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David Carson

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David Carson (graphic designer)

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David Carson is an American graphic designer. He is best known for his innovative magazine design, and use of experimental typography. He was the art director for the magazine Ray Gun. Carson is almost universally acknowledged as the greatest and certainly the most influential graphic designer of the nineties. In particular, his widely-imitated aesthetic defined the so-called "grunge" era.



1 Biography

2 Career

3 Publications

4 Awards

5 Bibliography

6 External links


He was born in 1956 in Palos Verdes, California. Carson and his family moved to New York City four years later. Since then he has traveled all around the world but has maintained New York as his base of operations. Carson now owns two studios; one in New York and another in Charleston, South Carolina.

Because of his father, Carson traveled all over America, Puerto Rico, and the West Indies. These journeys affected him profoundly and the first signs of his talent were shown at a very young age; however, his first actual contact with graphic design was made in 1980 at the University of Arizona on a two week graphics course. he attended San Diego St. Univeristy as well as Oregon College of Commercial Art. Later on in 1983, Carson was working towards a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology when he went to Switzerland, where he attended a three-week workshop in graphic design as part of his degree. This is where he met his first great influence, who also happened to be the teacher of this course, Hans-Rudolph Lutz.


During the period of 1982-1987, Carson worked as a teacher in Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, California. In 1983, Carson started to experiment with graphic design and found himself immersed in the artistic and bohemian culture of Southern California. By the late eighties he had developed his signature style, using "dirty" type and non-mainstream photography. He would later be dubbed the "father of grunge."

Carson went on to become the art director of Transworld Skateboarding magazine. Among other things, he was also a professional surfer and in 1989 Carson was qualified as the 8th best surfer in the world. His career as a surfer helped him to direct a surfing magazine, called Beach Culture. This magazine lasted for three years but, through the pages of Beach Culture, Carson made his first significant impact on the world of graphic design and typography with ideas that were called innovative even by those that were not fond of his work. From 1991-1992, Carson worked for Surfer magazine. A stint at How magazine (a trade magazine aimed at designers) followed, and soon Carson launched Ray Gun, a magazine of international standards which had music and lifestyle as its subject. Ray Gun made Carson very well-known and attracted new admirers to his work. In this period, journals such as the New York Times (May 1994) and Newsweek (1996) featured Carson and increased his publicity greatly. In 1995, Carson founded his own studio, David Carson Design in New York City, and started to attract major clients from all over the United States. During the next three years (1995-1998), Carson was doing work for Pepsi Cola, Ray Ban (orbs project), Nike, Microsoft, Budweiser, Giorgio Armani, NBC, American Airlines and Levi Strauss Jeans.

From 1998 on, DCD started an international career and worked for a variety of new clients, including AT&T, British Airways, Kodak, Lycra, Packard Bell, Sony, Suzuki, Toyota, Warner Bros., CNN, Cuervo Gold, Johnson AIDS Foundation, MTV Global, Princo, Lotus Software, Fox TV, Nissan, quiksilver, Intel, Mercedes-Benz, MGM Studios and Nine Inch Nails.

In 2000, Carson opened a new personal studio in Charleston, South Carolina. During this period, Carson became a father, a fact that affected his design and work. In 2004, Carson became the Creative Director of Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston and designed the special "Exploration" edition of Surfing Magazine and directed a television commercial for UMPQUA Bank in Seattle, Washington.

Carson became interested in a new school of typography and photography-based graphic design, which came from the academic explorations of Edward Fella at Cranbrook Academy of Art and California Institute of the Arts. Carson is largely responsible for popularizing the style, and was an inspiration for a generation of young designers coming of age in the 1990's. His work does not follow "traditional" graphic design standards (as espoused by an older generation of practitioners



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