Book Review of ‘Pretty Much Everything,’ by Aaron James Draplin

For the first video in this channel, I want to talk to you about this book. First book I read and possibly the reason why I’m here today, so I thought it was fitting.

Who wrote it?

Aaron James Draplin. He is an independent designer based in Portland, Oregan. Not only that but he is an incredible entrepreneur as well offering an array of merchandise from pins to posters (he even sells Aaron James Draplin pin-pong balls..!). Furthermore, He is the co-founder of Field Notes, offering smartly designed notebooks and other writing accoutrements.

He is a bear of a man. With a personality as big as his frame, and a collection of work bigger than my future. This book is a testament to that body of work.

What it is about?


This book is Aaron Draplin in book form – it is big, functional and full of entertaining and useful information.

‘Pretty Much Everything,’ bears all about Aaron Draplin. It takes the reader through how graphic design became a viable career. From humble beginnings growing up in Detroit, discovering punk rock at high school and then leaving home to work in Oregon, early career working at ‘Snowboarder,’ magazine, then working for Cinco Designs and eventually choosing to become an independent designer.

Following on from that, you learn about his time at Coal Headwear, Union Bindings Co. and the creation of his merchandise, Field Notes, making logos and some career highlights.

One of my favourite sections in this book shows Aaron’s logo making process and his design thinking. It is packed full of pictures, drawings and logos which span across Aaron’s incredible career, and inspirational advice. The book is peppered with anecdotes and stories which are really entertaining and give the book a lot of colour.

Perhaps what is most appealing about this book is it is unabashedly Aaron’s James Draplin. Aaron’s very personal and conversational tone of voice means reading this book is almost as if he is sitting there just having a chat with you about his design career while showing you pictures to accompany the story. While a lot of graphic design books adopt a formal, stand offish tone, Aaron couldn’t make this book more conversational and personal if he tried.

Aaron’s references to his friends and family reminded me that graphic design is something that is intensely influenced by everyone around you, and it is important to value all the people that support you along the way whatever stage you are at.

3 biggest take aways from the book.

There are plenty of important lessons to be taken away from this book but if I had to pick my top three, I would choose these!

1) Be authentic and real. You will attract authentic and real clients, and fans. Aaron Draplin talks about how if someone comes to his merch table after one of his speaking gigs who doesn’t have the money, he’ll simply give them something for free. This human quality to Aaron, where it isn’t all about making money but actually just being a sincere and generous person, means that you attract real and authentic people in to your life not just in a business sense but broader than that too. That’s a special thing. No doubt Aaron Draplin is a talented designer with a bold and thick style, but this authentic personality has certainly  helped Aaron Draplin become the famous designer that he is today! P236.

2) Help others with graphic design even if you don’t earn money from it. Aaron Draplin champions helping other people with his design skills whether you earn money or not just to help other people around you. He says ‘don’t be afraid to work for your buddie for a little bit of loot, or even no loot.’ Small contributions can really transform someone’s business or project. P72.

3) Make your own stuff whether it’s fake or real. Aaron clarifies that ‘Real,’ means being for a client and ‘fake,’ being just for fun. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re making stuff. Opportunities lead to opportunities. You can’t get a job without any jobs to show, so the important thing is that you’re just constantly making stuff! P140.

Who should read this book:

Anyone that is starting out in design and wants inspiration.

Anyone that is a bit lost with their designing.

Anyone that wants to read about design but not to focus purely on the technicalities of design.

Anyone that is thinking about a career in design.

Aaron actually writes who should read this book in the colophon on the final page of this book:

‘I hope a kid who reads it will be inspired to look at a life in design in a little bit different way than the schlock that’s fed to us. You don’t have to hate your job. You don’t have to accept working for clients who push you around. You can build your own life. Let the last 256 pages be a big, meaty finger waved in the face of “how they told me it was going to be.”

I hope this book review is helpful for anyone interested in graphic design!

If you’re interested in buying the book, click on the link below!

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