Aaron Draplin at Hamilton Shareholder Meeting


This weekend has been eye-opening for me for two reasons. First, saying goodbye to one of my best friends who is being deployed overseas to Afghanistan. The next time I will see him will be in a year from now when he stands up in my wedding. Scary stuff. Second, meeting Aaron Draplin at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum.

Draplin had spoke in Milwaukee a few months ago and I was unable to go at the time, so I was pretty bummed. Then this past week I’m sitting on my couch scrolling through Instagram and see that he’s headed to my hometown on the car ferry. After searching the internet, I found out he was speaking at Hamilton. I was stoked.

I’ve been following Draplin’s work for quite some time now and it’s always been inspiring for me, so I was excited to see him speak. I felt like I could really connect with his experiences. Some more than others. We both grew up in the midwest from smaller towns skateboarding in the summers and snowboarding in the winters. We seemed to have some of the same experiences with clients and having a hard time saying no or even charging too low for work. I felt like, here is someone I really look up to as a designer that is very successful and comes from similar experiences that I’m facing or have faced in the past. And I kept thinking; “I can be where he is some day if I keep working hard”.


I think every designer, at some point, tells themselves that they would like to be self-employed, be their own boss and work from home. I would be lying if I didn’t think about that quite often. It’s a goal of mine, but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t have to be anytime soon. I’ve been seeing a lot of young designers and illustrators go out on their own recently. It got me anxious to do the same, but the reality of student loans and a car payment stopped me from making that mistake. Aaron Draplin is a successful designer working as a freelancer, as his own boss. He was also 30 years old when he went out on his own. I’m 26. I have time. It was Draplin whose talk helped me realize that I’m ok where I’m at right now. I have time to grow as a designer, learn in the industry, get some experience and reevaluate in a few years. That is exactly what he told me afterwords when we had a chance to talk one-on-one.

I’ve never had the chance to hear someone I look up to speak at an event before about being in the industry. It makes you think about a lot when you see someone successful talk about similar experiences you’ve had. I feel like I’m on the right path, but I don’t have to rush myself at getting to where I ultimately want to be. That’s what goals are for.