The man that hates pants: An Aaron Draplin interview
As part of our founding team, Aaron Draplin helped bring Snowboard Magazine to life without wearing pants. The guys hates them. I don’t blame him, because sweats are damn comfortable. Pants are usually not.
In a conversation with Aaron, you’re pretty much along for the ride as he takes you through the inner workings of a mind that is infatuated with graphic design. His clean lines inspired by classic Americana meet the demands of a modern company, and his touch has been recruited by companies like Nike, Patagonia, Union, Coal, and countless more. Familiar with Field Notes? He helped start that too.
Earlier this month, he was at Asymbol in Jackson, WY, during a nationwide tour to share the news of his new book, Pretty Much Everything, which is a comprehensive look at what Draplin Design Co. has offered its services to in the last 15 years. Talking with him about it, there is no doubt that his mind pours out an endless deluge of ideas, thoughts, and general randomness that you really just have to take in as quickly as you can. He exuberates passion, and radiates a certain authenticity that cannot be contained or hidden within a social media profile. The guy is having a blast, and we love him for it.
You’re in for a treat.
Get more information on Draplin’s new book, Pretty Much Everything, here
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What is your fondest memory of working with Snowboard Mag?
The fondest memory… Of course. You know what it was? It was being with my buddies all of those years. Being in the basement with those guys. I miss them, still miss it. We were in the basement dealing with shit, sometimes falling on your face. Mark Sullivan was the original guy that got the thing rolling. Sometimes you screw up and sometimes it goes well. And I miss that cooperation. I work with a couple buddies now, and it’s not like we hang out outside of the shop. Everyone flew in and we would make the mag over the course of a week. And remember this was 2007, 2008, and shit, so a decade ago. But they’d come in and you would have dinner together, and then you would go and see a movie or something. At the end of the [mag], have a celebratory dinner. There was this cool quality of all of us being together that I miss. It’s not necessarily snowboarding, in all honesty I don’t give a shit what we were building. I was just proud to build something with buddies and to make snowboarding look and read a little easier. Look a little better. We weren’t about over-design in the early issues, it was about being clear. Allowing the reader to enjoy whatever the guys wrote. Allowing those photos to really breathe. I am really proud of that.
Yeah, you know a lot of people really look at those early years as changing their view of snowboarding.
Oh, that’s cool to hear. When I think about it and look back, one of the things that was fun in the magazine would have to be–you know what we were talking about–this idea, almost like pro worship. Oh, yes another interview with Shaun White is great, but we weren’t too concerned with that. A lot of it had to do with politics and a lot of it had to do with budgets. When you have no budget you get real creative. Some of the greatest stuff you’ll make in your life, there won’t be any funding. You just kinda go do it because it’s fun to do. Then, if you can capture that shit, which we tried do—I just miss the dudes. I miss being with my buddies. It was six or seven years ago. We were done around 2011, 12, something like that. I just miss being around the guys and giving each other shit, dealing with each other, fighting, screaming, traveling a little bit together. I miss that shit. Whether or not you’re working on projects together, they’re still your brothers. You spend all this time together and you stop working—it’s jarring. There’s like a support system to it.
I hear you don’t like pants.
I don’t wear pants if I don’t have to.
“Is it too much to ask to just be comfortable? Today I’ve got sweatpants on man! They’re fucking eight bucks from Target! Eight! It’s embarrassing.”
Elaborate on your dislike of pants.
I just want to be comfortable. I wear pants, sure. If you have to wear pants at your job, that’s fine. That’s called a dress code, decorum, all that kind of shit. But what if you just want to be comfortable at your job, life, things, and stuff? That’s what that all comes down to, this idea that I just want to be comfortable. What was really cool about when we made the mag was there were no rules that someone had to write this way, do things that way, or even wear pants. That’s because we were making it our own way, whatever that means. As goofy as that shit sounds, it’s true. So all these years later, the idea of just being comfortable is interesting to me and wanting to be at my job. I’ve only had one job where it was really cool, and you buy into that and you give all your shit to that. It’s not that it got bad, you just start not wanting to be there. I’m from Michigan man, you start feeling guilty because you’re a good little worker bee and all this kind of shit and you don’t want to bum anyone out.
Is it too much to ask to just be comfortable? Today I’ve got sweatpants on man! They’re fucking eight bucks from Target! Eight! It’s embarrassing. What are they wearing in Boulder? Who cares. Some fucking pants… These Boulder people. I remember when they wanted us to move there. Nah nah nah. I’m not moving to fuckin Boulder. You guys enjoy your lives, I’m not moving to Boulder. It’s a beautiful place, it’s a liberal place. That’s cool. Portland is painful that way too. I love it. I don’t want to go back to Michigan where mother fuckers voted for Trump. Oh his days are numbered, and you keep that one on the record, you keep it on the record, Mr. Journalist. Aaron Draplin said Donald Trump is gonna have the smallest little handcuffs you ever saw in your life. Little handcuffs for those little hands, that little fucker… He’s in trouble. But then again, he’s a fighter. So I don’t know, we’ll see. Yesterday we were kind of celebrating and laughin’ and shit, saying uh oh. He’s going down. But he’s a fighter, so it will be interesting to see that guy try to defend himself. We’ll see.
Travis Rice has been known to have some pretty opinionated graphics over the years. And you worked with him on some stuff, what was it like working with Travis?
Really chill. I knew him as a kid. That’s how I met him. He’s still a really big name in all this stuff, right? When you’re a kid, and what was a big name? Terje or some shit? Craig Kelly and stuff. I’m 43 so I remember some of those guys. Then you see the next couple names come. The fleeting part about this is names come and go. I remember when Danny Kass was a big, big thing, and he is nonexistent now. He’s moved on to the next damn thing. There’s nothing wrong with it either. There’s something about Travis. I’ll go check in on him, and see that he is still very vital, still doing things, and still making movies and doing the stuff. And out there. Just doing it. It’s just cool to see. The fucker’s bionic.
I’m not in the big leagues of graphic design. I maybe, maybe, maybe got a little bit of a name going. But who gives a shit about any of that stuff?
But I don’t think he got lost along the way, he seems pretty cool, very down to Earth. He was just a kid from Jackson Hole when we were working together. When you get drunk on this stuff and you’re 24-years-old and you’ve got the world kissing your bunghole, it’s cool. It’s fun, until that shit stops. One of the hardest things I saw as a kid who was interested in this stuff and moved out west for it, was to see someone become disillusioned because it just wasn’t quite what they thought it was going to be. How do you know it’s not going to last forever when you had nothing the day before, and something starts to happen? I don’t know, it’s like a fleeting thing. To see Travis be so healthy with this whole thing and take people around him, take care of his buddies around him, it’s cool shit. But to answer your question, it wasn’t like we were elbow to elbow and sitting there working on stuff. I would make something, he would react, and it was pretty easy to get him to sign off. That one graphic I made for him, he’s very political. He was political then, it was a scary time ten years ago, 12 years ago. It’s a scary time now. He wasn’t afraid to put it out there. What was interesting was when we were [at Asymbol] I would look at his feeds and holy shit, he’s got some cajones when it comes to this stuff.
He’s definitely one of the most outspoken guys in snowboarding. He’s not afraid to put what he thinks out there. For a lot of professional riders, it can be like walking on eggshells or picking your steps between pieces of broken glass.
Obviously we align on a lot of things, when you look and he’s fighting for the environment or putting his name out there, putting his nuts on the line for something. That’s pretty cool. That’s pretty commendable. I don’t know if there are other guys who swing the other way, who say “let’s go decimate the world.” Fuck no. You want it to keep snowing, you want it to be fun, you want it to be healthy out there. You can’t be littering and shit, you have to be responsible with your life.
I didn’t get into graphic design to make a book, I got into graphic design to make a living.
You have a book that you released about a year ago. Tell me about it.
Well, it was one year ago today. I just learned that we are in the fifth printing, we’re at 33,000 copies. I’m not in the big leagues of graphic design. I maybe, maybe, maybe got a little bit of a name going. But who gives a shit about any of that stuff? The fact is, when you get into this, these are small numbers. I’m excited to just do anything, to even be close to it was really, really exciting. Now, to see this thing go as well as it’s going, it’s been really great. It’s a comprehensive look at, I guess you call it my career. But really I wouldn’t even call it my career, I would just call it a snapshot of about 14 or 15 years and everything I got to do in that time. The work is one thing, but what is way more interesting to me is just the idea of telling a kid that you can do this too. That’s what’s important.
I wrote the book. I told the stories of how we made Snowboard Magazine. I told the stories of how I made Coal or Union. These are shred brands, but now that’s crucial because they’re things that weren’t supposed to happen. Then when they start to happen it’s fucking exciting. I don’t need people to like what we did for Snowboard, or need people to like my logos and my designs, I don’t need them to respect what I do, but I love the idea that I got to thank all my buddies. They’re in that book. They’re in the book! I got to thank every dipshit that I worked with over these years, and I say that in the kindest of terms. Working with Grenade, those guys are a bunch of fucking scrubs. It was awesome. It was exciting. It was scary to see when it went away, of course. When we started the mag, it shows what it was like. Those initial, first couple days banging around on logos and things. It was just one little idea in 2004 or 2005. It’s not that long ago, but over the course of a life it sounds like a long time ago. So it’s just been exciting to see. You watch a decade whip by, and what did you accomplish in that time? Well, I paid off my house, and I talk about it in the book. I paid off all my bills, I talk about that in the book. And this is it from a big perspective. I could have had a big job and done that stuff, or been a scumbag and did it that way.
Without wearing pants.
Without a fucking shred of pants anywhere to be seen. It’s been pretty fuckin’ cool, is the best way to put it. I’m proud of it. The numbers we saw today, I just flipped out. It’s at 33,000 copies sold! The last time I talked to those guys two weeks ago it was at 31,000. That means that we pushed that many more. It continues to keep going. They said when you come in on [the publishing], don’t be bummed if it’s only this many because your name isn’t that big. That’s fine! I never was anything before this, so who gives a shit. You’re okay with the idea that you’ve got a shitty little life, and there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s just something really cool about that.
What’s the next stop? Are you still on the road?
We were. Now we’re home. We just did a 42-show fucking romp. It was incredible. Now we’ll hang and relax a little bit, and just enjoy being back. I didn’t get into graphic design to make a book, I got into graphic design to make a living. All of this shit is icing on the cake. You have to be really clear that when you don’t plan this stuff and it starts to happen, it’s all just so cool. It’s just been really great, positive, fun, and weird. Weird is probably the best way to put it. I was ok with just working hard, saving, paying shit off. Beyond okay. And now this. It’s pretty cool.