• Aaron James Draplin
  • Aaron Draplin, Thick Lines Poster Series (1 of 6)
  • A pack of Field Notes
  • Aaron Draplin, gatefold art for the All Tiny Creatures album Harbors

Alumni Profile: Aaron James Draplin, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Meet Aaron James Draplin: graphic designer, world traveler, design circuit speaker and co-founder and owner of Field Notes — the popular 48-page notebooks coveted by designers, writers and note takers everywhere.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

Making an incredible living on my own terms and working with buddies, bands and brands that I believe in.

Why did you major in graphic design?

Wanted to see if I could cut it in the big leagues of art school graphic design! My classes were challenging, all-consuming and fun.

Did MCAD prepare you for life after graduation?

It sure did. I knew precisely the direction I wanted to pursue, and precisely the areas of graphic design I wanted to avoid. And still avoid. MCAD showed me the high society stuff, and taught me how to seek and savor the stuff a little more down to earth. I appreciate both ends of the spectrum.

All undergraduate MCAD students are required to have an internship. Where did you intern?

I scanned images for Charles Spencer Anderson at CSA Design in downtown Minneapolis. Chuck is still a friend all these years later! My hero and, now, mentor.

Has your work evolved since college?

I do more and more of the kind of work I always dreamed of doing. In weird ways. I just sort of make the stuff I like to make, share it and, somewhere along the way, folks hire me to make it for them. In a lot of ways, I trick graphic design into hiring me!

What is your one biggest takeaway from MCAD?

The confidence to go out and make a life in graphic design.

How do you find inspiration when you are feeling stuck?

Legos, old logos, fall foliage, Carhartt clothing, Mom, Dad, water decals, going junking, road trips, old patches, skateboarding, snowboarding, things made in America, Field Notes, Filson bags, traveling, doing speaking gigs, my nephew Oliver, getting away with it all, saving loot, collecting records, Martin guitars, Fender Jazzmaster electric guitars, old signs, neon, deas toolboxes, smart tattoos, Levi 501s, growing up, beards, a cold Coke, America, President Obama, orange stuff, DDC merch, thick lines, Sasquatch lore, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Stefan Kanchev, Wally Olins, arrows, pizza, bagels, caesar salad, black tshirts, metal toolboxes, Saucony Jazz shoes, wiener dogs, getting cosmic, existentialism, and Creme Brûlée.

What advice do you have for art and design students?

Keep this fun. Don’t make it a job. Make it your life.

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