David Carson – ‘The Father of Grunge’

Grunge Typography

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

One of the most important things about Graphic Design and Design in general is style. David Carson is a great example for a designer who has developed his own unique style which is so well trained, that anyone can tell a Carson design at a first glance. He was one of the most popular and influential graphic designers of the 1990s. He was imitated by designers throughout the world and his style defined the grunge typography era.

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David Carson

Whilst being a designer, and an art director, graphic design was not Carson’s primal career path. He graduated with a degree in sociology and started teaching while training to be a professional surfer. He started experimenting with graphic design in the early 1980′s. With surfing being a general part of Carson’s life, 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, etc.

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The Magazine Factory, London, 2013

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The Magazine Factory, London, 2013

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The Magazine Factory, London, 2013

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The Magazine Factory, London, 2013

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Designed and art directed by David Carson, SURFportigal magazine, August 2012

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Designed and art directed by David Carson, SURFportigal magazine, August 2012

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Magazine design by David Carson, Surfing Florida: A photographic history

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Magazine design by David Carson, Surfing Florida: A photographic history

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Magazine design by David Carson, Surfing Florida: A photographic history

Besides the various magazines David Carson has designed, he became well known for his experimental, deconstructive typographic designs and art direction for Ray Gun magazine. The magazine’s contents were music artists, pop culture, lifestyle, advertising, celebrity icons, etc., and so, Carson was successful in his aim to design it accordingly. 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.

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Ray Gun magazine

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Ray Gun magazine

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Ray Gun magazine

Another example for a successful project in David Carson’s work is The Book of Probes. Design Legend David Carson Brings Marshall McLuhan’s “Probes” to Life.  – Maria Popova, brainpickings.com, 17 February 2012. All in all, Carson uses unpublished photos from his earlier work and computer manipulated imagery in order to visually present 400 pages, each page containing one “probe” – Marshall McLuhan’s aphorisms, quotes from his books, lectures, articles, etc.  What makes this partnership so interesting and unique is that ‘this collaboration creates a reciprocal and complementary tension between McLuhan’s words and Carson’s images’, according to the editors of the book.

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design by David Carson, The Book of Probes

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design by David Carson, The Book of Probes

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design by David Carson, The Book of Probes

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design by David Carson, The Book of Probes

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design by David Carson, The Book of Probes

A video on TED talks by David Carson confirmed my thoughts on how interesting it is to get a sense of the artist’s personality and in this video in particular, their sense of humor. Also, how exciting it is not just to see or read about given artwork, but to hear what the artist himself has to say about his own, or things that have impressed them. For instance, David Carson gives a very clear and simple example on how, more or less, typography affects a given message.

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simple no parking signs giving the same message, but with different levels of impact.

David Carson was asked to design and 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.

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Bryan Ferry interview article set in Zapf Dingbats by David Carson

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Bryan Ferry interview article set in Zapf Dingbats by David Carson

What I admire most about David Carson is how he goes out of his way to experiment and to take risks and thus, creates these 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. By taking risks without being afraid to do so, he gets rewarded  by receiving the title ‘the father of grunge’.

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David Carson’s official website:
www.davidcarsondesign.com

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