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e early lifeefil ylrae ea David Carson was born in Corpus Christi, Texas on September 8, 1955. His early life was fairly normal, with little to no contact with graphic design. He grew up and attended high school in Cocoa Beach, Florida, but eventually moved to California to study Sociology at San Diego State University. He has been an avid surfer his whole life, and was therefore very connected with the surfing culture in southern California. In 1989 he was even named the 9th best surfer in the world. While he was surfing, Carson also taught high school using his sociology degree, that is, until his career path decided to take a drastic turn.

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1980 marked Carson’s first introduction to graphic design, when he received a flyer in the mail intended for high school seniors for a two week graphics program at the University of Arizona taught by Jackson Boelts. Boelts, who has received more than 400 awards for his work, later became a friend and important mentor for Carson. This experience led to him to begin to experiment in graphic design and eventually attend the Oregon College of Commercial Art in 1983. This, however, only lasted for six months, as soon after entering the college he left. Carson claims that a lot of his style and innovativeness comes from his lack of formal training in the subject, seeing as without knowledge of strict grid systems and formulas he just did whatever seemed right to him. He’s proud of his absence of design education, saying “There’s a conformity that comes out of some of the schools.”


ly career early career earl areer early career early car career early career early c er early career early career After leaving the art college, Carson’s passion for surfing led him to pester different art directors at surfing and skateboarding magazines until he finally got an unpaid internship at Action Now magazine. That same year, he attended a three week graphic design workshop in Switzerland taught by Hans-Rudolf Lutz, who became another great influence for Carson by challenging him to work experimentally. Once he had a foot in the door, he moved from magazine to magazine quickly, having short stints at both Musician and Self magazines, before he found his first major breakthrough at Transworld Skateboarding. The magazine was huge for Carson, allowing him an amount of creative freedom that some people only dream of. “They had 200 pages every month, in full color, and no budget restrictions,” Carson recalls. “I had an audience that wanted something experimental.” He became the art director of Transworld and it’s spin off Transworld Snowboarding in 1984, remaining there for few years to help them find a distinctive look and him a distinctive style. Carson’s next big break came from his work designing Beach Culture, a quarterly magazine that came out of the Surfer magazine. His work here is what began to get him noticed in the design world, as even those who were not enamored by his creations were calling his ideas innovative. This is where his famous style of illegibility really began to take hold. As some have said, “Carson shattered the nice, clean, readable grid, scattered headlines and text across overlapping photos, and raised illegibility to an art form.” He redesigned Surfer in 1990, becoming art director there for two years, before moving on to what really made him famous in the design world: Ray Gun.


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In 1995 Carson left Ray Gun to form his own studio, David Carson Design, which he located in New York City. During this time his now recognizable status as a graphic designer allowed him to gain work for many famous clients, including Nike, Pepsi, Sony, Microsoft, MTV, Intel, and many more. During this time he also created the magazine Blue, which was a lifestyle and adventure magazine. The cover he designed for the first issue was named one of the greatest magazine covers of all time by the American Society of Magazine Editors. He also wrote his first book around this time, called “The End of Print,� which was a play off of something Neville Brody had said about Ray Gun being the end of print. He closed his New York studio in 2003 in order to be with his family, but has continued to work as art director and more for many different organizations. He has done everything from creative directing for the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston to directing commercials for Budweiser, American Airlines, and more. Through all of this, Carson has continued to teach and lecture on graphic design and being creative all around the world.

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sources Plagens, Peter and Ray Sawhill. “The Font of Youth.” Newsweek, vol. 127, no. 9, 26 Feb. 1996, p. 64. EBSCOhost, libproxy.unl.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/ login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=9602207799&site=ehost-live. Butler, Andy. “Interview with Graphic Designer David Carson.” Designboom, 22 Sept. 2014, www.designboom. com/design/interview-with-graphic-designer-david-carson-09-22-2013/.

sources Lupton, Ellen. “2014 AIGA Medalist: David Carson.” AIGA, 1 Mar. 2014, www.aiga.org/medalist-david-carson. “David Carson (Graphic Designer).” Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Carson_(graphic_designer).

David Carson  
David Carson  
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