Lessons from Aaron James Draplin
I have to admit something to you. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I need to get it off my chest:
Yesterday, I was a total fanboy.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t come to graphic design “honestly.” I fell into it while I was pursuing something completely different.
I’ve never attended a single class on color theory or the grid or typography. My teachers have been the work I love and interesting books and Aaron Draplin.
I can’t recall for sure, but I’d hazard a guess that the first time I encountered Draplin was this video.
It was electrifying.
Here was someone who was truly, fiercely passionate about the way the world looks. Incredible!
And he became my teacher. Much like James Victore, Draplin, through his speaking and writing, has taught me a lot about myself, my clients, and my work. He’s the closest thing to a teacher I’ve had in this world.
That’s why I cleared my calendar yesterday to spend the day attending Draplin’s speaking ruckus and subsequent Q&As.
I took plenty of notes (in my handy Field Notes – like a good fanboy should) that likely only make sense to me. I’ve been trying to live a more engaged life and spend less time live-tweeting/instagramming everything, though I did manage a couple photos during my downtime.
Here’s a few things I took away:
- Clients don’t always beget like clients. I’ve always lived under the assumption that turning down less-than ideal clients freed me up to accept great clients. That taking a job that maybe could be cool but didn’t pay well would only lead to more could be’s that don’t pay well. Draplin is proof that doing good, cool work for clients who can’t afford it can directly lead to good work for clients who can. Maybe not always. Maybe not often, but it’s possible and that’s interesting to me.
- I need a better process. From the way he handles clients to the way he manipulates the tools, Draplin has learned to work with an efficiency that engenders trust from his clients. And that efficiency comes from:
- Practice. I was never very good at practicing music. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I really connected how the work I do in the woodshed related to the music I played on the bandstand. I know – I’m an idiot. But Here’s a guy who really is at the top of his game and he still practices like crazy. He’s insatiable for this stuff and I need to develop some more of that.
- How to present to clients. I think one of the coolest things Draplin showed us was the slide deck he presented a client for the first round of logo design. Having not spent a lot of time in the agency world, I’ve not really had the chance to see how other people do it. My approach isn’t very far off from Draplin’s but seeing that definitely inspired some refinement.
So, yeah – I totally fanboyed all day yesterday. I was at each of the three venues before Draplin, greeting him with my ugly mug every time. And I’m better for it.