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Deckstarter: 7 Questions with Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co: Thick Lines Edition

Earlier this month Deckstarter was launched at HOW Design Live Conference in Boston. During the conference the Buck twins handed out show bags containing the launch edition playing cards of Deckstarter to each attendee. One of the eye-catching deck is the Draplin Design Co. "Thick Lines Edition", designed by Aaron Draplin himself.

Aaron Draplin is a spirited, straight-talking designer, creating iconic designs which are both exceptionally clean and timeless. He has built an impressive roster of clients, including the Obama Administration, Nike, Adobe, Lego, Burton Snowboards, Wired magazine and Incase. You can checkout his work at

We had a chance to talk to Aaron about his design background, his work, designing the Thick Lines deck and his advice to aspiring designers and artists.

Could you introduce yourself to our readers? What is your design background?
My name is Aaron James Draplin and I’m 40 year old. I make logos, icons, catalogs, DDC merch, wild posters and a little memo book company called Field Notes. I’m from Michigan and as soon as I could, moved West in 1993 to be a snowboarder. Got out here, lived like an animal for five winters riding all over the west, then got a design degree in Minneapolis. Did a couple years in Southern California working for Snowboarder magazine, finally getting rescued back to Portland in 2002. Did a couple years with CINCO here in Portland, and went out on my own in 2004. Haven’t looked back since!

You have a design studio, run a blog (since 1998) and also your own line of products. How do you find the time…
I make the time. Just that simple. This stuff means something a lot me, and I take my output very seriously. All the bellyaching and what not I hear about people “not having enough time” to do what they want, well, I’ve just never indulged in that sh!t. If I want something, I fight hard to make it happen for myself. Might be small, might be wobbly, but it’s still mine. No boss or pressure system is going to tell me “No.” Who needs those turds? I’m trying to invent my own f       life, and so far, so good! Fingers crossed that I make it to 41!

... and what are some of the most memorable work you have done?
Records! Vinyl is the best. I’ve had the honor of making records for bands I love over the years. The one that rises to the top is the first record I did for Richmond Fontaine. They are a local Portland band, and damn, I’ve loved them for going on 19 years! And then you get to work on their record? It’s mind-blowing. You fret EVERY detail, cuz damn, all those little pieces matter. I’m just so proud to be able to help out on something I love so much, you know? Recently I got to do the Old 97’s record “Most Messed Up.” Super fun. I’ve been listening to those guys since the mid-90’s, too! Got to meet Rhett and roll up my sleeves for them. Other favorites: Danava, Megafaun, All Tiny Creatures, Casey Neill, Chuck Prophet, Man…Or Astro Man and Dawes!

The Draplin Design Co. Playing Card Set: Thick Lines Edition will be your first playing card deck. How did you and D&D end up collaborating together for Deckstarter?
I got a call from Andrew at The Dieline offering a chance to make a set! Took me about five seconds to make up my mind. My own damn card set? How could anyone say no? I've been a fan of The Dieline for some time, so the chance to collaborate instantly sounded great. We inked a deal and I got down to work.  

Can you describe the DDC Playing Cards: Thick Lines and why you’re passionate about it?
I’ve just seen so many incredibly intricate sets out there, and man, I love that stuff too, but, I wanted to make something that felt oddly “off.” Like, big, thick lines that just feel good in your hands. The idea that there’s a table full of players, and those big, colorful thick lines are sort of lighting up the place? That was the start. We can always use more color. And of course, being the nerd I am, I had to make my own set of icons, and that turned into diving into the face cards! You make one, all fired up, and quickly realize, Sh!t, there are 15 more! Ha!  

What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
Damn, that make me sound so official or something? Honestly, it was a slow burn. Just this fun buzz of knowing the sum of the parts were better than any one card or element. I just wanted people to hold them and get little surprises? Like with the JOKER card? Just wanted me to go, Oh damn, that’s cool! Little reactions. Cards are cool. I love playing old-fashioned solitaire and stuff. They just feel good in your hands. There’s an earthy, human quality to them. In an iPhone/IPod world, more and more sh!t is some little digital flick or whatever. These make you savor that simple quality of having something pleasant in your hands.  

What are your favourite playing card decks? 
That “Animal Kingdom” set by Hatch is incredible. Love the hand-drawn quality. The Monarch sets are beautiful! Every detail is considered. I appreciate how they own each little detail. Seeing those for the first time really blew my mind. They really respected the tradition of the “ornate” card design. A new, respectful take on it. And now that I think about it, I really blasted that to sh!t with my my set. Ha!  

Thank you so much for indulging my questions. Do you have any other words of wisdom for other aspiring artists and designers?
Of course! I’ve always got words for the youngsters coming up! Here’s a little list.
01. Keep the sh!t fun. Work is work, but play is play. Design should be fun! Meld the two!
02. Never ever ever ever stretch type. Don’t do it.
03. Pay those taxes! Uncle Sam won’t budge on that sh!t.
04. Be an inventor. We forget this one. Dare to dream, and then act!
05. Call your Mom and Dad each day.
06. Things to stay away from: Clip art, texting while driving and Guy Fieri.

Awesome! Thank you for your time Aaron!

The Draplin Design Co. Thick Lines Edition is available on Deckstarter for $25. For a higher pledge, you will get a limited edition How Design Live Edition of this deck in a custom MagicPak. Think Lines will ship as soon as funding goal is reached.
Deckstarter: 7 Questions with Aaron Draplin of Draplin Design Co: Thick Lines Edition Reviewed by Ivan on 5/28/2014 Rating: 5


  1. Loving the new deck starter system. Already entered in two or three of my ideas. Never know, you might see them sometime in the future

  2. Whoah! All the best dude! Hope to see your deck soon. Keep us posted. :)


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