David Carson

David Carson is a great example of a designer who has developed a unique style that is so well trained anyone can tell a Carson design at first glance. He was one of the most popular and influential graphic designers of the 1990s and was imitated by designers throughout the world as his style defined the grunge typography era. He wanted readers to do some work to read the type and this resulted in obscure typography and random placements of letters.  His layouts featured distortions or mixes of ‘vernacular’ typefaces and fractured imagery, rendering them almost illegible. Indeed, his maxim of the ‘end of print’ questioned the role of type in the emergent age of digital design, following on from California New Wave and coinciding with experiments at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. In the later 1990s he shifted from ‘surf subculture’ to corporate work for Nike, Levis, and Citibank.

Surfing is a big part of Carson’s life and it has played a great role on his design career. It is one of the reasons for his motivation and success to direct and design various surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding magazines, websites, ads and products like Quiksilver, Burton, SURFportugal, TwSkateboarding and more.

What is so interesting about David Carson is how he goes out of his way to experiment and to take risks and thus, creates unique designs. By breaking all the rules of graphic design he gains major success in his career and inspires and influences graphic designers worldwide, who admire, follow and imitate him. David Carson became best known for his designs for Ray Gun which was the peak of his design career and he started attracting many new admirers to his work. He was once asked to design an article about an interview with Bryan Ferry, which he found to be very dull and boring, so he typed the whole article in Zapf Dingbats.

Grunge StyleTypography

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 photographic techniques. He would later be dubbed the “father of grunge.” This particular art movement became more and more popular during the 1990s. It appeared to be a very messy and chaotic kind of design. Words, textures, backgrounds that formed posters and ads for various things were designed in a very interesting and different typography style. A style called Grunge that became ubiquitous throughout the years and it became the largest, most widespread movement in recent design history.


David Carson’s Work
Design History David Carson
An Interview with David Carson
David Carson Design
AIGA Design Winner

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