Design Within the
Surfing Subculture and the
Inf luence of
David Carson written by
Surfing as a Subculture
Design Within Subcultures
The Influence of David Carson
his dissertation will look at and analyse surfing as a subculture and how this is reflected and accounted for within the design of printed publications. It will mainly focus on magazines, aimed at the surfing subculture market in the UK. Specifically, one of the aims of this dissertation is to discover whether the design of David Carson has had an influence on modern print due to his previous work in magazines such as ‘Surf Culture’, ‘Beach Culture’ and ‘Surfer’, because of or possibly despite its controversial and challenging nature. A sociological approach will be taken whilst looking in detail at the surfing subculture, in order to determine which parts of the subculture are portrayed in print design, if any are. A number of case studies will be examined in order to gain primary information about the design aspects involved, with the main focus to be placed on ‘Wavelength’ magazine. To do so an ethnographic approach will be taken throughout the research in the expectation to gain a thorough understanding and insight into the topic. Surfing is one of the worlds most popular ocean sports. The number of surfers worldwide increased from 26 to 35 million in the last 10 years and is expected to jump to 47 million by 2020 (Billabong ISA, 2011). The growth of professional surfing on every continent has dramatically increased the popularity of the sport and the pursuit in a number of ways. It has added a new lifestyle appeal, especially amongst its youth followers, which in turn has created a multi-billion dollar industry in surfing related products and merchandise. This dissertation will discover what effect this has had on the subculture and how this has changed and evolved it over its history, discovering whether the roots of surfing are still evident and how this is seen throughout the aesthetics of printed publications. In Graphic Design USA, David Carson was listed as one of the “Most influential graphic designers of the era” along side Milton Glaser, Paul Rand, Saul Bass and Massimo Vignelli. The inclusion of Carson in this dissertation is due to his work in surfing associated publications as well as his own personal background. His involvement in the surfing subculture is of interest in the terms of this paper, and will be looked into with some consideration. Furthering this, his approach to design will be examined and questioned in order to gain an understanding of how he works and why he works in that way. Throughout the dissertation, a number of theories and academic studies will be examined and analysed alongside primary research, interviews and textual deconstruction in order to gain an academically relevant and precise conclusion.
Surfing as a
Subculture What is a Subculture? This
chapter will be looking at what classifies surfing as a subculture. A number of questions will be answered surrounding this topic including; what factors are important to a surfer? What types of surfer there are? Also how did the surfing subculture originate and how has it evolved? A critical understanding will be gained of the groups core values and social behaviours in order to eventually discover how these elements effect the design of printed publications aimed at this audience.0 To first define surfing as a subculture a clear understanding as to what is meant by this term is needed. Starting at a very basic level, a simplistic definition taken states that it is a: ‘noun - a cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture’. (Oxford English Dictionary ) The majority of research into subcultures has been focused on youth culture and draws upon two different meanings of culture: ‘In the first, culture
refers to the works and practices of artistic and intellectual activity... The second sense of culture is rather different, referring to the idea of culture as a ‘way of life’.’ (Longhurst, B, 2007, p.206). In academic terms, the meaning of subculture is under constant scrutiny, repeatedly undergoing negotiations in order to account for areas of change such as clothing/fashion, behaviour, music, language and also the media and its influence. All these factors are integral in the making and maintaining of a subculture. In Subculture: The Meaning of Style, Dick Hebdige uses previous academic theories to draw conclusions as to what he defines a subculture to be. He states that they tend to be: ‘presented as an independent organism functioning outside the larger social, political and economic contexts.’ (Hebdige, D. 1979, page 76) This can clearly be seen throughout history when it comes to dominant and persistent youth subcultures. For example, the ‘Punks’, that emerged in the mid to late1970’s as a retaliation to the recession in the UK and as a response to built up anger against the political economy of the time, whose longevity depended on
functioning outside of the mainstream society and in this case acting against it (which arguably could take it away from the ‘subculture’ genre and place it within a ‘counter culture’, as explained later). These values are reinforced by Thornton where she describes subcultures as having; ‘a distinctive enough shape and structure to make them identifiably different’ she furthers this by adding ‘they are focused around certain activities, values...’. (Thornton, S. 1996) It is important to consider these pieces of research and theories when looking for a concise and reliable definition of a subculture. By having definable core values and a certain structure in place within the group, it creates a stronger identity, making them recognisable to those who are outside of a particular subculture thus reinforcing the social status of a subculture. It has been said that there are four essential aspects of a subculture: commitment, identity, distinctiveness and autonomy (www.subcultureslist. com, 2012). There must be a degree of commitment that has an influence upon a number of things such as everyday lifestyle patterns, socialising habits, hobbies and even consumerist behaviours. Involvement in a subculture is likely to last years rather than months and depending on the nature of the individual subculture, it is liable to account for a large proportion of a persons free time and influence a number of decisions both large and small. A sense of identity and affiliation with other group members is crucial. Participants within the group must: ‘hold a perception that they are involved in a distinct cultural grouping and share feelings of identity with one another’. (www. subcultureslist.com, 2012).
A subjective feeling of identity from each member aids in establishing a strong and stable group. Without a sense of identity within a subculture, the distinctiveness needed to set it aside from the greater culture would be absent. The final indicator identified is autonomy: ‘while inevitably connected to the society and politicoeconomic system of which it is a part [the group in question], retains a relatively high level of autonomy. Most notably, a good proportion of the productive or organizational activities which underpin it are liable to be undertaken by and for enthusiasts.’ (www. subcultureslist.com, 2012). In other words, the group must be independent and in many ways self-governing, if possible, not completely depending on mainstream culture and instead creating its own means of functioning and prospering from its own productivity. These four factors assist in creating and defining various behavioural characteristics that the individual group members must abide to in order to create a coherent and consistent group, with beliefs and ideologies that clearly differentiate them from the larger hegemonic culture that they exist within. It is important to be aware that there remains a constant interplay between subcultures and the dominant culture that they ultimately belong to. There is usually a need for the subculture to adhere to basic cultural tendencies and laws in order to remain a subculture and not a counter culture. Generally, a subculture is seen to accept norms of the wider
society, whilst holding its own views and beliefs within this, however a counter culture te+nds to reject the ideologies and systems of the larger society, with their main purpose being to make a stand against what others consider to be the norm, with a view to getting others to change and adhere to their own particular outlooks and alter the larger society, not exist within it. What Makes Surfing a Subculture? In order to be able to define ‘surfing’ as a subculture an in depth look at how the group functions,and a number of other factors will be needed. To begin this exploration it is necessary to have an understanding of how, when and why the sport began. The History of Surfing The earliest roots of surfing have been dated back to before 400 AD where it has been speculated that Polynesians migrated to Hawaii by means of a very early version of a surf board (A Pictorial History of Surfing, Margan and Finney, 1970). However the first written account of surfing was taken by Lieutenant James King, who was made First Lieutenant on the Discovery following the death of Captain James Cook on their third expedition to the Pacific in 1779. He dedicated two pages of Cook’s journal to the description of the natives surfboard riding at Kealakekua Bay: ‘The Men sometimes 20 or 30 go without the Swell of the Surf, and lay themselves flat upon an oval piece of plan about their Size and breadth, they keep their legs close on top of it, and their Arms are us’d to guide the plank, thye wait the time of the greatest Swell that sets on Shore, & altogether push forward with their Arms to keep on its top, it sends them in with a most astonishing Velocity, and the great art is to guide the plan so as always to keep it in a proper direction on the top of the Swell, and as it alters its
direct. If the Swell drives him close to the rocks before he is overtaken by its break, he is much prais’d.’ (http://www.surfingforlife. com/history) It is evident that surfing in the pacific was an integral part of life, ingrained in all aspects of their culture from religion to a way of demonstrating skill and mastery over the waves. By the time of the Discovery’s arrival, there was already a deeply rooted history of surfing within Hawaiian culture and legend. Although the arrival of expeditions such as these saw the creation of surfing literature, it ultimately began the demise of surfing within its native environment. A significant reduction in the native population was bought about by the increase of ports that were being rapidly built around its coast in order to enable the income of Western ships filled with explorers, adventurers, captains, missionaries and various other opportunists. The new arrivals brought with them new technologies previously unseen by the natives, new languages (both spoken and written), along with new Gods and religions and possibly most importantly and more destructively new vices and diseases. These changes were extremely detrimental to the locals, causing a diminishing loyalty to the previous customs and ways of life that they had lived by for centuries. There was a monumental cultural clash between the settlers and the natives, with the new influx of Westerners causing the Kapu system (the ancient Hawaiian code of conduct of laws and regulations) crumbling and to a certain extent disappearing,
along with surfing’s ritual significance within the Hawaiian culture. Following this initial overhaul in their culture, the locals found themselves questioning their own beliefs, and were subsequently won over by travelling Christian missionaries (Finney and Housten, 1996). As a result of this, surfing was discouraged. It clashed with their new found beliefs; nudity, gambling and general neglect of Christian religious duties were involved in the activity, making a taboo, with missionaries even describing the pursuit as ‘evil’ (Finney and Housten, 1996). Western forces continued to cause a decline in the traditional Hawaiian culture and by the 19th Century, Hawaii had a new government, new lifestyles and a new Christian religion (Barr et al, 2005). It is no great surprise that despite its deeply rooted history, surfing struggled to survive during this turbulent time. However, despite its decline, surfing was not completely destroyed by Western encroachment. In the early 1900’s, there was a resurgence of interest in the sport and the preservation of its history. This occurred principally for two reasons. The first of which is the Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club, the second is Duke Kahanamoku. The Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club was established on 1st May 1908 by a group of surfing promoters in Honolulu by Ford, officially founded for the purpose of “preserving surfing on boards and in Hawaiian outrigger canoes.” The club became the first formal organisation whose aim it was to preserve surfing. Surprisingly, a number of the original members of the club had previously despised the Hawaiians traditions. However the club rapidly became an elitist club that insisted on a whitesonly membership. Not long after its
establishment, the club offered members facilities for dressing and a grass hut for board storage on the beach at Waikiki (Finney and Houston, 1996, p. 61.). This was an important move in the reawakening of surfing, according to surfer Tom Blake, who wrote the first book on surfing history nearly two decades later. The original charter of the Outrigger Canoe and Surfboard Club read: “We wish to have a place where surfboard riding may be revived and those who live away from the water front may keep their surfboards. The main object of this club being to give an added and permanent attraction to Hawaii and make the Waikiki beach the home of the surfrider.” (Bloom, J. and Willard, M. 2002 p.19) Within a few months of its establishment, the club had increased the interest in the sport significantly and the membership had grown to one thousand two hundred. The second predominant factor that assisted the revitalisation of surfing in its native Hawaii, as mentioned earlier, was Duke Kahanamoku. He was acknowledged as the worlds fastest swimmer as well as its foremost surfer. He gained his nickname as the ‘father of surfing’ by forming the surf club named ‘Hui Nalu’ or ‘The Club of The Waves’. Formed alongside his teenage friends, the club was credited as the first ‘modern’ surf club. It was created as a response to the Hawaiian Outrigger Canoe Club, as many Hawaiians resented the prejudice and discrimination displayed by the members. William “Knute” Cottrell , one of Kahanamoku’s contemporaries, described how he, along with other founding members, were ‘disgusted’
by offensive remarks made by Outrigger members. As previously described, the missionaries had destroyed the majority of the surfing culture. However Kahanamoku’s status within the swimming community, as an Olympian, allowed him to travel the world and in turn spread his enthusiasm and his style of surfing. His style generated positive attention across the US. In 1915, he went to Australia and is credited with beginning the popularity of the sport which now dominates the coast line of the country. Kahanamoku is now attributable as having been one of the worlds greatest and influential surfers and is hailed as one of the most important men in surfing history. The Modern Era of Surfing as a Subculture After surfing had resurfaced in Hawaii, a global spread of the activity ensued. America, Australia, Africa, France and England all became aware of surfing and embraced it in a variety of ways. Surfing began to emerge as a widely recognised subculture in California in the 1950’s/60’s, after a long period of social unrest caused by the Second World War. It has been observed that surfers were able to find freedom in the water and escapism on the beach where they could meet other like-minded surfers, drink freely and without judgement. It was as a result of these conditions that the surf movie industry was
created, allowing the media to express the ‘perfect’ view of the subculture, in turn creating more and more interest in the sport and the associated lifestyle. This was a crucial development in the development of surfing. The first, and arguably most important and boundary breaking film, was ‘Gidget’ (1959). The film was based on the true story of Kathy Kohner who embarked on learning how to surf despite being under the shadow of the male dominated local surfers. The film portrays young, attractive teenagers enjoying the fun of the surf and sun filled days in beautiful locations, a theme that repeats itself throughout the majority of surf based cinema. It is believed that ‘Gidget’: ‘...gave surfing its most memorable turn in the great American youth culture parade’ (Los Angeles magazine, 1994). George, S. examines the influence of this film in ‘The Next Wave - A Survey of World Surfing’, he suggests that it attributes to the rapid growth in interest in surfing and introducing a fad of people involved in the sport due to the associated aesthetics rather than to its true nature, that have been deep embedded in its history. However, ‘Gidgit’ does explore the marginalisation of women within surfing at this time, for a long time during the modern era of surfing, and still at present to a certain extent. Surfing has a fraternal structure and is largely dominated by males. This has become less so, but is still a prevalent issue within the subculture.
Films such as ‘Gidgit’ and other similarly themed films including; ‘Beach Party (1963)’, ‘Surf Party (1964) and ‘Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)’ were termed ‘beach party films’ by ‘true’ surfers, who often felt that these films had little to do with the authentic sport and culture of surfing. There was a feeling amongst surfers that these movies were there solely to cash in on the growing popularity of surfing among youth in the 1960s. In accordance to the popularity of such movies, surfing became hugely commercially viable for the first time, not just in the film industry. Other mediums saw the opportunity to gain from this new area of the market. It was at this time that Californian surf music initiated itself into the mainstream with the aid of bands such as The Beach Boys and The Surfaris. Their music not only reached those within the surfing scene but expanded and encompassed
a worldwide audience. The combination of surf films being based in California and the majority of surf music coming out of the same geographical area ultimately placed California at the centre of a distinctive and modern era of surfing as a subculture, the launch pad to a national and international spread of the lifestyle and behaviours of a surfer: ‘Fashion, music, commercialismsurfing in California started it all’ (George, 1991, p. 67) It is important at this point to note the point at which surfing evolved from a Hawaiian pursuit and spiritual endeavour into a competitive sport as well. This is a widely discussed topic and important in terms of this dissertation in order to keep a clear differentiation between each of these aspects. The definition of ‘sport’ is often contested and discussed against a variety of pursuits, including surfing. It is, however, largely acknowledged that sport must have an element of
competition and rewards based on performance as well as set guidelines to ensure a distinction between competitors. Explaining the rules of surfing can be more problematic to explaining those of a sport such as football. Whilst surf contests definitely have a competitive nature, there is no set of defined rules or a written document clarifying every detail of the sport. Usually competitions are observed by judges who mark the surfers individually on a scale of one to ten, based on a variety of factors, including: ‘a surfer’s ability to execute the most radical manoeuvres with speed, power, and flow in the most critical sections of a wave.’ (Gibran, www.bodhisurfschool.com/ is-surfing-a-sport, 2012) There is, however, a ‘surfer’s etiquette’; a number of ‘rules’ which surfers adhere to out of respect for those they share the water with. Surfing may be,, to a large
number of people, a pursuit that they are regularly engaged, rather than a sport. It can be seen that this is closer to the original form of surfing (although a competitive nature has always been perceived throughout its history). Many see surfing for monetary gain in the form of a sport as an opposition to the spiritual and free spirited nature often associated with the surfing lifestyle. For many, surfing is a way of living in harmony with nature, and to include money into this, diminishes the purity of the activity. As the focus of this dissertation is primarily on publications within the UK, it is necessary to look at surfing as a subculture here. There are a number of historical reports of the spread of surfing to the UK. It has been accounted that it reached England in part due to the high profile meeting of the Prince of Wales, Edward Albert and Duke
Kahanamoku in Hawaii in the early 1900’s. Kahanamoku taught the prince how to surf at this time which lead to the publication of an article aimed at British boys entitled ‘Surf Riding is Fine Fun’ (Barr et al, 2005). In Britain, the surfing subculture had to an extent been introduced in the first half of the 20th century, and continued to grow due to a number of intrigued and innovative individuals in the Channel Islands and Cornwall. These areas made use of the waters that surrounded them. Locals already used the sea as a form of enjoyment, surfing was just a new way to do so. The Surf Life Saving Association was established in Bude, Cornwall and were situated on a number of beaches to try to keep people safe in the waters. It brought with it lifeguards, often from Australia, who used surfboards to aid them in their rescues as well as for pleasure. The popularity of surfing gained momentum, as it did in California, in the 1960’s, when popular culture, as afore mentioned, spread globally. The already initiated activity of surfing combined with the reputation of people such as The Beach Boys integrated the skill needed in the water along with the teenage beach culture aesthetics of the US. Newquay in Cornwall, with is fortunate geographical positioning, influenced the spread and development of surfing in the nation and has since become the focus for surfing in the UK. A new identity and subculture was formed in the UK. New surf spots were discovered and an industry to build the equipment and associated items soon developed. In time, the whole of Britain’s
coastline receiving rideable waves was adopted by surfers. From the initial influx of the subculture in Britain, it is now estimated that 250,000 people in Britain go surfing annually. Britain may not immediately appear synonymous with surfing. Unlike Hawaii, Australia and California, the UK does not have the seemingly ‘ideal’ beach weather conditions, however the South-west coasts of the UK do benefit from the North Atlantic swell that regularly allows surfers to enjoy waves of up to 12 foot. The spread of the surfing culture presented a new commercial presence around the UK, carried along with the pursuit was a subcultural identity that presented itself within fashion, transport and a variety of other lifestyle choices. Surf clothing companies, such as Billabong, Gul (first seen in England in 1967), Fat Face, Hurley and Animal (which first appeared in 1987), have a vast number of stores across the UK, in inland as well as coastal locations, showing that the subculture has now spread beyond the actual activity and is thriving from the connotations that come with it. Since the beginning of the 1960’s a number of lifestyle magazines based around surfing have come into publication. After looking at surfing through its history and development through to the modern day and after gaining a concise idea as to what a subculture is, it is necessary to compare the two and see what aspects of surfing confirm that it is a subculture. The four previously discussed factors of a subculture included commitment, identity, distinctiveness and autonomy. There is an evident degree of commitment from a surfer in order to master the skill and dedicate a degree of their time to the water. A sense of identity can be gathered through the characterised clothing and brands/ logos warn by a vast majority of
people who class themselves as a surfer, as well as a shared apprehension of terminology and phrases surrounding the pursuit. Furthering this, it is apparent that people who describe themselves as surfers have a certain amount of distinctiveness within their appearance as well as their behaviours and lifestyle choices. There is unquestionably an impression of autonomy gained after research the surfing community. A number of organisations set up based around surfing including the Surf Life Saving Society and Surfers Against Sewage. Both of these are set up and run by surfers and on the whole benefit them specifically. All four of these factors are confirmed and constant within surfing and so in accordance to this, it is acceptable and reasonable to
term surfing as a subculture. It is important not to overlook the fact that the surfing subculture has been divided into different types of surfer in previous research. In this study, each area of the subculture will be taken into consideration, but unless stated the subculture will be looked at as a whole for the majority of the investigation. Briefly, the predominant types have been stated as the ‘Wannabe’, the ‘Soul Surfer’ and the ‘Sponsored Surfer’. Each of these different types of surfer have varying characteristics and behaviours which may be especially important to consider when designing specific publications for these groups, if one of these areas need to be addressed rather than another. In an interview (discussed in later greater depth) with James Wilkinson, designer of Wavelength magazine, he describes the sections of the subculture as such: ‘There are many cross sections,
just like in any subcultures. Wannabes, weekend warriors, DFL’s (down from London), sponsored, free surfers, groms, surf punks, retro, agro, the list is endless.’ (Wilkinson, J, 2012) Some of these areas of the surfing subculture have a more integrated and definable structure than other areas, for example ‘DFL’s’ may be less meticulous in their rituals and activities within the surfing community than a ‘Soul Surfer’ or a ‘Sponsored Surfer’ who are more likely to have a greater involvement and loyalty to the pursuit. The factors covered in this chapter will be considered throughout this study and will be a constant, underlying aspect. The early history and formation of the surfing community has undeniably shaped the state of the subculture in the present day and will inevitably affect the design of publications aimed towards the subculture.
Design Within Subcultures
efore de-constructing specific texts designed towards the surfing subculture, this chapter endeavours to take a more general overview of how designers ensure that a publication is well suited to a specific subcultural niche. A number of theories surrounding the topic will be analysed to discover how designers successfully appeal to the intended audience through the use of visuals. The first theory that will be look at in order to explain how designers appropriately match their design styles to the ideologies and subcultural values of the specific readership, is Roland Barthesâ€™ theory of semiotics. This focuses on visual signs that occur within societies and subcultures. In this theory Barthes emphasises that: â€˜Signs constitute culture and ideologies in specific ways... these messages are constituted in two ways: through denotation, the literal meaning and reference of a sign and/
or connotation, the meanings that are suggested or implied by the sign.â€™ (Nicholas Lockwood, Barthes Semiotic Theory, September 11th, 2001, online) It may be seen that the theory and description of sign systems within a culture, and in the context of this dissertation within subcultures, makes a fundamental assumption that symbolic systems are in place in a cultural function to serve the purpose of a second language or form of communication. The understanding of a visual sign system in printed texts allows an analytical examination of how it is received and interpreted by the viewer. Meanings can be infused within the imagery and design to mimic the structure of certain core values and ideological information that surround the day to day life of the intended consumer. It is crucially important to understand that semiotics are not natural occurrences, instead they are present due to formed and learned associations. Meaning is made through constructed symbolic partnerships and
activities that are rule-governed and embedded through the media. Individuals within a culture may have a greater or lesser knowledge of certain semiotic connotations due to their involvement in different areas. For example it is possible and probable that a semiotic code that is obvious to a surfer may be less familiar to someone who is not part of this subculture, as they are not exposed as frequently to the same codes of meaning. This issue of understanding cultural and subcultural signs is not a negative reflection of the sign system, instead it indicates the differences between greater cultures and the subcultural groups that exist inside it. A persons repertoire of understood and established codes indicates their position in a vast and complex society. The knowledge of symbols acquired throughout an individuals existence allows them to encode and decode meaning with the visuals and signs that they are in contact with. In the everyday use of semiotics and signs, various kinds of media combine to convey meaning to their target audience. In terms of subcultural audiences, a niche market is the point of reference. Often, the mediums used will overlap and meaning will be passed on and re-distributed in another form, for example, a magazine will usually have an online presence, a television show will be discussed within a written article or music may reflect current events and situations. In order for all these to infuse significance into their codes an understanding of their meaning must remain and increase. There is a constant system of sending, receiving and making meaning in various kinds of mediums, with the message often conveying and interpreting meaning for one form of text to another. This pattern of meaning-making suggests the presence of a larger inherited semiotic system which allows the creation of further social semiotics and subcultural semiotics, making them specific to various kinds of text and allows for situational contexts and culturally applicable activities. When looking at printed
publications aimed towards subcultures, semiotics are vital in order to provide meaning without stating the specifics. For those that the publication is aimed at, these codes will be their second language, and it is important for the designer of these publications to have a clear and in-depth understanding of these codes, even if they do not consider themselves as being a member of the subculture. Barthes emphasized the importance of photographs and visual signs within the formation of connotations. Images do not always need explaining to those they are intended for as an implied meaning is already established. Semiotics are a powerful communication tool for designers when used correctly, it is very important as it allows and understanding between signs, what they stand for in a particular concept and the people that must interpret them, the people the text is being designed for. A designer always strives to comm+unicate effectively with their intended audience and semiotics often allow this to be done successfully and succinctly. Semiotics are at the essence of a designers work, be it through associated colours, symbols or other signifiers. Outside of the complex set of factors that define certain signs, the designers work has little or no definition. It is audience specific, with the factors constantly changing as the audience evolves and develops. The deeper and better the understanding of these the designer has, the more effectively the text will communicate its intended meaning. The theory of semiotics also allows the designer to understand that their creations not only reflect the meanings that they intended to put into but also goes through the interpretation of the people who experience it. Meaning is not necessarily contained within the context it was originally formed with, it is not simply transmitted in its perfect form from one viewer to another, it is constantly and actively evolving, according to a complex interplay of systems and rules which the ma jority of the time we as a consumer (and sometimes as a producer) are oblivious to. The ability to become aware
when it comes to design for specific subcultures. There has long been a history of publications aimed at specific subcultures and niche markets, for example for surfers, skateboarders, indies, punks etc. Each of these target audiences had and continue to have individual requirements and expectations about what they want to see in a magazine, for example. Each niche audience will expect different visual styles to that of another subculture, which is in accordance to the learned semiotics each subculture will hold. For each respective subculture, their ideologies, beliefs and activities need to be well responded to in order to create a meaningful and effective publication. The principles of design are likely to still apply to every publication in one way or another, however it is how these rules are used (and sometimes broken, with deliberate effect) that differentiate these genres. The seven basic principles of design include: ‘Unity, gestalt, colour, space, hierarchy, balance and dominance’ (White, A, 2002) These elements are important throughout design in order to create an aesthetically appealing piece that communicates its message effectively, however it is the elements placed in these basic rules that make it suitable for a targeted audience. When looking at a number of different publications aimed at the same subculture, it is often observed that similar stylistic choices have been made in terms of colours, typographic style and layout. These are conscious decisions that hold connotations to the intended viewer, despite the fact that they may not be consciously aware or these, and are likely to not question there inclusion. However if these choices were made without the consideration of the consumer, and irrelevant signifiers were used as part of the design, the consumer is far more likely to be aware of it and question is position in the text. For example, the colour scheme used in a surfing magazine will often reflect the sea, with hues of blue
and green throughout the pages made by the designer, the photography and also the advertisements. If this colour scheme was then transferred to a magazine aimed at the ‘goth’ subculture, it would become out of place and not appropriate for the audience, who would be likely not to respond positively to this inconsistency. To further this, the importance of typography was explained by Hedbidge in Meaning of Style, where he is examining the punk subculture: ‘Even the graphics and typography used on record covers and fanzines were homologous with punk’s subterranean and anarchic style...’ (Hedbidge, D. 1979. p.112) This can also be applied to an extent to a variety of other subcultures and the magazines that they are represented in. The typographical style should reflect the audience well and be appropriate to a specific consumer. The differences between type faces used for a novel for example will usually serve a purpose of readability, whereas, in some case, it is appropriate for the font to draw attention to itself. In the case of publications for a subculture, it is often the semiotics of the font that holds importance, that reflects the ideals that are intended to be portrayed. Communication of a message is highly important, but as David Carson has stated: ‘Don’t mistake legibility for communication’ (Carson, D, TED, 2003) When looking at design within the context of subcultures, it may be necessary to take into consideration sociological viewpoints. Subcultural theory within sociology is usually applied to criminology and crime studies, however it may be seen that many aspects of it are applicable within subcultural design as well. Subcultural theory, in it’s latter stages, has attempted to understand and interpret the rudimentary problems involved in subcultures: ‘Mature subcultural theory attempts to deal with the fundamental problems of social analysis: how to relate the subjective meanings of actions to an objective assessment of their situation, how to relate the individual actions to
the values of his or her group, how to relate the macro-structure of society to the microcosm of human action, how to understand the voluntarism of human action in determinate circumstances...â€™ (Young, J, Sub-Cultural Theory, 2012, ) It is important, when designing for subcultures, to apply these points in order to create a piece that effectively conveys a message or information. It is important for the designer to have an understanding of these aspects to create a successful and attractive element. To summarise, when designing a magazine for a subculture, it is vital to take into consideration semiotic codes that will be previously ingrained into the subconscious of the individual members of the subculture, it is also important to consider that even within the wider group, there are sub-genres that must be accounted for, including, as explored earlier, the different types of surfer (which include the Wannabe, the Soul Surfer and the Sponsored Surfer) as well as differences in gender and geographical positioning. It is also essential to consider sociological aspects throughout the design process to ensure a suitable design is created.
T h e I nf l u en c e of
DavidCarson T his chapter intends to look at the influence that graphic designer, David Carson, has had on magazine designs and their designers, including his affect on typographic style and layouts with a specific aim towards the surfing subculture. A number of pieces of Carson’s design work will be analysed and de-constructed in terms of previously mentioned theories, including semiotics as well as conventional rules of design, including hierarchy, unity and gestalt. Along with this analysis, a comment being made on its effectiveness in communicating to the intended audience. Carson himself has a deep ingrained history in the surfing subculture, having once held the accolade of being the worlds 9th highest ranked professional surfer. Throughout his career, Carson has worked on a number of publications aimed at the surfing subculture, ranging from his early design work on Surfer magazine through to creating an advertisement for Quicksilver and to his more recent work designing a logo for surfing website Magic Seaweed. Despite not setting out to for a career as a designer, Carson has had a great impact on the world of graphic design. His controversial innovations in editorial typography and his provocative art direction have made him infamous amongst designers. On the whole, prior to Carson, typography was not intended to be noticed within a design, it was not meant to draw the viewers attention away from the actual text and articles and instead was used as a more passive way to present information. At the time, Carson was criticised by the predominant modernist design movement that saturated a large quantity of designers style choices. Paul Rand, a designer at the forefront of modernist design, criticised the work of Carson as it contradicted his version of perfect design. Carson controversially swayed the balance between aesthetic form and the function of readability in communication. His typographic interpretations of editorial content marked a turning point in the history of graphic design. Without his experimental divergence from established design practices, Carson’s work may not have achieved the notoriety that helped
to elevate him to an elite status within the international design community along with giving him a greater presence in surfing subcultures by keeping him in print within this area. In Matt Warsaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfng, Carson makes an appearance, showing his impact not only on the graphic design world but also within the surfing subculture: ‘Audacious graphic designer from Southern California, best known in the surf world for his jarring but innovative 1991 redesign of Surfer magazine... featuring compressed text; mismatched font size; chopped, scratched, cut and mixed type; and radically cropped photos.’ (Warsaw M, 2005, p. 113) As well as being recognised for his work within surfing literature, Carson receives critical approval in Philip Meggs’ The History of Graphic Design; ‘Carson eschewed grid formats and consistant layout or typographical patterns; instead he chose to explore the expressive possibilities of each subject and each page or spread, rejecting the conventional notions of typographic syntax, visual hierarchy and imagery.’ (Meggs, P, 1998, p. 461) He notes that being featured in both these texts was one of his most proud moments. (Huck Magazine
interview, 2011, Issue 24). Carson’s style of design has not always been well received but it has undeniably had an effect upon the rules and expectations of what graphic design should be. It has been stated that: ‘David Carson read the handbook of ‘good’ graphic design. The he tore it up. Rewrote the rules and found a way to leave his mark.’ (Huck Magazine interview, 2011, Issue 24) Carson’s experimental style has been seen in a number of publications aimed at the surfing subculture as well as a number of other publications often aimed at other subcultures, especially aimed at skateboarders and music fans. When questioned on what was important when designing a new magazine cover, article or website by Layers magazine, Carson replied with: ‘Who is the audience, what is that audience’s visual language, what type of things are they seeing? How can you communicate and reinforce visually what is written or spoken, and how can you stand out from the competition in that particular field?’ (Carson. D, Layers Magazine, 2007) This shows that he has an awareness about the necessity to match his work to an audience, despite commonly working in a controversial way. As seen throughout this dissertation the need to focus on the audience is especially important when it comes to designing for a subculture in order to communicate the intended message effectively and efficiently. The understanding of the theory of semiotics is evident in this quote from Carson; he clearly has a perception of the importance of reinforcing through visuals what is communicated through the written word. When looking at Carson’s work, a broad range of his portfolio must be regarded and evaluated in terms of its effectiveness of communicating a message as well as its aesthetic appeal. The first example of Carson’s work that will be evaluated is his first recognised exploit into editorial design aimed at the surfing subculture (Fig. 1), Beach Culture magazine (1989-1991). This magazine began its run as an annual Surfer Style publication for Surfer magazine, however it soon changed its name, frequency and associations and became a magazine in its own right. His work on Beach Culture won him “Best Overall Design” and “Cover of the Year” from the Society of Publication Designers in New York. Carson’s layouts aimed to reflect the content but in a non-conventional way, which challenged people conceptions of good graphic design and the importance of legibility. On one spread (Fig 2.) Carson explains his choice of typography due to the title of the article ‘Hanging at Carmine Street’, he is said to have been inspired to ‘hang some type’ as a response. In this example, Carson disregards accepted rules of design on
this piece. The grid system is replaced by a haphazard text and letter placement. The font however is still readable, and Carson’s style has been noted in engaging the reader to respond and interact with the text rather than passively accept it. In terms of being suitable in conveying its message to the target audience, the colour scheme is representative of water whilst the shape formed from the letter and text positioning could be seen to reflect the movement and shape of swimming. The title of this article takes up the majority of the space on this spread, with the photograph being second place, and the actual article taking the lowest place in the hierarchical, albeit irregular, layout. These factors are commonly seen throughout Carson’s work, to varying degrees of success. Beach Culture only ran for 6 issues an thus implies that Carson’s design style, as well as the textual content, may not have been completely appropriate to its audience. The next example of Carson’s work that will be explored is his logo design for Magic Seaweed (Fig 3). Despite not being produced for usage within a printed publication, it is still a relevant example to look at as it must respond to the needs and values of a very similar target viewer. ‘The logo that David has designed is firmly rooted in the aesthetics of the ocean. For instance, in David’s own words, the ‘s’ helps to create the motion of the sea, even the fold of a wave. The logo also has practical aspects “ it is recognisable both up close and from a distance, and is useable in all sizes. According to David, placing one letter on its side brings a pleasant tension, drawing the viewer into the logo and the site… making MagicSeaweed even more recognisable as the unique resource that it is.’ (www.magicseaweed.com, 2007) This logo is more conventional than some of Carson’s other design work. The intended message is communicated effectively and fairly precisely, despite the fact that he has decided to place one of the letters on its side. Carson’s understanding of the audience and purpose of the logo is evident and the design may well have been influenced by his personal history with surfing and the sea, as he has an in built knowledge of the subject and semiotics involved (the shapes of the letters representing the movement of the sea). The final sample of Carson’s work that will be explored within this chapter is a series of advertisements for Quicksilver (2011), a surfing clothing and equipment brand/company (Fig. 4,5,). These advertisements were intended for use within surfing publications and other printed editorials. The graffiti like style of these adverts are very vivid, bold and eyecatching. On each of the designs, the Quicksilver logo
is not as prominent in size or dominance, and on some does not feature at all, as may be expected for an editorial advertisement. This is fairly typical of what is expected of Carson’s design due to use previous work. The advertisements use visual codes to explain what is being sold to the audience, instead of showing images of the actual products or through written descriptions. This again shows the need for semiotics and the necessity for the designer to have a grasp of the audiences, and in this case the subcultural groups, specific visual codes of understanding. In terms of design balance, these designs do not necessarily fit into the normal rules of design, Alex White, in his book The Elements of Graphic Design, describes balance in design within three categories. The category that these designs fit most suitably with is mosaic design, which is described by White as usually containing too much information or visuals and often lacks hierarchy and a unified message, leaving the design looking ‘noisy’. This may be a problem when designing certain elements however, in this case, it seems to be a suitable and effective way to communicate and present the intended message and increase the awareness to the brand. Carson’s style has changed and developed over his career as can be seen in his 2008 work for Bark; a kayak products company (Fig. 6). Although not aimed at surfers,it is aimed at a similar target audience and as such valid comparisons can be gathered. These designs are far less haphazard and busy than a vast amount of Carson’s previous work, however typography is still a vital factor in the visuals, and although disjointed in areas, is effective in encouraging the reader to engage with the advertisement in order to gain the intended meaning. Throughout this chapter, an understanding has been gained of the design style and influence of David Carson. A fairly comprehensive perception of the design process that Carson goes through when creating his work has been developed and will be considered when looking at his work in comparison to other designers work and way of working in the following chapter.
Carson’s style has
n this chapter, a number of publications aimed at the surfing subculture will be examined. At first instance a broad overview will be preformed and will cover a variety of texts, not necessarily from the UK, in order to acquire a basic understanding of the key design features of a surfing publication, this section will include such publications as SurfGirl, Cutback and Pit Pilot. As well as this a predominant section on two in depth case studies from UK based magazines Carve and Wavelength will be present. An understanding will be gained into how these publications successfully or unsuccessfully communicate to the targeted subculture. In order to do this, each publication will be deconstructed and examined in terms of the use of particular design features with consideration placed specifically on the layout, typographical elements and the use of photographic imagery. As previously mentioned, there are a number of theories that will be analysed in accordance with the publications in questions to gain an understanding into to their validity in the context of this dissertation. This will be done to discover whether there are common attributes that ensure these publications reach the target audience effectively or whether the design may challenge conventions and if so to what effect? As well as this analysis, a comparison will be drawn on the likeness and aesthetic influence of the design work of David Carson. Due to Carson’s dominance in the graphic design world and his recognition within the surfing subculture, the aim is to see how far his influence spreads. The initial aspect of this chapter will be to briefly examine a few publications printed around the world, this is to form a wider understanding before focusing more definitely on UK based magazines. Firstly, the publication SurfGirl will be analysed. This magazine is: ‘Britain’s most widely-read surf and beach lifestyle publication for women. As the first independent magazine for women’s surfing in the UK, it is a huge milestone for the sport... aimed at women of all ages and abilities who are into surfing and surf culture.’ (www. surfgirlmag.com, 2012)
As discovered in previous chapters, the surfing subculture has historically been male dominated. This magazine, however, aims to target women, a specific sub genre within the wider subculture of surfing, and as such must use visual codes, along with its content to attract the correct audience. When comparing it visually to other surf magazines there is an immediately noticeable difference. The cover image of issue 29 (see fig. 7) bares a resemblance to female teen lifestyle magazines; the image presents a young smiling surfer girl, immaculately presented, carrying her surfboard with the sea in the background. Arguably, this image is an unrealistic portrayal of the physically demanding and challenging pursuit. When surveyed about this image, a number of surfers expressed that they did not feel connected with this image and felt that it did not portray well what surfing and the surfing subculture is to them. They also mentioned that the image would not encourage them to purchase or read the rest of the magazine. In terms of design features, there is an element of hierarchy presented with the use of typography and font size as well as colour, this is necessary when creating a printed when guiding the reader through the presented information, a convention often broken or distorted by Carson. This cover does not portray an obvious influence of Carson’s style, however when looking at the cover of issue 34, it could be said that the image draws heavily from Carson’s design style. On this cover the use of photography is very different (see fig. 8). Despite being from the same publication, the portrayal of surfing and thus the associated subculture is far removed from the fig. 7. This image can be compared to the design attitude of Carson: ‘Surfing is an experimental sport practiced by some very experimental people... I wanted the layouts to reflect some of this same attitude’ (Carson, D, Trek) Although this is likely not to be a direct influence from Carson, the idea
behind the image was to express the individuality of a surfer and how surfing is important to them. In this way, it seems that there is a likeness between the visual decisions portrayed here and Carson’s previous statement. Surfgirl magazine described this cover image as a way to tie in with a particular article: ‘For our latest cover and to tie in with this issue’s ‘I Surf’ article we’ve covered Laura Crane in writing, with pretty impressive results!’ (www.surfgirlmag.com, 2011). Throughout this magazine the design and layout choices vary to a degree in their styles, with some containing an essence of Carson by mimicking a number of his layouts or the way he uses fonts to create meaning rather than solely be a vehicle for a message or through smaller aspects of his design (be it via conscious decisions or due to learned semiotic codes and practices). The second example that will be briefly analysed is Pit Pilot magazine; ‘Pitpilot captures all that is surfing in Britain. This is dished up as a feast of straight to the point articles and eye catching photography, served with hideous spelling, a side order of skateboarding.’ (www.newquaysfinest.co.uk, 2012) At first glance (Fig. 9), the cover design holds a number of similarities to the design style of Carson. The bold and obtrusive font type is reminiscent of a Carson’s work during his time at Ray Gun. However this may not be beneficial in terms of appealing to the surfing subculture. When preforming the aforementioned questionnaire, each person questioned explained that this font did not appeal to them and they felt it detracted from the photograph and did not suit the genre successfully. The logo used on the front cover of this publication does not have strong connotations with surfing nor with the title of the magazine and as such does not reinforce any semiotic codes to the reader. When looking at the inner spreads of this magazine, Carson’s design style is still very much evident (Figs. 10, 11). The layout may use a grid structure and a hierarchical composition, but the typography utilised remains in the
illustrious style of Carson. Imitating the motion of water and waves, the titles on these pages are more appropriate for the surfing subculture than the cover image. As with all publications aimed at surfers, the photography tends to take precedence on the page. The majority of surfing publications rely heavily on the imagery and this is something that surfers reading these publications look for, as discovered through the questionnaire preformed, unlike some of Carson’s work, it seems that it is necessary to allow the photography to speak for itself and not be overwhelmed by other design features. Cutback magazine (Figs. 12,13, 14) is a free Spanish publication, also aimed at the surfing subculture, whose name (which is in English despite the rest of the publication being in Spanish) automatically connects to the readership, as it is a surfing term for a certain manoeuvre involving repositioning the surfer closer to the power of the wave. This would not be a commonly known phrase outside of the context of the subculture, but is very suitable for this use. The design style of this publication varies from issue to issue, but the pursuit is always at the forefront of the design. Visual codes and semiotics are used throughout to reinforce the subcultural values and beliefs of surfers. Once looking at the design of the spreads inside the magazine it is evident that, again, photography is prominent and crucial. The layouts focus on these images with the colour scheme reflecting the sea and the importance of nature to a surfer. The typography does not distract from the images, but each of the titles are designed in a style that is complimentary and appropriate to the article. The layout of Cutback’s spreads and covers are unified and gestalt. In the next section of this chapter, two in depth case studies will be examined. The first of which will be on, as explained earlier, Carve magazine. Carve Magazine Case Study Carve magazine is a British based magazine that has now been running for
131 issues. Published by Orcasurf publications, who also develop SurfGirl Magazine and Threesixty Bodyboarding Magazine, it describes itself as: ‘Britains leading surfing magazine. All the latest surfing news, competitions, photos, videos, interviews, magazine preview, travel tips, music, and much more .. (www. aboutus.org, 2012) The magazine is renowned for its photographic imagery as well as its balanced and aesthetically attractive design. In this case study, the magazine will be examined in terms of the stated rules of design, the influence of David Carson as well as it’s effectiveness in communicating to the target audience, the members of the surfing subculture. Firstly, a recent cover design of the magazine will be deconstructed. Issue 130 (Fig. 15) uses a distinctive and unusual photograph that explores surfing from an unusual angle. The photograph is the key focal point of the cover with the title of the magazine and other typographical aspects being secondary, yet still easily visible and with an appropriate degree of importance. The typographic style does not perturb the balance of the design, instead its simplicity suits the beauty of the photography and communicates its message clearly to the target audience. The typeface choice for the magazine title ‘Carve’ is a sans serif font that suits the style of the magazine well. The curves of the lettering may be interpreted as mimicking the curve of a wave, or the movement of a surfer through the water, this is a design feature that contains semiotic codes, that will be passed through to the target audience and reinforced with every issue. Another cover design that effectively communicates to the intended target audience of the surfing subculture, is issue 128 (Fig. 16). Again this cover focuses on the photograph, with the text being secondary. However this image is presented in greyscale and thus breaks from the regular colour scheme seen on surfing magazines (varying hues of blues and greens). The font then contrasts with this in a shade of red that is not commonly seen on this genre. This does
not contradict the image however and instead compliments and draws attention to the design, by dropping the opacity of the red within this design it allows the image to show through, creating unity and balance, which has been noted as being an important aspect of design. In terms of how successfully Carve’s cover designs communicate with the intended reader, it is evident that the designs have been created in a considered and competent manner and in turn appeals efficiently to the target audience. Next, a double page spread that featured in the most recent publication, issue 131 (Fig. 17) will be examined. This spread bares great resemblance to a previously analysed spread from Pit Pilot (Fig. 11). Not only is the photograph used very similar in terms of composition, colour and magnitude within the page design but the font is also nearly identical. Disregarding the possibility that this design has been plagiarised or highly inspired by one or another, the fact that these spreads are very similar to each other may demonstrate that it is an effective design style in communicating to the surfing subculture. The fonts used in both these designs resemble the movement of water ripples, making it appropriate for both magazines when considering the content and target audience. The importance of the image on the page is reflective of the importance held on the actual pursuit to the readers. The image is specifically relatable to the target consumers who hold the imagery within high regards, possibly higher than the contents of text. This type of layout is befitting to a variety of sections within the surfing subculture, it gives the ‘wannabe surfers’ an image to aspire to whilst the ‘soul surfers’ are given the opportunity to view a scene that they may affiliate themselves with. When considering Carson’s influence on the design features of Carve magazine there is a degree of similarity, but to a lesser extreme than Carson’s original designs within this subject area. The use of typography to stand out away from the article or other imagery is visible within Carve magazines spreads, however it
is done in a more subtle and seemingly more controlled way than Carson used in his early work (see Fig. 2). In some ways it could be seen that Carson’s style could have been an influence to page designs such as in issue 122 (Fig. 18). The integration of the photography, the typography used in the title and the layout of the article is not just simply in a grid format but instead is shaped and incorporated within each other. Semiotics are evident throughout the design of this magazine and as can be seen here even the shape of the font used in the article title, specifically the letter ‘A’, is akin to the shape of a wave. Those within the surfing subculture are likely to pick up on this, despite it perhaps be subconsciously, and associate themselves and their favoured pursuit and lifestyle to this. Overall it is evident that the design of Carve magazine is well designed in order to cogently reach its target audience, those who are a enthusiast of surfing and/or class themselves as a surfer, a member of the surfing subculture. Its visual appeal is based on its effective use of layout, with a mix of conventional grid formats and more interesting layouts that reflect the content and imagery surrounding it. Carson’s influence can be argued to be seen to a certain extent as similarities can be drawn in various aspects throughout the magazine, however it is far more subdued and consistent to a lot of Carson’s creations. Wavelength Magazine Case Study The final case study being undertaken in this dissertation is on the surfing publication Wavelength magazine. Wavelength is described on advertising. thisiscornwall.co.uk as: ‘World-class photography combined with fresh, reliable and entertaining coverage of surfing in Britain & Ireland has become the trademark of Wavelength Surf Magazine. Wavelength is the longest running surf magazine in Britain & Ireland, and has shaped and developed surfing since 1981. Whether it’s British and Irish surfers, on their home turf, or around the world, we continue to inform, entertain and inspire our readers. With a 34%* share of the surf mag market...’
(advertising. thisiscornwall.co.uk. 2012) It is stated in the magazines media pack that Wavelength’s core readership is of people aged between 15-34 years with 90.1% of those spending £500 per year on surf styled clothing and a further 80.2% spending £500 on associated surf equipment, which shows their readership is immersed in the expected activities involved in the surfing subculture, placing them well within the previously discussed behaviours of the subculture. The magazine covers the wide range of people involved in the surfing subculture and recognises that there are difference in behaviours and beliefs towards surfing: ‘Both male and female - Ranging from those key influencers at the cutting edge of the surfing scene, right the way through to those who are more mainstream wanting to be associated with the whole surf Lifestyle.’ (advertising.thisiscornwall.co.uk. 2012) To gain an in depth understanding as to how and why Wavelength magazine is designed in the way that it is, an interview was executed with the designer of the publication, James Wilkinson. A number of questions were asked in the hope to of getting an informed and considered view of a designer who is at the forefront of art direction for surfing publications. Wilkinson has been a designer for a variety of magazines and for an assortment of genres as well as target audiences and as such has developed an understanding for the need to design with a specific readership in mind. Being a surfer himself, just as Carson is, he has the advantage of being able to immerse himself in the subculture in order to match the designs to the readers tastes and needs. The design of Wavelength magazine is proven to be effective as it holds 34% of the market share of surfing publications sold throughout the UK by WHSmiths (Fig 19) (WHSmiths EPOS data - surfing magazines sales - W/E 31/05/08). When looking at Wavelength’s earliest cover designs (Fig 20), it is evident that there has been a development of style and quality in comparison to its current appearance. The original cover is heavily graphic based, with
mismatched fonts, unbalanced imagery and a lack of gestalt. Presently, and as a result of comprehensive target audience surveying, Wavelength is, as mentioned previously, a photography driven publication: ‘We conduct a reader survey every year to ensure our readers voices are heard …and to ensure we deliver what they want. It provides us with a comprehensive profile to help guide our editorial...’ (advertising.thisiscornwall.co.uk, 2012) The layouts of Wavelength magazine now have an essence of simplicity and allow the images to stand out without overshadowing them with graphics. ‘We are photo led and we have a benchmark in the photographic quality, so a lot of the visual communication comes from the in house photographers (Greg [Martin] and Ben [Selway]). The features are laid out with input from everyone really and we try and balance it from there. We try to have a simple clean layout, we have moved away from mental graphics to a more photo journal style… Style is everything.’ (Wilkinson, J, 2012) It appears that Carson’s erratic and busy style seen in his early work has been bypassed by Wilkinson, in favour of a more uncomplicated and cleaner appearance seen in Carson’s work for Bark (Fig. 6). A degree of influence of Carson’s illustrious style can be perceived in a vast amount of the typography used within Wavelengths current layouts, specifically for articles titles or other stand alone areas of text. When interviewed, Wilkinson expressed his preference for ‘clean and simple layouts’ as he believes them to be more effective in terms of designing for the surfing subculture. He acknowledged the importance of understanding the audience that is being targeted: ‘At work I’m a designer first and foremost, but knowledge of the culture is important’ (Wilkinson J, 2012) As analysed previously, it is vital to have an understanding of this when
using semiotics and visual codes in order to communicate a message effectively as well as appealing in aesthetic terms. When examining a specific layout, specifically provided by Wilkinson as he feels it is one of his most effective pieces (Fig. 21). In this layout, without the need to read the words, the content of the article is being communicated visually. Despite being a combination of images, they make up one whole representation of what is being depicted. To the target demographic, the shape of a surf board is automatically recognisable, something that may not be so obvious to those who are not part of the subculture and as such could be considered a semiotic code as described by Barthes. The simplicity of Wilkinson’s designs are particularly evident in a spread that uses a very plain font, with no capitalisation, placed over a dramatic image of a surfer on a wave (Fig. 22). This spread demonstrates Wilkinson’s ability to communicate a message in a very uncomplicated yet potent way. The kerning of the letters is slightly unusual and thus draws the eye to it effectively, a skill that Carson often puts into effect. This particular spread represents surfing in a very primitive way. The title ‘I surf because...’ coupled with the powerful photograph emphasizes the surfers desire to surf in order to be physically present in the water and in nature as well as developing and utilising skills. It is possible for each individual who views this to draw their own reasons as to why they surf, making it an engaging piece of design. When looking at recent cover design (Fig. 22), simplicity is again the key. Throught its history, the magazines logo has transformed into a far more suitable design, reflective of the activity in its shape and texture. Readdressing the influence of David Carson, it is important to acknowledge that Wilkinson stated that he was a fan of Carson’s work, in particular Ray Gun. Wilkinson explained that he did not feel directly influenced by any one designer, and instead takes inspiration from what is around him, in print, nature or anywhere else, a quality that Carson himself engages
with. It seems that it is possible that even indirectly, Carson has had an effect on they style of Wavelength’s designs by being at the forefront of both graphic design and surfing. When questioned on whether or not he agreed with Carson’s view that was previously discussed: ‘Don’t mistake legibility for communication.’ Wilkinson replied with: ‘colour, shape and form can all be used to create communication with text/art without writing a legible word.’ (Wilkinson, J. 2012) In terms of being an effective representation of the surfing subculture as a whole (encompassing a variety of sections and both males and females), specifically within the UK, its popularity, as well as comments received about it from the questionnaire that was carried out, deem it to be particularly successful. This is due to a number of reasons, of which design and art direction holds a large part.
hroughout the course of this dissertation a number of areas have been covered and analysed. A comprehensive perception into the term subculture and how this categorisation is applied to surfing has been gained, with an understanding into the sociological implications of the structure and behaviours of the surfing subculture. The history and development of the subculture has been taken into consideration in order to understand why there are publications aimed at this niche market as well as how well they have been catered for and represented within this area. Overall it appears that the majority of the subculture is well provided for, with the individual genres of the subculture being addressed in different ways, through the advertising, design styles and issues covered within the articles. However the least successfully targeted area of the surfing subculture is females. Despite individual publications being aimed at females it has been discovered throughout the research of this dissertation that female surfers do not feel that these magazines are completely appropriate and a good representation of what surfing is to them. As this is the case, it seems necessary for publications aimed towards female surfers to be re-evaluated in
terms of how they visually appeal to, and more specifically represent, females within their issues. It is evident throughout the case studies section of this dissertation that the theory of semiotics is particularly apt and is used constantly by designers in order to convey meaning through visual codes and signifiers. An effective design style will utilise semiotics that are known, predominantly, exclusively within the surfing subculture in order to make the reader feel adequately reflected by and effectively communicated to, even before reading the articles. Typography has repeatedly been noted as an essential aspect of design within surfing related publications in order to engage the reader as well as convey meaning and aesthetic appeal. There is also immense value placed on the need for high quality and powerful photographic images. The influence of David Carson can be seen to a certain degree throughout this investigation, in particular in terms of typographic style used for articles titles etc and by not complying to the conventional grid format. However despite his standing within graphic design, it is evident that his extreme and iconic style may be too juxtaposed and may not communicate completely efficiently to the intended audience.
...an effective design style will utilise semiotics
Appendices Illustrations Fig. 1 Beach Culture Cover
Fig. 4, 5, Quicksilver Advertisements
Fig. 2 Fig. 6 Beach Culture Spread David Carson: Bark
Fig. 3 MagicSeaweed Logo
Fig. 7 SurfGirl Magazine Cover
Fig. 8 SurfGirl Magazine Cover Issue 34
Fig. 9 Pit Pilot Cover
Fig. 10 Pit Pilot Spread
Fig. 11 Pit Pilot Spread
Fig. 12 Cut Back Magazine Issue 3
Fig. 13 Cut Back Magazine Issue 8
Fig. 14 Cut Back Magazine Spread from Issue 3
Fig. 15 Carve Magazine Cover Issue 130
Fig. 18 Carve Magazine Spread from Issue 122
Fig. 16 Carve Magazine Cover Issue 128 Fig. 19 WHSmiths EPOS data surfing magazines sales W/E 31/05/08 Fig. 17 Carve Magazine Spread Issue 131 Fig.20 Wavelength Issue 1
Fig. 21 Wavelength Spread
Fig. 22 Wavelength Spread
Fig. 23 Wavelength Cover January 2012.
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Published on Jun 12, 2013