Brand Outlaw Book Club Review

Aaron Draplin’s larger-than-life yet down-to-earth personality, blue collar work ethic, and serious design chops have made him something of a living legend in the graphic design world. Designers from across the nation pack auditoriums to witness his speaking engagements (“fiascoes,” as he calls them) and snap a selfie with the Draplin Design Company founder. In 2016, the aptly titled Pretty Much Everything allowed Draplin to add “author” to his impressively lengthy resume while giving fans a hearty glimpse into the life of one of their design heroes.

Pretty Much Everything showcases plenty of Draplin’s work from the past two decades, from Burton Snowboards, to Field Notes, all the way to the Obama Administration. While this book provides plenty for logo fans to nerd out over, it’s way more than a portfolio. Pretty Much Everything chronicles Draplin’s early days in Traverse City, MI, his design college experience, his summers in Alaska, and his eventual move to Portland, OR. Each autobiographical section is packed with hilarious anecdotes, all while helping readers understand the path that led to his becoming an industry giant.

The book also serves as a bit of a design reference guide. One spread in the “Logos, Logos, Logos” chapter walks us through his process of refining the Action Caps mark, emphasizing the ever-important logo exploration tip: copy before making edits. We even get a useful File Hand-Off Checklist, worth reviewing anytime you’re about to send a finished product to a client.

What truly sets Pretty Much Everything apart from every other design book is Draplin’s perspectives on design and life in general. Along with showcasing his work for major clients, he dedicates space to logos that didn’t make him a dime—just-for-fun projects or work he did to help out a buddy. He acknowledges the divisiveness of the unpaid design work topic but firmly and convincingly states his take on the matter. The chapter on “junkin'” proves that hunting down old logos at tag sales isn’t just some weird hobby; it’s a way to resurrect forgotten pieces of the American landscape. And with touching tributes to his parents as well as a page discussing the incomprehensible vastness of the universe, Draplin takes time to remind us that good design is really important … and at the same time, completely insignificant.

Perfectly blending autobiography, portfolio, inspiration, and humor, Pretty Much Everything packs, well, pretty much everything into an entertaining read on one of graphic design’s hardest workers.

Grab your copy—and support local bookstores—at the Superkick Bookshop page. And listen to his interview on episode 29 of the Brand Outlaw podcast