When I started out in this business back in ’98 the coolest shit laying around the creative department where I worked were always the paper sample books, posters, and swag from the French Paper Company designed by CSA Design. With their use of mid-century patterns, vintage iconography, and exotic printing techniques, they looked like nothing else coming from the paper mills at the time. Over the years I amassed a decent little collection. And you better believe that on any project I could, I spec’d French Paper.
Many years later, I was told about this Aaron Draplin guy. I watched his Portland Creative Mornings video “The 50 Point Plan To Ruin Yer Career” and became a huge fan immediately. How could you not though? If you’ve ever met him, or heard one of his talks, you know what I mean. I had always had a passing interest in heavy duty, modern, industrial, design. Seeing Aaron’s enthusiasm for these same styles was like I had “permission” (it’s a long story…) to let them influence my work as well. It changed how I designed and how I thought of myself as a designer in the Midwest.
A few years ago, I was able to bring these two huge design influences together. A good friend of mine, Ron Myers, got the idea to bring Draplin to Fort Wayne to give one of his trademark talks. Ron called it “DDC vs. FTW”, and I got to do the poster and other KickStarter swag. I had not been that excited to work on a project in a decade. I was scared as hell though, because I wanted to hand illustrate the poster, and I hadn’t picked up a Rapid-o-graph since art school.
In the end, the poster turned out great. Good Night Sweet Prints screened it on 100# Pop-tone Berrylicious French Paper of course. The show went off without a hitch; I got to shake Draplin’s hand; the excitement died down; and, soon enough, life returned to normal.
A little over two years after all of that, one of the posters was chopped up and turned into Field Notes. Another thing I never could have imagined happening. You can read about that here.
Fast forward to this past May. I get an email from CSA Design. I thought it was junk mail, but I opened it anyway. Turns out, it’s an invitation to have my Draplin illustration included in a project with Draplin, CSA Design, Adobe, and French Paper. Queue the stunned silence.
Erik Johnson, the guy who was getting everything pulled together over at CSA Design, said they really had to work hard to find me. He knew somebody in Fort Wayne who remembered I was involved with DDC vs. FTW, and tracked down an old email of mine. After I sent him the artwork, it started to sink in about what I had been asked to be a part of. These were my idols. I collected their stuff. Now I would have a tiny contribution to all that great work! This is not the sort of thing that happens to guys like me.
Now I have the finished piece in my hands and I cannot believe what I am looking at. I feel like I crashed the cool kids party. Anytime now they are going to kick me out of the treehouse! So many talented and well-known artists have contributed to this project. Even though we all drew Aaron’s face, most of us from the same reference photo, the variety of approaches and styles is just incredible. If you’re a fan of Draplin, and his talks, you’ll pick out little references here and there in each piece.
On the back, in true Draplin style, Aaron wrote a story about the artist, or his thoughts on the piece. That’s the thing that amazes me about Draplin. He remembers the smallest details of everyone he meets, and he meets thousands of people every year.
Anyway, enough with the trips down memory lane and gushing. I’ll wrap this up with another thank-you to Adobe, CSA Design, French Paper, and Aaron Draplin. This is a big deal for a guy like me, and I really appreciate being included. I can’t believe the impact of this one project I did so many years ago. It makes me wonder why I never took illustration more seriously.