Insights 2012: Questions for Aaron Draplin
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Insights 2012: Questions for Aaron Draplin

We thought we’d try to get inside the minds of some of our upcoming Insights design lecture speakers, you know, dig a little deeper. Invade their personal space.

So here is Mr. Draplin answering some of life’s most—and possibly least—important questions:

Describe a recent dream in 15 words or less.
I usually don’t remember my dreams, and that sucks. That’s nine words. Damn. What a bummer. Sometimes I do, but it’s only the scary stuff.

What do you wish to have done with your mortal remains?
Reduced to ashes and then spread out all over the land. Someone’s gonna be going on one helluva roadtrip! Or wait, what about just crawling off into the wilderness and dying in the woods? And then letting the bugs, varmints and elements have at you. Like an old mountain man who met his end? That sounds better than embalming fluids or spilled urns.

What have you been obsessing about lately?
Pantone equivalents, going from screen to poster. I keep a pretty cave-like corner at the shop and when it’s time to pick real colors, I have to lift the blinds on our big windows and get some real light on the subject. I don’t mess around with Pantone selections. I take my time with that shit.

What was your worst (college/post-college/make-ends-meet) job?
I might still be working it? When I think back, this job still takes the cake: I was a carny one summer. 1994. Worked in a pizza wagon in Northern Michigan on a second-rate fair circuit. Little shithole towns all over Michigan. Long hours in a pizza wagon, sweating it out with rambunctious fairgoers. All summer long. Finally got fired up in Escanaba, Mich., and dumped at a laundromat. Mom and dad had to come up to rescue me. Weird as hell.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Maybe not my most embarrassing moment, but here’s one that comes to mind: My buddy Larry and I are walking down the hall outside my shop, down to hit the men’s room. As we round the corner, some guy is there, and I walk in, and Larry walks in behind me into the stall and sits down. I’m at the urinal, letting nature take it’s course, and I start in on Larry, “I got a good strong stream going here. Proud of it.” Stuff like that. Stupid things dudes say to each other in a bathroom. And he’s sorta laughing and making weird little “Yeah, right…” guffaws. And I’m going on and on about this and that, and get done, wash up and walk out the door. And Larry’s standing outside the door waiting to go in.

What’s one of your guilty pleasures?
Crummy television. I’ll plop down in the living room, working on my laptop. The TV acts a bit of a radio. Pawn Stars or Storage Wars or Alaska State Troopers. Mindless stuff. Good, clean fun. It’s pleasurable as background noise, which makes me guilty.

Fill in the blank. What the world needs now is _________________.
…to slow the hell down.

Things are moving too fast. I have all sorts of weird theories about time and how it passes in different parts of the world. Like, does a life go by slower in a rural setting, and quicker in some bustling city? I’d wager a “Yes.”

Who is your favorite villain of fiction? Of non-fiction?
Chigurh the hitman from No Country For Old Men comes to mind. A calm, collected, poetic psychopath. Disturbing as hell. Maybe it was just his haircut? That was equally terrifying.

What’s your most prized possession, and why do you prize it so?
I don’t really have a material object to offer up. I mean, a couple rare records come to mind, but, shit, like that stuff really matter in the grand scheme of things, right? The answer that comes to mind is my relationship with my mom and dad. I’m just thankful to have cool parents, who have always been good to all us in the family. Very lucky.

If you could have any job/career, what would you choose?
I’m doing it! Seriously. I love this stuff. I get to make cool stuff all day long. Growing up, I was told things were gonna be hard and that I wouldn’t like my job. No one told me that outright… It was more like, seeing family lose a job or lament about their line of work. Stuff like that. All these years later, I can proudly say I love what I do. So thankful. Wow.

What is your advice for young people today?
For young designers: Find yer voice, and fast. Learn to love this stuff. Work hard.

For youngsters in general: Practice yer penmanship, you scrubs!

What public figure do you detest?
Any of the Conservative/Republican/Bigot/Hatemonger pundits. Sarah Palin’s charade gets me pretty fired up. Or Michele Bachmann. Or that Rick Santorum fuck. These are bad people…plain and simple. Dinosaurs scaring people, and setting us back years and years.

What’s your favorite place to people-watch?
Las Vegas, Mall of America, World’s Longest Yard Sale, Canton Days outside of Dallas, Antique Expo in Portland,

Which living person do you most admire?
Cornel West is pretty high on the list. I find him inspiring, and spot on. I like his passion. Brother Cornel. Love that guy. Would love to see him speak.

What are you afraid of?
Disease. Something that comes out of nowhere, growing inside you, from the inside out. Like, at least with something harmful that’s external, you can sort of react and duck or whatever.

Who’s your favorite poet? (Or what’s your favorite poem/passage/lyric?)
That’s an easy one. It’s a bit mushy, but it’s a Paul Westerberg lyric that I assume is about a girl…

You’ve got a voice like the last day of Catholic school.

I know what that day sounded like. I went to Catholic school my 9th and 10th grade years. And that shit sucked.

What’s your most vivid memory from childhood?
Christmas stuff. My favorite memories. We had wonderful christmases growing up. Big trees with beautiful, handmade ornament my mom made. My dad is a chronic decorator and took the holidaze seriously! Our house was so cool.

I remember leaving notes for Santa…along with a beer and a sandwich. And man, I believed! I remember believing. I remember finding out there wasn’t a Santa, and how much it hurt. The death of magic in yer life is a hard one to take. Don’t care how old you are. I was 17.

What’s your most vivid Minneapolis memory?
Walking to school this one time, and dipping down by the river by St. Anthony’s. It was so cold out I got a bloody nose. And I loved it. I remember thinking, “I love this place.” I really screwed up when I left in 2000. Damn.

How do you recharge creatively?
A Saturday junkin’ around town can really put a puff of air into my sails. A pile of treasures from the excursion will carry me all week, and inform projects I’m working on. I just love finding cool old stuff, that I can post on my site, or, use a bit of it in my work. Might just be color or language or type. I love how that works. Always fires me up.

What is your favorite euphemism?
“Syrup on shit doesn’t make it a pancake.” Wait, is that a euphemism?

What is your favorite film scene?
The scene in Shawshank Redemption where Red opens the buried tin. Just incredible. That and anything with Brooks Hanlon, from the same movie. Poor, old Brooks just couldn’t handle life on the outside. Still sad about that one. For Brooks.

What is your greatest extravagance?
800 thread count sheets, motherfuckers! We’re gettin’ Egyptian on that shit, too!

What was your most humbling moment?
Seeing my little sister holding my nephew Oliver, just minutes after an hour after he was born, still can bring me to tears. My littlest sister, all grown up and bringing a new life into the world. Man, out came the waterworks. Seeing my mom hold her grandbaby for the first time was incredible. I got the shot and everything.

After seeing that little guy that day, suddenly, EVERYTHING I was working on, or fretting over, or whatever, just didn’t matter. A new life came into the world. Me, I was worrying about whatever logo I was wrestling. Cycle of Life™, man! Moving stuff.

What was your most character-building experience?
Washing dishes on the railroads in Alaska tested me. I remember getting mail up there and friends detailing their fun summers down in the lower 48. And me, I was washing dishes to make cash. I remember the early mornings, and how much the prospect of two back-to-back 16-hour days would almost bring me to tears. Or the first couple days of the summer, knowing I had five fucking months of ahead of me. I wanted to quit every hour. I did four summers up there, and the first summer I didn’t go back, I had these oddly soothing fantasies about heading back up for another summer, going through the training and then the first day out on the rails, quitting that shit. Leaving them high and dry. That’s horrible, but I played that scenario out in my head a million times.

What’s your favorite recording of all time?
Oooh. Damn. A tough one. Probably Son Volt’s Trace from 1995. Just perfect. When I go, at the yard sale that they have in my honor, that is to be played the whole time.

What three items can always be found in your refrigerator?
01. The yellowest mustard possible: French’s. None of that bullshit honey mustard crap, or anything with seeds in it. Not cool.

02. Cholula Hot Sauce. I can drink that stuff. My favorite hot sauce.

03. Orange Juice. Always adds a nice splash of orange to the fridge. Hell, anything with an orange cap, really.

What artist turned your world upside-down as a teenager?
Jim Phillips from Santa Cruz skateboards. Best linework, ever. That’s where it all started for me.

What’s your favorite comfort food?
Mom’s spaghetti. I like getting comfortable with a big plate of it. Dad’s garlic bread. Mostacholi noodles. Mmmm.

They say dogs and their owners tend to look alike. What kind of dog would you own?
I don’t look like a dachshund, but had a weiner dog named “Gary” for five-and-a-half years. He’s missed. He was lean and mean and fast as lightning. Me, I’m chunky and girthy, but fast as lightning.

If you own a pet, what kind and what characteristics do you share with it?
Gary and I shared an appreciation and understanding for the following: Cunning stunts, tennis balls, burrowing into blankets, peeing in the backyard under the stars, cold water and ankles.

What artists would you like to collaborate with?
I’d love to make something with my buddy Jared Eberhardt. His work is amazing. He’s an incredible graphic designer who shed all that 2D shit, and reemerged as a director of commericals and videos. Beautiful stuff. Hire me, Jared.

Is there anybody you’d refuse to shake hands with?
George Bush. I’d love to refuse that piece of shit a handshake. I was afraid each day that cowboy hack was at the wheel, and want my eight years back. Still relieved our national nightmare is over.

What have you been listening to lately?
Cheap Girls, Mastodon, Lambchop, Damien Jurado, Stephen Malkmus, Bill Fox, John Moreland, Guided By Voices, Bon Iver, Low, Big Business, Luke Roberts, White Hills, Flaming Lips, Crooked Fingers, Jayhawks, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Wilco, Richmond Fontaine, Danava, Idaho, Gillian Welch, Battles, Sam Prekop and Centro-Matic.

What have you been reading lately?
Slow, slowly going through Cormac McCarthy books. Taking my goddamn time, too. Slow going. I don’t want to finish them, just it’s not like he’s a guy with 100 books. There’s like eight of them or something. Words to savor.

What is your least favorite sound?
People chewing with their mouths open. It’s 2012 for fuck’s sake. Time to evolve.

Which element would you like to be: earth, air, fire, or water?
Earth. Just sounds the coolest.

Name one surprising aspect of your morning ritual.
Phlegm. I hock up some wild shit sometimes. Is that surprising? I can gag Leigh with my plumbing antics. Sorry, sweetie.

What is your favorite inanimate object?
I’ve got a pretty serious thing for my Martin guitar.

What’s the last (or favorite) book you read?
Last book I read? Child of God by Cormac McCarthy.

Favorite book of all time? Papillon by Henri Charriere.

If you could throw a dinner party for anyone in the world, who would you invite?
Dinner party? Sounds pretty hard ass. I’d like to get a couple pizzas with the following people: J Mascis, Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy, Patterson Hood, Paul Westerberg, Wayne Coyne and Gibby Haynes. But that’s just rock-n-roll fan stuff. That might be a dumb answer.

How do you like to unwind/relax?
Watching documentaries on the couch, going junkin’, catnaps and hitting the road on long roadtrips. There’s something relaxing about watching America whip by all day long.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d like to slim down. Get back to my fighting weight of 112 pounds. I was eight then.

What’s your favorite mode of transport?
When I bought my Volvo station wagon last year, I traded in my Ford Econoline van. The thing was a gas pig, but I loved driving that fucker. So comfy for a man of size like myself. Plus, you could live in it, in a pinch. Added value.

Do you own a status symbol, and if so, what is it?
Weird question. What are you talking about, like…tennis bracelets and shit? I don’t own any of that shit. I have a nice Volvo that puts me into the Yuppie Portlandia set pretty easily, but damn, the type is so nice on the instrument panels. That’s what did it for me in the end. The Volvo beat out the Ford Edge simply on typography. The kind of shit I worry about.

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