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The Travelling Canvas – Aaron Draplin

For the final bag in The Travelling Canvas series, we wanted to go out with a bang.  So, what better way to end the project than to call in a favour with logo extraordinaire, king of merch,  and all-around awesome guy, Aaron Draplin.

We were super stoked to get Aaron on board and even more excited when we saw his design drop into our inbox.

We picked his brains to discover the inspiration behind the design, find out who he sends his merch to before anyone else and get his top tips for creating a custom tote bag.

Aaron Draplin, The Travelling Canvas

For those who don’t know you, please can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Aaron James Draplin. I’m a graphic designer, raised in Michigan, but living and working in Portland, Oregon since 2002. I make logos, catalogues, t-shirt designs, signage and merch for companies that range from a buddy’s food cart up to big companies everyone’s heard of.


I’ve travelled the world telling my story, with over 390 speaking fiascos under my belt and counting! I co-created Field Notes with Jim Coudal, and are memo books are sold in over 2,500 stores worldwide, with limited-edition special editions shipped quarterly to a booming subscriber list. My first book titled Pretty Much Everything came out on May 17, 2016, on Abrams Books, which incredibly, is in its eighth printing! Things are on the up and up.

What was the inspiration behind your design for The Travelling Canvas?

Tote bags are healthy, little reminders to me. Use this bag when grabbing groceries, and cut down on plastic bag and paper bag use. That’s always good for our little world. So I wanted to print a little tribute to the beauty of the natural world, here in the great American West, and in my mind!

Aaron Draplin, The Travelling Canvas

We think tote bags are awesome, but why do you love totes?

They’re functional first, and yet, can be fun as hell. They’re just the perfect vessel for some decoration. And why not? I love the simplicity of big, clean brands like Muji, Ikea and Apple just as much as everyone else, but also like to go ape shit every now and again. You kind of have to go ape shit on a tote bag. I like the “fun” quality of that. It’s kind of rare, in such a serious world!

Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to design their own tote bag?

Simple wins. Clean, easy-to-read forms just jump off these things. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the illustration and stuff I see on tote bags all the time, but to see one with a big logo, or some big type? Always refreshing.

What’s your favourite tote bag that you’ve ever owned?

I have a bit of “old school” CNN tote that is white ink on a burly, red tote. I love that thing. That classic CNN logo just screams off the thing. Timeless!

Aaron Draplin, The Travelling Canvas

If you could send your tote bag to anyone in the world who would it be and why?

Probably my mom back in Michigan. She uses tote bags ferociously, and it’s sort of “DDC Policy” that she gets the first one of whatever I’m making. As soon as they show up here in the state, I’ll fire off a couple to her! Done.

What’s in your bag right now?

Wallet, my iPhone, Field Notes, couple Sharpies, couple pens, couple pencils, the novel “Don’t Skip Out On Me” by Willy Vlautin and a couple of bills that need to be dropped off at the post office. Pretty exhilarating, right? RIGHT.

Check out our interview with Aaron Draplin at Birmingham Design Festival.

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