First and foremost thanks for being the homie. Your general demeanor and how you take yourself/your company seriously but not too seriously gets me every time.
What websites/accounts are you checking multiple times a day, every day, religiously? Be it news sites (like this one), Twitter accounts, etc.
Coudal.com is a daily stop. I'm a bit biased, though.
But when I think about it, I'm as easily led as the next guy. One link, and before I know it, I'm spiraling off down some wormhole of celebrity trash or bullshit memes. I'm getting better and better at not taking the bait. I don't use Facebook that much. Too much predictable noise on there.
I just go exploring. More fun that seeing the stuff everyone is seeing. That might be on eBay or some old timer's antique site. You what I love about the internet? Some old guy who has a camera and time on his hands to upload it. No polish. No sass. Just cool shit for miles, that they are sharing with the other buddies in their circle. And there's really no link for that. You just have to go and start digging.
This is all your fault.
Some of these were pretty hard to find.
That's your collection?
It's my fault I tipped you off to an incredible world of dead logo books?
Guilty as charged.
Yes. It was such a simple idea. I've always been a fan of iconic logo design that works as well in black and white as it does in color but always went to google for inspiration before. Saw your video and was like... oh, man, i need all of um.
What other design-related books would you recommend?
Thanks for joining us here on Designer News. I've just got two related questions to kick it off:
- How do you keep the work you do fun? How long did you give an unfun project before tapping out?
Logos are like puzzles, and I enjoy the exploration. Sketching, thinking, making notes, researching...all of it is pretty interesting. That's the fun part. Things get a little scary after the client sees it, and doesn't react. Or, reacts in a way that is counterproductive? And however the reaction, it's my job to take it from there, and provide them with good solutions.
And then about tapping out? I don't really tap out. If I took the job, then I'm on the clock for them, and work hard to get it done. But of course, there's some big decisions to make before taking the job, you know? "Am I the right fit?" If things look good, then I take it on, and push until they love it. As simple as that.
I've always wondered: Do you speak as candidly with your clients as you do with us? I'd love to be able to recognize when I can and can't talk to my clients like they're one of my buddies.
It all depends. I try to choose jobs where I'm comfortable with the people behind it. If they are buttoned-up, then so am I. If they are loose, then we're loose. You size them up, and then you act accordingly. I provide a service, and if I do my job right, they are comfortable with the interaction and we make them something they love.
And you know what? The tighter the client is wound, the more apeshit they go. There's some math for you. I'll start off a project, and I'll be a perfect, little altar boy, and in no time, they are off the rails. Stay loose, and keep it fun. Done.
Hey Aaron, we all appreciate you taking some time to share some of that deep knowledge of yours with us.
How do you know what manufacturers to partner with for your products (trucker hats, patches, etc.) ? Are they recommendations from friends? Trial and error? I'm looking to create a couple tangible goods as all this digital has me hummin' and buzzin'. Any advice would go a long way.
On a side note, I've been mentioning to people I know that "vectors are free", and it always leads to some terrific conversations.
Keep up the good work my good man.
Howdy Aaron, Thanks a bunch for doing the AMA. I am also a designer in my 40's and sometimes get the daunting feeling that my work is old school or outdated at times. How do you stay fresh and up to date with your designs being an old fogy? Also, where do you find pieces for your excellent morgue files that you collect?
p.s. Love me some Field Notes.
Middle age! This one is new to me. Am I old? Am I out of it? Do I matter? Am I relevant? Was I ever relevant? Why does my hair hurt?
We're all getting older. And man, I don't really even think about it in terms of my place in the design scene. Before I had any eyeballs on me, I attacked this stuff and learned to love the process, battle and rewards. And it's just that simple. I'll keep challenging myself, and trying to make an honest buck along the way.
And there's always this sinking feeling that I'm going to wake up and the calls will stop coming. And then what? Well, I've tried to be proactive to build a little mess for myself that is self-sustaining. Be it merch, Field Notes or the guts to dream up a new poster series. (See our "Thick Lines" posters!)
I've saved my loot, and done my best to be smart with scary stuff like finances and investing. But then again, hell, I hope I make it to 42! Baby steps.
Thanks for taking the time. Love the no-bullshit approach, it's much needed in the creative industry.
What are the most important factors while vetting a client?
How do you deal with a client that agreed to work through your process, but after starting, they get a different idea and want to re-invent the wheel so to speak?
- Would you go on a road trip with them? Or share a meal? I mean, do you get a good feel? Are they recommended by friends?
If I squirm on the first call, then I'm betting I'd squirm on the project. That's when I bow out professionally, and offer up other leads for them to go after.
- You roll with the punches. And remember, you fight hard to show them good solutions. And if they tweak it into oblivion, then let them. You can only fight them so hard. If they want to make a lemon, then so be it. There's no rule that you have to show it in your portfolio. But remember, if you show them good stuff, that'll go a long way in kicking off the good relationship. Wow them, and then make them something incredible, that they won't need to change.
Thanks for doing this AMA Aaron. No questions just wanted to say thank you, I learned a lot from your skillshare course!
Any tips for getting noticed and getting your work seen online (or in other places)?
Make cool stuff.
(And the internet will take over from there.)
I just completed your Skillshare class last night and loved it. Any plans to do more things like that? I really enjoyed your teaching style and learned a lot.
Top brass representatives from Skillshare is on my case for the next one. Already scheming! Stay tuned!
One a scale from 1-10, how much do you love the "Expo 74 World's Fair" logo?
Top 3 awesome things about living in Portland? Do you feel living in the NW effects your design work?
Expo '74? That would be a "12" on that scale of 1-10. Spokane!
Portland top three?
- Doesn't feel like a big city. But yet, there's 15 record stores.
- Gray and rainy? Bring it on. Just fine with me.
- You can have a little house and a little life, and that's just fine. No keeping up with the Jones. Live yer life, and enjoy it.
Thanks for taking questions, man. Quick scenario, would love to hear how you'd approach it because it's I've seen it multiple times for a rebrand or entirely new identity:
Present three different concepts to client, each distinctly different forms, color, collateral, etc. Client loves logo from one, color and assets from another, and asks to mix the two together. Given how different each direction is, probably not the best idea. The pieces don't entirely fit together, but to the client it seems like that's the answer.
Any advice for handling a situation where you're happy with the logo itself but the client wants it to be purple (and it definitely shouldn't be purple)?
Be open to the hybrids. Remember, at the end of the day, that logo is theirs. And if they want to see something mixed together, then mix it together. And do it in a way where you can articulate what they liked about each element, and how it became new. It's your job to take that curveball, and keep the game moving along. I kind of like it. If I can get them on board that way? Done. It's all about making them love it, and having a 6th sense of what's right for them. A balancing act. In the end, its not for you. Remember this along the way, and this will help in creating something for them.
And if they want purple, then explore purple! Make it work for them! Ha...
Yo, Action Draplin!
So excited to have you here with us and thanks for doing this AMA! You've become a big influence to me and you're probably the best speaker on design that I've ever listened to.
As for my question, I wanted to know: Should designers have a style?
Should designers have a style? Sure.
Right up until that first client asks for something different. Then the game changes and you have to design to their needs. What's appropriate for their design problem? That's the target you aim for.
Futura Bold, dipped in PMS Orange 021? Let's rumble! But that's just for my junk. If that's what is right for the client, then great.
It's our job to find the right mix for their needs. Period.
Aaron! Any plans to send Field Notes into space???
Already there! At least, in my mind.
Awesome to see you doing one of these Aaron!
- What's the best piece of advice you've ever received & try to live up to in your life? (business, personal, whatever)
Looking forward to reading through all of your answers on here.
Keep on keepin' on man!!
"Purchase what you can afford."
I don't have a cent of debt. We're forced to leverage everything, and it just eats away at us. I remember having to go without, or buy the least-expensive computer, or take out a monsters loan, or what have you. And it taught me to be frugal, thankful and get the most for my money.
And when I got to splurge? Well, it's because I worked my ass off up to that point, and then dove in. Nothing off-the-cuff, or without a ton of thought behind it. Just like mom and dad did.
And now, if there's a record I want, I buy the thing. Done. I worked for that. But something big? I research it and plan for the purchase, making sure everything is covered.
It's pretty amazing how the word afford has been bent from "I can purchase this with cash right now" like Mom and Dad said vs. "I can probably afford the payment on that" nowadays.
Thanks for taking the time out your day to share your wisdom man. I appreciate it.
Thanks for inspiring me man. I've seen some of your lecture videos and the video of your logo process. I also bought some field notes because I hate Lisa Frank too lol.
Originally, I went to school for game design. Immediately got a job the day I graduated college for advertising/print design. Left that job to work at an interactive agency. Then to a marketing agency, then to a software start up. I am now a freelancer working mostly with Wordpress and some UX for mobile apps.
So my question is focused on your creation with Field Notes. I am wanting to create my own product or service. Hopefully, turning that product or service into a full fledged business. I'm guessing that the product or service I create, will be digital. I have a few ideas for mobile apps and web services.
So what was your experience moving from doing design work for clients into a full fledged business like field notes? There are definitely things I still need to know, like financing/administrative, sales, etc.
I appreciate your time man :)
Jim Coudal. That was where Field Notes took off. I owe a big chunk of my life to Jim Coudal, Bryan Bedell, Michele Seiler, Steve Delahoyde and the Field Notes Midwest crew. I made the first couple Field Notes, and they exploded the thing into a real brand. Thank you to Jim, forever.
So to answer this, I need to deflect it to Field Notes Midwest. As, they were the ones to take it from initial designs to the the real thing. Hell, I still don't know how they did it. Small steps, smart moves and, a beautiful uncompromising quality to their decision-making. I've learned so much from the Coudal team.
Go to Coudal.com and look anything with Jim speaking. And take notes!
First of all, thanks for accepting my invite and coming down to Valencia Community College in FL way back when. You made a huge impact on everyone that was in attendance.
Couple random questions:
- What's your side passion right now?
- What is one place you'd want to travel to?
Side passion? To answer that, go look on Draplin.com. That's really it. Making a new hat or poster or logo or pulling off another speaking fiasco...that's all the stuff in the mixing bowl that keeps me going. Even the rough parts all add up to one kick-ass little way of pulling off a life in design.
Junking is always the most fun. The World's Longest Yard Sale along highway 127, Brimfield in Massachussetts or the Antique Expo in Portland. Always fun.
One place I'd like to travel to? Nothing really comes to mind. My speaking tour keeps my wanderlust at bay! But if I had to pick a dot on the map? I've always been interested in Greece. Would love to see those old ruins. Oh shit, Japan, too. I want to go just for the stationery! I've heard Tokyo is a blast.
Shout out to Valencia, I grew up in Kissimmee :)
My question: How to overcome the fear and shame of your first designs, when you are starting your career, and you can feel the work is not as good as you'd like them to be, but don't know how to make them better yet?
Bonus: do you plan on making more videos showing your design process?
It's gonna take elbow grease, Lucas. Plain and simple.
Make this stuff fun, and it won't feel like work. And get after it.
Buddies use to call me "Dark Cloud" because of how much I worked. They'd open the door on my room and say, "How's the forecast?" And I'd yell back, "Too much light!" And they'd slam the door I'd get back to it. I just loved the stuff, and loved learning, and loved making something new each night.
This stuff was a hobby before it was a job. Still is!
BONUS: More videos? I just did one Monday, so watch for that. Can't say for who, but it'll be out soon enough. Stay tuned!
Two questions, Aaron:
How'd you get to be so good looking.
Have you been and/or will you be taking hands-on design workshops on the road?
Cosmic dust, whirling together for 13.7 billion years. And, pizza.
I'd come back to hang with you guys any time! Hell yeah, Greg. Shit's revving up for the upcoming tour, and for the most part, each gig has an accompanying workshop.
Hey, Aaron! Good to have you. A fond memory of mine from college was when you visited the Savannah College of Art & Design and we got to have dinner. Our conversation got a bit cosmic and I recall you were reading "A Universe from Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss at the time.
My question is: what are you reading now? Any recent recommendations, be it design or theoretical physics or other?
The only links on Facebook I read all the way through are Space-related stuff!
Anything/everything from Neil Degrasse-Tyson!
99% of the time, I have no idea what a particle is, or what the fuck "anti-matter" is, but, I find their theoretical exploration daring, and beautifully lofty. The fact is, we have NO IDEA WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON, and these guys are like pioneers, using science to chip away at that.
I find our staggering insignificance in the cosmic realm so beautiful. And, man, sandwiches sure are good, down here on earth!
Aaron: You've done work for a lot of different companies in assorted industries. Which industry do you refuse to do work for and which industry do you enjoy most?
First off thank you for this AMA. You are a huge inspiration and a dude just doing what he loves which I think is fantastic.
There's a list of things I'd like to ask you, after sitting at your talks and watching some of the other speaking gigs you've done. So I'll pick just two -
What industry have you not done work for that you really want to or don't want to for that matter?
And do you have a piece of your own work that is truly your favorite, for any reason what so ever.
Thank you again for the awesome work you do.
Thanks for the AMA! I'm actually a huge fan of your work and unfortunately missed you when you gave a talk here in Las Vegas last year.
However, I've always wanted to know: Have you ever been tasked with incorporating an interrobang (‽) into a design? If so, how did you go about incorporating it? If not, how would you‽
Not just yet. And like anything type-related, I'd just make sure it was balanced, could breathe and worked well with characters around it. Can you show me how you solved it? Or?
First, thanks for doing this AMA. I am a designer and from my experience designers and artistic folks in general can tend to be somewhat socially inept. One could say you have the 'gift of the gab' and I was wondering if that was something that runs in your family or was it a skill that you've made an effort to develop over time?
My dad was a Master Bullshitter. He was a industrial tooling salesman and was loved by the guys in the back of the shop, and could handle the grumbling owner too. He loved to laugh and talk and joke and share with people. He loved his job. I remember him taking me out to shops when I was a kid. Each stop was an adventure, or, he knew how to make it fun. And what an animal he was. Love him for him.
Mom is the centered one. She can chew the fat as good as anyone, but, has a sensible side to her. A careful decision maker. Id' like to think that rubbed off on my too.
All in all, I just vowed to enjoy this stuff. And laugh. And fuck around. And when shit's on the line, to be professional, appropriate and on top of it.
Enough of design pep talk… When you need to take a break from all of that what do you do?
- Watch a TV show? (which one?)
- Go to the movies? (what kind?)
- Read a book? (what novel?)
- Go out? (where?)
- Hangout with friends (doing?)
- Neither the above? So… what then?
I love your "pay-it-forward" and "help-a-buddy-out" approach to freelance design and life, in general--something that I think each of us always need to keep in mind. It's great that you like to keep it fun and do good for the world in the process.
Other than the famed Cobra Dogs logo, what have been your favorite / top 3 do-good-projects that you've worked on?
Great to see you on here, Aaron. Thanks for doing this!
P.S. I just saw your "special" Starbucks Reserve Field Notes being sold at the new Roasting Room in Seattle. Just a little nod to the man who made it happen. Congrats!
It's hard to list them. There's been so many. And some of them, I can't say a thing, you know? Someone needed a hand, and I helped them. And on to the next thing? Like, my couple hours on something could've immensely helped someone, you know? That little buzz is what we should be going for. Not everything is about making a buck.
I just keep room for it. I'm so luck to do this. It's the least I can do, you know?
Helping your family is always the most rewarding, when looking back. I loved making my dad business cards for his "playing Santa" like he'd do each December. He loved giving those things out to EVERYONE.
“FIELD NOTES”. futura bold.
a) which futura bold, precisely? (vendor)
b) which 2–3 typefaces would you maybe use if not futura bold?
A) Pretty sure it was an Adobe version of Futura Bold.
B) Helvetica is all you need. Orderly and neat. That'd be my "Desert Island" typeface. (Sitting in the sand, one palmtree, one coconut and me laying out shit in Helvetica...)
- Trade Gothic
- Gotham, too. An instant classic.
- Lubalin Graph
Thanks for doing this AMA. First off what advice would you give someone who's about to graduate from University? Also how did you go about setting up your own studio, it's something I would be greatly interested in doing in the future.
About to graduate? I'd say to get ready to dive in, and remember that there's lots of different jobs related to the design. Sure, everyone will be trying/clawing/scratching for the "cool" job. And let them. You need to "do whatever it takes" to get going. And that means, whatever gig you get, take it on and do a good job. Learn from it. It's all a ladder. And each rung takes time. That job might be rough, but keep in mind a couple things: 01. You got yourself there, and you should be proud. 02. Even the worst design job is better than that pizza job you had in high school. Savor that.
Thanks for the awesome reply. Yeah I totally get where you are coming from, I never had that pizza job (although I almost wish I did... mmmmm pizza...) Keep up the great work!!
I too collaborated with the Buck Twins to create a deck of cards with Deckstarter. Mine were called Flesh & Bones which raised 10k so became successful and were printed ;)
What was your experience like with Deckstarter as a whole and what did you learn / take away from creating your awesome "thick lines" deck?
I love your "meetings about meetings" quote that you use pretty frequently. How do you avoid spending more time operating a business than doing creative work?
By being on top of emails the best I can, and then, making good notes and doing my damnedest to deliver. And engage. I try to get the clients excited about the project, distancing us from some humdrum game of poisonous back-n-forth. Basically, being a good communicator, and then, delivering on it.
How long have you been growing your beard?