David Carson

David Carson, a 2014 AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Design) Medalist, and one of Apple’s 30 Most Innovative Designers, is an important figure in the graphic design world. He challenged the traditional notions of layout and typography.

Carson once stated: “It’s the basic decisions—images, cropping and appropriate font and design choices—that make design work, not having the ability to overlap or play with opacity.”

I’m sure everyone in the Graphic Design program at Parsons can attest to that. I remember in my first few weeks of the program thinking, “when are we going to actually dive into photoshop?” I thought being a graphic designer meant mastering all of the software. Of course it would be rather challenging to be a graphic designer without knowledge of these programs, but what I’m realizing now is that these are merely tools to build stronger designs. The design process is more than just playing around with photoshop… it’s developing an eye for inspiration sources, exploring ideas, concepts and design methods. Its knowing how to combine elements to create a complete and successful design.

There’s no one recipe for a successful design. In our classes we’re all given the same design specification and have the same knowledge (more or less) of the program tools. Yet we all create designs that are vastly different from each other.

“You have to utilize who you are in your work. Nobody else can do that: nobody else can pull from your background, from your parents, your upbringing, your whole life experience.”

Again, David Carson nails it right on the head. All of our designs are influenced by our own hobbies, interests and experiences. David himself is a surfer and is a former sociology teacher. This is evident in his work and is what lead him to pursue editorial design given that it enabled him to create designs about actual people, events and music. The classic example of this is Carson’s designs for the Keith Richards cover of Ray Gun in January 1995. Carson abandoned the traditional magazine cover layout and opted for a simplified raw version. The cover simply read Ray Gun – not headlines, no mention of Keith Richards’ name. The portrait of Keith on the cover did all the talking, and the issue was the biggest selling issue of Ray Gun.

His designs for Ray Gun Magazine are perfect examples of how Carson used untraditional typography and layouts to breathe a sense of personality into the subjects of his designs.


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