Skillshare Shorts | "Designer in a Van: On Tour with Aaron Draplin" | Aaron Draplin | Skillshare

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Skillshare Shorts | "Designer in a Van: On Tour with Aaron Draplin"

teacher avatar Aaron Draplin, Designer and Founder, Draplin Design Company

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      "Designer in a Van" - Full Feature


    • 3.

      Sneak Peek: Classes with Draplin


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About This Class

This short documentary is a never-before-seen-look at Aaron Draplin, the man behind the legend.

Join the Skillshare Film Team on the road with Aaron Draplin — iconic designer, hit Skillshare teacher, and legendary man of mystery. In 2017, Draplin hit the road in a one-of-a-kind orange van to meet with fans, students, and designers for a book tour unlike anything a designer has done before.

Inspired by the DIY and punk bands before him who have taken their tours into their own hands, he and his partner Leigh McKolay did all of the scouting, booking, driving, talking, hyping, fighting, making up, and making it work — all the while shipping merch and running the Draplin Design Company (DDC) from the backseat.

How does he make it work? Whether you're a creative searching for inspiration, a Draplin fan, or simply curious for a real-world look at a successful side hustle, see how Draplin has built an iconic career from the ground up . . . all from his signature orange van.


This short documentary is shared with the Skillshare community for behind-the-scenes inspiration and insight into the design world. Please be sure to check out the Class Resources & Project for additional related classes, links, and learning opportunities.


Directed, Produced, and Edited by Bill Antonucci and Elliott Curtis

Animations by Daniel Fakharzadeh

Music by Los Roys

Additional Images Courtesy of Walker Art Center, Sam Fritch, Chelsea Parrett, Dan Hawk, and The Sage Colleges

Special thanks to Steve DeCusatis, Philadelphia University, and Sizzle Pie Brooklyn

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Aaron Draplin

Designer and Founder, Draplin Design Company


Bred from the loins of the proud Midwest, this guy was squeezed out in Detroit, in the year 1973 to the proud parents of Jim and Lauren Draplin. Growing up on a steady stream of Legos, Star Wars, family trips, little sisters, summer beach fun, stitches, fall foliage, drawing, skateboarding and snowboarding, at 19 he moved west to Bend, Oregon to hit jumps "Out West." His career started with a snowboard graphic for Solid snowboards and took off like wildfire soon after. Everything from lettering cafe signs to drawing up logos to thinking up local advertising campaigns were manhandled under the ruse of the newly formed-and gigantically reckless-Draplindustries Design Co.

After five winters out west, the kid sobered up and headed back to Minneapolis to finish up a high-falutin' desi... See full profile

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1. Trailer: Last night was like digging around in the cracks looking for a little trail mix and I found this, a big thing of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup. This is just what's going to carry me through the rest of the tour. Aaron Draplin here, a man that literally needs no creative introduction. So, please give it up to Aaron J. Draplin. I don't want to be a band with semis. I want to be a band in a van. There's something more fun about it. 2. "Designer in a Van" - Full Feature: My favorite bands were in a van. Every night, unload the shit, play it out, load it back up and get the hell out of there. I'll never be in a band. I loved my instruments. I loved noodling on the guitar and playing things, learning a song and forgetting it. But out here, we are getting that taste. In a lot of ways, I just want this up to be accessible that way that fast. I don't want to be a band with semis. I want to be a band in a van. There's something more fun about it. We've got Aaron Draplin here, a man that literally needs no creative introduction. So, please give it up to Aaron James Draplin. Let's do it. Let's do it. Thank you. Yeah, take one. All right. Well, I'm Aaron James Draplin. Wait, do I talk to that or talk to you? Aaron James Draplin, I'm 43 years old. I'm a graphic designer, and I'm out here on the road. Should graphic designers go on the road? Well, that's what we're trying to figure out today. I got to make a book about 10 months ago called Pretty Much Everything. It came out on Abrams Books. You get the book deal and I went right into thinking book tour. The first time I got an opportunity to go speak was this design camp thing in Northern Minnesota. My turn to go up there. I got up there, I totally seized. I just want to enjoy this for one second because it's a lot of eyeballs up there. Well, everything that sounds good, everything's cool. But it was just this weird moment where I was, like, "Hey, I'm going for it." This is all fun shit to talk about and stuff I'm proud to talk about. How I paid off my house or here's something I got to work for Mr. Obama. None of this stuff is ever supposed to happen. I remember in 2010, I think I did 12, once a month. 2000, I think it was 11, I did two a month. By 2012, people are starting to call, people are starting to say, "Hey, what's your schedule look like?" I have no schedule. The first real tour would have been in the fall last year where we really left in a van, went for 34 shows, seven weeks, 12,000 miles. Now, the weird part that no one ever know about here is that I did it. There's no agent. There's no one smarter than me that I could probably hire. All those dotted I's and crossed T's, that's learning for me. I learned enough little lessons of how to do it. This one now, 42 shows, that's insane. That is insane. Good looking bunch, couple of questionables. Start sketching. Be on paper. Be loose. Because what I want to do is I want to take one of those sketches and show you how to make five logos out of it. Go! Youngsters of Valley Forge, go! Is Valley Forge around here? Okay. All right. Been a long tour. We basically just floated out on social media. In a matter of days, workshop was sold out. He's like, "Look, I'm on the road. I'm here to work. If you want, I'll come early. Let's do a morning line." So, we're literally doing two, three hour workshops back to back and then we've got the lecture tonight. First of all, it's not that hard to get to sit and bullshit. I like to sit and talk. I like to show kids tricks. I don't have all the answers but I have a couple, and that's cool. That's cool. If they'll listen, then I can share that shit. As I watch people, I watch their faces go, "Oh, that's how you do that." I like that. I like that kind of exchange. Pro tip number one today: When you draw a circle, don't be this person. Don't draw the circle. That's enough. Seriously, that's it. That's all it needs to be. So, people have been giving us stuff. They're even giving us stuff while we're out here. Last night, we were, like, no snacks left in the van. I was digging around in the cracks and shit looking for a little trail mix and shit. There was nothing left, but I found this; a big thing Vermont Pure maple syrup. It's so good. It's so good to take a little sip, just a little nip. This is just what's going to carry me through the rest of the tour. I'm getting a little tired, it's weird. We've done 22 shows now and we have 20 to go. I'm getting a little tired and it's like, "One day off and I feel better." But this morning was six hours of workshops. So that's a little finished up with a few notes button. Nice. Sometimes though, we get out there, we're not doing anything with other people and it's just us with one contact getting us to the next show. That's all we're talking to, it's this weird singular effort to get to the spot. I'm sure that's just like a band. Okay, Lee. How many Wisconsin? Wisconsin? One in Washington [inaudible] It's one thing to do this talk and stuff, it's another thing to hide in the corner of a LDM parking lot and get the merch done. We are shipping from the road which is real tricky. I have a business, that's a loose term. Orders come into my PayPal. Some kid buys a poster, a hat, something. We parse it, figure it out, and then stop somewhere along the road every five days on this tour. Lee and I fight it out and fill those orders. About 100 orders a week come in, give or take. I write to people, I send them a little form letter that explains we're shipping from the road. We love you. You'll see your product, you'll see your item in a week. Maybe. No one's mad about it yet, so it's all right. We can get more efficient and smarter about how we do the things we do. It doesn't mean that there'd be more fun or the best move for us. Was it a little bit more hectic? Yes. But it was that much more from our hand and I love when people say he wants all the control. The control? That's all bullshit. No, I just want it to be done right. I want it to be done where a kid who bought something from me felt it from me or from Lee. That's it. They have a problem with their book, they can come to me and I'll fix the book. Super slurp to see you in the flesh, sir. Well, how's it going? Super good. Going nuts tonight. Hi. You're my inspiration. I'm the biggest fan. How's it going, man? Thanks for coming, man. Thank you. Can I share this, you know what I mean? What have you got? So, that's you? Yeah. Pretty good. That's me. Thanks, man. Thank you. The confidence to get out and start doing my own. Thank you for coming to this book tour. Thank you, all you people who came to the merch table. Come out to that merch table. You want selfies, and spiel notes signed, and hugs, climb all over me, whatever you want. I don't care. There's pizza, there's stuff. Thank you. What is success to you? What is success to me? It's not accolades and shit like that. Success is weird. People create things that are really, really great and then they can't leave their offices because to keep that really, really great going, you got to be really great all the time. You know what I mean? I don't want to make something so awesome in Portland that I can't leave. That's what this is a testament to. So, I don't know, success is weird. Soon as I got out of the hole, it's all been in the black ever since. That's awesome. This adds another chunk to that but in a creative, weird, sketchy way, fun way. Let's say I didn't pay off my house and all my shit in that time. I still is with my buddies. I still work with a ton of cool stuff. There are a couple of turds, sure. When you put a camera on me, that suddenly punches me in the face of how cool it was. You have to remember that right now, there were people eating here and they're looking at us like we're something. I'm not something. I'm just with my girlfriend, we're driving an orange van across America. We got books in the back. Is that something? Well, that's for you to decide. But to me, no. I'm triple parked. Who's going to pay that ticket? Okay. Next question. 3. Sneak Peek: Classes with Draplin: