicks, less revealing of windows, less things layered up the better.” What’s the most important part of your setup? What can you do to maximize it?
Herman Miller Aeron Chair
His chair is another thing he refuses to compromise on. He’s on his second Aeron. The first went for 16 or 17 years, then got handed down to his little sister. He brings up a good point: it’s something he’s touching most of every day. If you can invest in something that keeps you comfortable, why skimp?
How can you save money? Sometimes, you can forgo expensive furniture and build it yourself. Aaron designed his entire office and his collection of over 5000 records was a big part of that. Add in a library of books and a collection of doodads and other toys, and he needed a place to put everything. Plywood shelving was the affordable, yet custom answer. He doesn’t have to rely on someone else’s idea of the way it should be, and he doesn’t have to pay their prices either. Aaron also has big ideas about using a router (the woodworking kind, not the network connection kind) on his desk to make sure his keyboard stays put. Who needs a heavy keyboard weight when you have a custom keyboard tray milled into your desktop?
Also, a word on a certain popular Swedish furniture purveyor, “For the record, anyone who shits on Ikea, fuck ’em! You know? I’m tired of this stuff because function should be affordable.” How do you like them meatballs?
Top book recommendations:
Bisley Flat Files
These slick, metal hiding places encircle the space. Aaron collects everything from tchotchkes to bric-a-brac. He draws on everything for inspiration and files it all away meticulously. Among these files, the plywood shelves, and his desktop there is a place for everything. It’s hard to have this much stuff and not fall into the hoarder zone, but he comes in squarely on the “serious collector” side of the balance.
Helit Sinus Ashtray and Poppin Cup and Tray Organizers
A few things are allowed on the desktop. They stay in some classy-ass organizers, too.
Shinola Turntable and Speakers
All of those records need to play somewhere. Detroit-born Draplin went with the Detroit company’s audiophile kit, which he says was both “A bit of a gift from the brand,” (the turntable, anyway, the matching speakers came later) and “Maybe a little too nice for me.” As of interview time, Everything Was Beautiful from Spiritualized was spinning.