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Located in the mighty Pacific Northwest, the Draplin Design Co. proudly rolls up its sleeves on a number of projects related to the Print, Identity, Web Development, Illustration and Gocco Muscle categories. We make stuff for Coal Headwear, Union Binding Co., Richmond Fontaine, Field Notes, Esquire, Nike, Wired, Timberline, Chunklet, Incase, Giro, Cobra Dogs, Burton Snowboards, Finex, Adobe, Sasquatch Festival, Hughes Entertainment, Megafaun, Danava, Ford Motor Company, Woolrich and even the Obama Administration, if you can believe that. We pride ourselves on a high level of craftsmanship and quality that keeps us up late into the wet Portland night.

05.14.13

Work with the Little Guys

Who have been your most influential mentors and why?
1. Mom and Dad top the list. I owe it all to them, and that’s just science.
2. Chuck Anderson and his CSA design empire inspired me to give my life to this stuff.
3. Nakamoto and Goo remind me to chill out.
4. Todd Piper-Hauswirth taught me every little detail could be great.
5. Jim Coudal inspired me to do shit for myself.
6. Mike “Styk” Styskal believed in me from day one of the DDC.
7. Bartel, Trevor and Chris from NEMO in Portland always have good advice.
8. Jon Baugh from Minneapolis made me thankful to be a designer.

What inspires you these days?
The simple, tiny, overlooked truth that “bigger isn’t necessarily better” and damn, I don't have to sell my soul to the big league in order to make a buck. More and more, I want to work with the little guys. That’s where I started, and am recoiling back into. Kinda tired of making other people money.

What personal/pro-bono creative projects are you working on, if any? Just made a logo for a reptile student group that studies snakes. Helping my South Dakota buddy Hugh Weber out with his new project, which I WILL NOT spill the beans about. Gonna help a couple guys out of Chicago with a logo for their documentary pitch. Sometimes, this shit's not about making money. No budget? No problem. Let me take a crack at it! I just like the idea of helping a buddy give his brand or project the proper legs it deserves. And it’s even funner when that little brand fucks with the big brands. Design can do this in the weirdest of ways.

What’s the biggest mistake you've made in your work and did you learn from it?
I’ll often show too much stuff at the start of a project. Which sometimes freaks people out. They want me to show them three things, and tell them precisely why it needs to be that way. But I don’t know about that. I like the idea of showing a range of solutions, and letting the client pick things that feel good to them, and then I refine them along, until we land on the perfect one for them. This way, they have complete ownership. Now, the trick is to work hard and show them good, solid options. It’s funny to me when designers say, “Those dumb clients, why do they always pick the shitty ideas?” And all I can think is, “Hey dumb designer, why'd you show them crap in the first place?”
How did I learn from this? I don’t know if I did. But I’ll tell you this much: When someone rolls the dice with the DDC, we fight hard to come up with good stuff, and make them love the final product. That’s our pledge.

What music or practice gets you into your creative zone?
I always have music playing. Always. And it’s just the “latest shit I got from the record store,” more or less. Of course, I always go back to my mainstays for soothing, but damn, here’s the five records that have been getting lots of airplay on the DDC factory floor:
1. Baroness Yellow Green
2. Replacements Songs For Slim
3. Son Volt Honky Tonk
4. Tame Impala InnerSpeaker
5. Rodriguez Cold Fact
6. Patterson Hood Heat Lightning Rumbles In The Distance
7. King Tuff
8. Düngen Skit I Allt
9. Bob Mould Silver Age
10. Dinosaur Jr I Bet On Sky

What would you be doing if you weren't a designer? Building stuff? Maybe houses or woodworking or cars. I’ve always been into working with my hands, and hell, just creating stuff. In essence, that’s what I do these days, but in vector form!

Do you have creative pursuits other than design? Yes, I would like to live to an old age, and take care of those around me. I’m creatively doing whatever the hell it takes to reach this goal.

What’s your favorite quote on design? “Nothing quite says, I don’t quite get it, quite like purple.”—credit to the scanning scrubs at CSA Design, circa '99!

Which designer (or design firm), other than yours, do you most admire and why? The list is long. And without pointing fingers, it’s the smaller shops who “do great work, on their own terms.” And Wink from Minneapolis comes to mind. Great, great work, and great guys. I’ve looked up to them since the first time I saw their work. They taught me that “small” could be just fine. Who needs the big leagues when you can create your own team, you know? I needed to hear that. Thanks, fellas. Wow.

What's the biggest challenge facing designers right now? To actively promote, champion and celebrate the idea that design matters, both big and small, at home and out in the world around you. It’s our job to be good ambassadors to this stuff, so it doesn't get swept under the rug. Teach people who don’t recognize the power of good design to love it, and our profession will grow and grow. I mean, can you say the same shit about insurance? Or stock brokering?

What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? America! I'm not saying we need to redesign the American flag. No, we need to go back to when America had amazing logos for its different movements, ceremonies and initiatives. And this doesn’t require any “new” design, it’s about unearthing the 1976 Bicentennial logo by Bruce Blackburn. That's my favorite logo of ALL time.
I'm gonna write my Congressman. If those turkeys on top can't come to a consensus on the big stuff, maybe they can get that Bicentennial Star reinstated for America?

What excites you about design right now? How accessible it is. Any kid can jump in, and hell, when you go to Target things are beautiful that cost a buck. I like that kind of democracy. Design used to be something only savored by the elite. Not anymore. I mean, when was the last time you looked closely at a piece of toilet paper? Things are being considered more and more, and I’m always down with that.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Keep the stuff fun. Seriously. People are always gonna be out there making shit very, very “unfun.” And hell, people get paid to do that. I just try to keep things positive, not to indulge in all the cliché banter about "creative control" issues, and most importantly, remind myself how lucky I am to make a living doing this stuff. Pretty thankful for the run I’ve had with graphic design.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? To not be so afraid of everything. Money, especially. Like, I would go without better equipment. Only in the last 4-5 years have I been comfortable enough to splurge on EXACTLY what I need to get the job done. For a decade, I cut corners. Never again. Yer tools are yer life. As simple as that. Invest in yerself, and it pays off big time.