Aaron Draplin: Why designers need “thick lines” in their lives

In his book Pretty Much Everything, US graphic designer Aaron James Draplin shares design and business tips. A “mid-career survey” of his work, it’s full of case studies, how-tos and advice. This exclusive extract is on the power of thick lines…

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AD: Why is simplicity refreshing? And on some weird, metaphysical level, can simple lines evoke some kind of positive response?

I’ve got some half-witted theories on these musings. Maybe it’s because the world is moving so fast?  And always seems to be speeding up? When you reduce this wild world down to its simplest of elements, there’s something refreshing there. And it still feels “new” to me.

In a design world of more and more complex techniques and styles, this stuff still gets me. So I started to explore it for fun, and the jobs started coming in shortly after.

I sort of stumbled into this style in Adobe Illustrator, out of desperation. I was working on the All Tiny Creatures record for Hometapes in 2011, and experimenting with simple vector shapes, all lined with a consistent thick line. So rudimentary, but when done with a little consideration, pretty powerful.

There was this odd uniformity to it all that was striking, almost Utopian in the feel. These designs used to line the landscape. Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser and Peter Max come to mind. Or Keith Haring. What happened? Where’d it go?  Universal art forms, with this global, ubiquitous quality. Modern, yet playful and accessible. Light-hearted, but breathtakingly complex.

Dead stuff that I find out there junkin’ reminded me of this. Maybe we forgot? Let this page of goodies be a reminder of the power of reductionism. There’s a big word for ya!

Thick Lines Valley 2014
Thick Lines Valley, 2014
Sub Pop Records, 2014
Sub Pop Records, 2014
Printing you can feel, for Neenah paper, 2014
Printing you can feel, for Neenah paper, 2014
Perfect Valley, 2014
Perfect Valley, 2014
Kevin Nimick Benefit, 2013
Kevin Nimick Benefit, 2013
Big Jim for Culture of Cult art show, 2014
Big Jim for Culture of Cult art show, 2014
Inch x Inch buttons 2015
Inch x inch buttons, 2015
Front Cover
Front Cover

Draplin Design Co. Pretty Much Everything is written by Aaron James Draplin and published by Abrams, priced £25.00

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