There’s just something simple and soothing about them. I mean, I don’t want to get too existential about bonded lead or anything, but, hell, there’s just so much possibility in each one! It freaks me out. That little pencil…the tool aspect…is this little gateway to a million ideas. I think about that kind of stuff with each one I crack into. In a world where things are more and more compacted, complicated, sped up and digitized, a regular old wood pencil is always there for you. Never needing to be recharged, you know?
The more I think about it, the more pencils—on some weird level—represent “complete freedom.” Freedom from digital ubiquity and predictability. There something cool about how you feel human when using a pencil. That feeling goes away the back to guys shaping rocks into cutting tools and stuff, I’d reckon. Or, maybe only in my head!

Pencil Revolution: “Interview with Mr. Aaron Draplin, Draplin Design Co. and Field Notes Brand (Part 1)”, February 21, 2011.

Read Part 2 as well (published on February 23, 2011).

Aaron Draplin by Aaron Draplin, 2011
(Photo by Aaron Draplin, used with permission)

Aaron Draplin is a graphic designer based in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder (2004) of The Draplin Design Co. (DDC). I’ve been following Aaron’s work for a couple of years now (I wrote about it in the About section of this blog). There’s something comfortingly sturdy about it (be it logotypes or merchandise). It’s simple by design, but doesn’t look cheap. On the contrary, it feels like it really is reliable and made to last a long time (like a real vintage all-metal Tonka truck or an industrial nameplate). What’s even more interesting is to discover the man himself: in the interviews he gave (like the one above), he’s funny, passionate about his craft and strong in character (and in language). If you don’t know him yet, you may consider exploring the following links:

  • First off, if you like scribbling things down on paper, maybe you’ll find some interest in the Field Notes line of product, a joint production of DDC and Coudal
Field Notes by Graham Ballantyne, 2009
Photograph by Graham Ballantyne, 2009 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Identities created by Draplin Design Co.
Identities created by Draplin Design Co.
  • Read An Interview with Draplin Design Co. over at (June 2007)

    One time a jaded creative director guy back in Minneapolis looked over my pile of school/fun work in front of him and said, “Great energy here. You’ll lose this once you start really working.” Fuck that. Another stiff. That was great to hear because it made me swear to myself to always keep this stuff fun and challenging.

  • Here’s another lengthy interview with Aaron by Travels of John: The Pied Piper of Good Design and Making Things Awesome (February 2011)

    Some of these design powerhouse guys out there, they’re really good businessmen and they’re really impressive. I just like to keep it a little loose, just kinda wing it, and let that be the spirit. We don’t have to take ourselves so seriously. You don’t want to show up to your job and just hate work. I don’t ever want to do that, I’m afraid of that. I want to love my job. I mean, I can’t wait to get down here every day. There’s just too much cool shit to look at and do and enjoy and freak out about, you know what I mean?

  • And yet another interview (from November 2009): Aaron Draplin Q&A | Michigan Blood Through and Through

    I was born in Detroit, and moved north when I was four-years-old. I grew up in Northern Michigan in a little town called Central Lake. 800 people. When I was 13, we moved to the “big city” of Traverse City. Michigan blood through and through, man!

  • If you want to read more about Aaron Draplin, visit the “Press” page on his website: he keeps it up to date
  • Aaron and friends love to hunt for old, vintage stuff at yard sales. The mecca of yard sales in America is The World’s Longest Yard Sale, along Highway 127. In 2010, Aaron and his friend recorded the odyssey on film: watch it at Select Scenes From The World’s Longest Yard Sale
  • Finally, here’s how I personally first heard of Aaron Draplin, back in 2008: in this interview, Aaron discusses with much gravity and sensibility the link between motel signs and the fate of graphic design in America. Three years later, I still find he makes a compelling argument about the whole thing. Watch it below:

[UPDATE – July 14, 2011] Create the Map has a 12 minutes interview with Aaron Draplin (text and video): “Interview #005: Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co.” by Jay, July 14, 2011


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