Field Notes, the iconic vintage pocket notebook brand, was thought up by a freelancer.

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Surely you’ve laid eyes on Aaron Draplin’s Field Notes.

They’re scattered on the shelves of local coffee shops, heaped in small piles in trendy barbershops and nestled in between heavy denim jeans like matte gems in haberdasheries.

What the hell is a haberdashery?

(Apparently it’s a men’s clothing and accessory shop but I just thought the word sounded… impressive).

Anyway, as you’ve probably gathered, this week’s edition of Stranger Than Fiction is about a wooly mammoth of a man, who you may or may not have heard of, named Aaron Draplin.

Today, Draplin is arguably one of the most sought-after graphic designers on the planet with 211,000 followers on Instagram, a wildly successful best-selling book called Pretty Much Everything and a not-so-small pocket notebook brand that I mentioned earlier, Field Notes.

(If you smacked that last link you probably had an “aha! I’ve heard of those fuckers” moment).

However, when Draplin isn’t wowing his fans in the social-sphere, writing logo-packed books and thinking up new designs for pocket notebooks… he’s working his day job as a “lowly” freelancer.

What? A freelancer?

Freelancing gets a shitty wrap.

Generally, when we think of a freelancer we think of our mostly unemployed second cousin that builds shitty websites in his spare time while pursuing his dreams of being the next Bob Dylan.

But, there are some folks like Draplin who take freelancing very seriously, making it a full-time gig.

From his home studio in Portland, Draplin works as a freelance graphic designer designing logos for brands of all shapes and sizes ranging from big behemoth brands like Apple and Burton to brands you’ve probably never heard of like Grenade Gloves and Cobra Dogs.

(Side Note: if you want to learn more about freelancing, I highly recommend you check out this).

From freelancer to entrepreneur.

Eventually, Draplin combined his design skills that he honed heavily while freelancing with an obsession he had collecting vintage promotional memo books distributed to American farmers by various agricultural companies.

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(You can take a look at his collection in color, here).

One look at these bad boys and you can see where the inspiration for Field Notes came from. Not unlike the badass watches that Original Grain crafts, when you hold a Field Notes pocket notebook you feel like you’re jumping into a time machine.

That’s because the fuckers are modeled after tiny notepads given to farmers a century ago.

But, here’s the point of all this…

Draplin is a nice reminder to creatives everywhere that you don’t have to build a massive agency or be a part of some venture-backed startup to create meaningful work.

While he is just a one-man team at his design shop, Draplin Design Co., his impact on the brands he works with is invaluable, gifting them a look and feel that stops the world in its tracks.

And, in addition to this, Draplin reminds us that it’s okay to dip our toes in before doing the damn cannonball.

Silicon Valley breeds this “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to starting a business. I think Draplin’s approach is a refreshing one. He makes a living as a freelancer during the day and on the side, he raises hell with cool projects like Field Notes.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.

Stranger than fiction by Honey Copy is a curation of stories about bat shit crazy marketing ideas that have made brands some serious cheddar. If this story made your mouth water, why not let me tell you when I write the next one?

Originally published at on March 27, 2020.

I write pretty words and sometimes sell things.

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