I feel like I “get” Aaron Draplin, the keynote speaker for THREADX 2019 (February 17–19, San Diego). With a foot in skateboard/snowboard culture with a punk rock twist, Draplin has crafted an identity for his company that is broad in its nature while still emblemizing a sense of individualism.
I just finished reading his book, "Pretty Much Everything," which outlines the trajectory of this career, from small-town Michigan beginnings, through startups, magazines and agencies, to freelance success — and now a sort of celebrity. It also provides insight into his approach to design and branding.
While his book has enough graphic design discussion and print process references to satisfy any avid graphic arts professional, it is ultimately about branding, because Draplin’s success is primarily built on “Aaron” the person.
The things he likes and the things that match his sensibility inform the look and feel of the products and campaigns he touches. He has also transformed design (the service) into design (the product). His posters, notebooks, T-shirts (he amusingly calls them “torso covers”) and other offerings all have a specific “feel,” which points back to the Draplin brand.
I’m very interested in what Draplin will have to say in his THREADX keynote. In addition to his design skills, he works on a human scale, never losing track of the one-on-one benefits of treating people well. It's all about being kind. Giving the customer more than they expect. Allowing the customer their own voice during the design process. Occasionally lending skills to a worthy cause or an exciting cash-strapped opportunity. Respecting great work.
Across the many segments of the printing industry, branding has become paramount in differentiating your company from the pack. The Draplin Design Co. brand is so much more than just a name and a carefully crafted logo. It is instead an identity, suffused with humor, wonder, a bit of grumpiness and a unique “edge.” As you build your business and take steps to grow your brand, how can you work to also expand the identity of your business from “service provider” to “personality”? What do you provide your customers (beyond what they expect) that makes your company truly memorable? What is your company’s passion, and how do you follow it?
In addition to his keynote, Draplin will present a hands-on design workshop in a small group setting at THREADX. To me, that opportunity alone is like getting a guitar lesson from Slash, or halfpipe tips from Tony Hawk.
Besides the tempting San Diego weather in February, you don’t want to miss Draplin and the other amazing THREADX speakers. Register and book your room today (the hotel block ends January 24 and registration rates increase February 1)!