Carson, David

▪ 1997

      In 1996 U.S. graphic designer David Carson consolidated his reputation with the publication of The End of Print: The Graphic Design of David Carson, the first comprehensive collection of his distinctive graphic imagery. Designed by Carson, with text by design writer Lewis Blackwell, the beautifully produced book surveyed Carson's career and showcased the best of his designs for the counterculture magazines Beach Culture and Ray Gun, as well as never-before-published illustrations and photos and a sampling of his print and television ad campaigns. Although some decried Carson's "fractured layouts and tortured typography," his unconventional style revolutionized visual communication in the 1990s.

      Born on Sept. 8, 1955, in Corpus Christi, Texas, Carson came to the world of graphic design relatively late in life. At 26 he was a competitive surfer—eighth in the world—and was teaching in a California high school when he enrolled in a two-week commercial design class and found a new calling. After six months at a commercial art school, he worked at a small surfer magazine, Self and Musician. During his four years as a part-time designer for the magazine Transworld Skateboarding, ample space and budget permitted bold experimentation. His chaotic spreads overlapped photos and mixed, twisted, and shattered type fonts, drawing both admirers and detractors. Photographer Albert Watson, for whom Carson designed a collection of work called Cyclops, declared, "He uses type the way a painter uses paint, to create emotion, to express ideas."

      In 1989 Carson became art director at Beach Culture. Although he produced only six issues before the journal folded, he collected over 150 design awards. The visual rhythms of Carson's work caught the eye of Marvin Scott Jarrett, publisher of the ultrahip alternative-music magazine Ray Gun, and he hired Carson in 1992. During the three years he served as its art director, Ray Gun tripled its circulation. Carson's ability to connect with a youthful marketing segment attracted corporations such as Nike and Levi Strauss, which commissioned him to design their print ads. Carson also branched into directing television commercials for Citibank and TV Guide. Meanwhile, the American Center for Design praised his designs as "the most important work" of 1994.

      Fired from Ray Gun in November 1995, Carson found himself busier than ever before. He established David Carson Design with offices in New York City and San Diego, Calif., and attracted such corporate clients as MCI, Nike, Kodak, Gannett Outdoor, Ray-Ban, and Jaguar. In April 1996 Carson unveiled the quarterly Speak, which he designed and characterized as including "design, culture, and a smattering of rock and roll." He also worked with John Kao, then at Harvard Business School, on a documentary called Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity. (ALISSA SIMON)

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▪ American graphic designer
born September 8, 1955, Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S.

      American graphic designer, whose unconventional style revolutionized visual communication in the 1990s.

      Carson came to graphic design relatively late in life. He was a competitive surfer—ranked eighth in the world—and a California high-school teacher when, at age 26, he enrolled in a two-week commercial design class. Discovering a new calling, he briefly enrolled at a commercial art school before working as a designer at a small surfer magazine, Self and Musician. He then spent four years as a part-time designer for the magazine Transworld Skateboarding, which enabled him to experiment. His characteristic chaotic spreads with overlapped photos and mixed and altered type fonts drew both admirers and detractors. Photographer Albert Watson, for example, declared, “He uses type the way a painter uses paint, to create emotion, to express ideas.” Others felt that the fractured presentation obscured the message it carried.

      In 1989 Carson became art director at the magazine Beach Culture. Although he produced only six issues before the journal folded, his work there earned him more than 150 design awards. By that time, Carson's work had caught the eye of Marvin Scott Jarrett, publisher of the alternative-music magazine Ray Gun, and he hired Carson as art director in 1992. Over the next three years, with the help of Carson's radical design vision, Ray Gun's circulation tripled. Because Carson's work clearly appealed to a youthful readership, corporations such as Nike and Levi Strauss & Co. commissioned him to design print ads, and he also began directing television commercials.

      After leaving Ray Gun in 1995, Carson established David Carson Design, with offices in New York City and San Diego, California. The firm was instantly successful and attracted well-known, wealthy corporate clients. In 1995 Carson produced The End of Print: The Graphic Design of David Carson (revised edition issued in 2000 as The End of Print: The Grafik Design of David Carson), the first comprehensive collection of his distinctive graphic imagery. This was followed by the boldly experimental books 2nd Sight (1997), Fotografiks (1999), and Trek (2003).

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Universalium. 2010.

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