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David Carson Speaks Up

What can be said that hasn’t yet been said about David Carson? I guess I can just add my personal tale.

It was probably 1996, I had a few hours between classes and I headed for our college library (not known for its design section). I browsed the one aisle devoted to graphic design and picked up for the first time The End of Print� what the hell is this? So, so, strange and why the hell can’t I read anything? I put it back where it belonged, frustrated I went back to class, then home. Still thinking about those damned graphics and screwed up typography. The next day I went back, determined to decipher at least one page� I’m glad I did. The work of David Carson inspired me seven years ago, it opened my eyes to new ways of doing graphic design, I stubbornly tried to imitate his style to no avail, eventually I gave it up and kind of got past my David Carson phase. But there is more to it than style and look to his work, there is energy, passion and charisma backed by what I think is the most important tool designers have: intuition. That quality of his work is the one influence that is still with me today. For that, thanks David.

> Read the interview

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PUBLISHED ON Nov.12.2003 BY Armin
felix’s comment is:

Intuition can also be timeless andreadable - see Kyle Cooper.

On Nov.12.2003 at 02:21 PM
Armin’s comment is:

In essence, intuition remains the same in both Carson's and Kyle's cases; the shape that takes is different. Hence my point, about intuition being the trait that stayed more with me rather than the style.

On Nov.12.2003 at 02:26 PM
felix’s comment is:

btw- great interview Armin.

my point is that only time will tell. Intuition can be read. be destructive. be timeless.

i see Carson's "intuition-style" as something that has long come and gone. For us, thats a good thing. Let us learn and move forward.

On Nov.12.2003 at 02:38 PM
Miss Tiffany’s comment is:

I was also one of those people that tried to re-create what I was seeing in RayGun. It made me crazy that there wasn't a grid or formula that I could follow. Mr. Carson's work reminds me that unless we question (in design), we'll never know if we really have the right solution.

I am thankful for anyone that is daring enough to experiment and create, because it always inspires.

Thank you for this interview, Armin.

On Nov.12.2003 at 03:08 PM
Bram’s comment is:

I, too, went through a David Carson phase in the early 90s. And always thought that his strongest work came when his style was really in sync with the content (well, whose isn't?) — but then it could rise above the legibility/grunge criticism.

Subscribed to the first couple years of Ray Gun. One day it hit me: on the whole, it was pretty badly written. And, really, the magazine was more about an attitude than content. Mr. Carson's work was just the right fit for such a publication. And I don't mean that as any sort of insult.

Thanks for the interview, Armin.

On Nov.12.2003 at 03:08 PM
Bryony’s comment is:

David is one of those guys who you won't forget easily. His most important influence over me can be felt at different stages of the design process. Mostly it's when I want to do something but fear holds me back, yet my gut is pushing me towards doing it. That's when David comes to mind, he pushed himself into doing that which at the time was considered unconventional, wacko, different, you name it.

He followed his gutt, his instinct, his heart.

He still does, and hopefully will always do.

For that I admire him. For that I thank him.

On Nov.12.2003 at 04:59 PM
Tom’s comment is:

I love to consume the work of David Carson. Makes my head feel funny. I'm all over the discussion and power of intuition. I think intuition is an untapped reservoir of value that would help add value to the graphic design industry - it's the point of difference.

intuition being the trait that stayed more with me rather than the style.

I don't believe the designer who is "branded" with a "look/style" gets that look and sustains it by only thinking about aesthetics. I would contend that the "style" is the result of, in DC's case, a focused approach of free form intuition that guides all his work.

That's why copying or using style as a solution is not design, it's decorating.

Not that it is any of our business, but I can't help but wonder how the business side of David Carson functions? I would think more clients than not, as he said stay far away; scared of a perceived ego that is all consumed with style and not results. So does he struggle with paying the bills like all of us, or has fame taken care of all that?

On Nov.12.2003 at 05:01 PM
Tan’s comment is:

In design school, I was raised on the typographic creedences of Armin Hoffman and Wolfgang Weingart. Expressionism through typography. Raw, experimental, complex forms that challenged, but was still disciplined and formal somehow.

Then came the work of Carson. He took typography and added something visceral, something that was based on intuition and emotions, something that was complex yet direct. Something different that changed typography for an entire generation of designers.

Good interview Armin, though I got the impression that David held back a bit. I dunno -- his short answers seemed reserved. Would've loved to dig a little deeper.

On Nov.12.2003 at 06:25 PM
mrTIM’s comment is:

>Plus it’s really heavy.


Being a recent student I've spent my share of time flipping though his books. Sometimes inspired, sometimes not.

His work always reminds me of how I would visually describe the word "caffeine."

On Nov.13.2003 at 02:00 AM
pk’s comment is:

i always wondered what anyone besides a designer, marketer, or advertiser thought of his work. does his work resound outside the visual disciplines? i've not seen or heard a thing. anyone seen opinions from the layfolk anywhere?

On Nov.13.2003 at 04:00 AM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

Great interview Armin. You had to pick the one quote I made about him for Stop Being Sheep, didn't you!?

On Nov.13.2003 at 05:34 AM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

I also have to say Trek looks really interesting, imho.

On Nov.13.2003 at 05:37 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> does his work resound outside the visual disciplines? i've not seen or heard a thing. anyone seen opinions from the layfolk anywhere?

Not really. Very few graphic designers get recognized outside of our profession. Tibor was once on the Today show (doesn't get any more layfolk than that), and Mau is well beyond the realm of graphic design, but the title of graphic designer seems to small for him. Tufte might also be more known to the common folk. Kyle Cooper also comes to mind, while nobody might know his name or that of IF, a lot of people do talk about the titles for seven.

I guess my point is that judging a graphic designer's relevance based on their notoriety outside of our realm is quite futile� yeah, that sucks.

On Nov.13.2003 at 09:58 AM
David W’s comment is:

Armin, I think that applies to most occupations. I don't know any famous surgeons.

On Nov.13.2003 at 10:15 AM
Bram’s comment is:

There's more on Mr. Carson this month in an interview in Step Inside Design, as well as in DK Holland's review of TED 2003 (the "Emotion" section) in Communication Arts.

Print versions only.

On Nov.13.2003 at 10:21 AM
Jose’s comment is:

not to say that i am one of them because mr carson's work has also in one way or another influenced me. i dont know if its just the interview but if i may just ask speakup: all of a sudden we are all fans of mr. carson...i remember a few topics back a lot of you guys hated his guts. will the real carson haters please stand up! LOL

On Nov.13.2003 at 11:08 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

will the real carson haters please stand up

I think Armin addressed this rather directly in the interview. Carson ducked the question (or just lied) when answering that he knew of no workshop attendees who thought he was an asshole. Well, he did a workshop at Portfolio Center back in '95 and I think he is an asshole from that experience (skipping the last day of the workshop with a hangover and sticking me with the bill for lunch the day before...). Perhaps he's modified his behavior since then.

I won't know, however, his abilities as a professional designer. He's just unafraid to tread into new territories. He can get awfully self-indulgent — End of Print? C'mon now — but he readily admits to that and is prepared to wait for the right clients to come along and not compromise. We should all be so steadfast in our convictions.

on the whole, (Raygun) was pretty badly written.

Carson has said this as well, and it was the impetus for many of his unreadable layouts. The infamous Zapf Dingbats layout was directly a result of the text being so horrible, he figured nobody would read it anyway.

On Nov.13.2003 at 11:23 AM
Maddogfloyd’s comment is:

Hey, Armin, any chance you conducted this interview on October 30th, say, 7:30 pm, when Carson was supposed to be giving a talk at the University of Notre Dame but, oh, wait, he didn't get on his plane? I'll just mention that he (nor his assistant) never called to tell anybody this.

To say that this caused problems is to say that Paul Rand was a pretty intuitive guy.

Hey, Jose, I'm standing.

On Nov.13.2003 at 12:28 PM
andyclymer’s comment is:

I never get invited to any of the deconstructionist club meetings, luncheons, or actually ANY of their social events now that I think about it.

David Carson is notorious for not showing up to events, especially those that he's supposed to speak at. I dont think he would show up to a deconstructionist club meeting if he was invited. I too went through a Carson phase (including buying old issues of Raygun off ebay) but I've lost a lot of respect for him for all the people he's bummed out by acting like a rock star and not showing up for his performance.

On Nov.13.2003 at 12:57 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

when answering that he knew of no workshop attendees who thought he was an asshole.

We brought him in for a workshop at our school. He showed up hours late the second day due to a hangover. Does that make him an asshole? I dunno. I'd say 'yes' but punctuatlity isn't my forte either and I'm sure my wife has called me an asshole more than once because of that. Granted, I don't try to get to sloshed the night before a presentation ;o)

It was a fun workshop, though.

On Nov.13.2003 at 01:25 PM
felix’s comment is:

It'd be interesting to know what the hundreds of fans (daliy?) and how those orphans with AIDS in Africa will resopond to the new book.

Maybe intuitive design really saves lives? OK. Right on.

Meet you up at the cash register.

On Nov.13.2003 at 01:28 PM
Ginny ’s comment is:

I have a love/hate relationship with his work. I love that he has pushed the boundaries, that he's done it in a public sphere (not just self-promotion work), and that he was original in his thought process. That to me is inspiring.

But truthfully, I hated that I couldn't really read anything he designed/type-set. It was a headache waiting to happen. Raygun was nice to flip through...quickly. Where was the communication? What was he trying to communicate with the material at hand? Did he care that he muddled what was written? Did writers hate his style because he decided the hierarchy of their written word? What was deemed good or bad writing was decided by his layout? I always got stuck on that.

On Nov.13.2003 at 03:16 PM
nancy mazzei’s comment is:

I got to design two fonts for ray gun for david. I could never understand why he had a bad reputation, it was just unbelievable to work with him. He is shy and to his comment sometimes that is misinterpreted, but I always found him totally inspiring and I never felt I was "working" for him. I never worked at his studio, never had a meeting with him we'd just talk on the phone about "the font" i never cared if he "credited" me I just wanted to work with him for as long as I could. I learned alot from him, David if your reading this thanks I don’t think i ever got to say that to you.

On Nov.13.2003 at 05:02 PM
Jesse’s comment is:

My first time seeing his work. Very impressed.

[*jots down his name for later*]

On Nov.13.2003 at 07:12 PM
daniel’s comment is:

After reading Steven Heller’s interview with Massimo Vignelli in Design Dialogs the idea of Style vs. Content became clear to me. As Vignelli explains, there are two types of designers, Structural and Emotional. Carson fits the characteristics of the Emotional.

I completed my undergraduate program earlier this year and have been accepted into a program overseas to continue my education. Having adopted critical views about design at an early stage in my development, I feel the need for a more structural approach. I believe a structured approach allows room for self-criticism, which in turn further develops the designers mind and skill.

In my experience I have encountered more students who are increasingly interested in pleasing the client; and rightly so, that’s how and what we are being taught. I have found that this way of instruction develops not designers but style merchants.

I witness student designers struggle with briefs they dislike whilst creative directors and art directors promote the idea that attaining a brief you enjoy working on is no more than a dream in the industry.

In respect to Carson’s contribution, I believe having had such impact, however perceived by the individual, it is valid and integral to the cycle of design. In my opinion, even grater than his contribution, Carson’s ultimate achievement has been finding happiness in what he does; this is what inspires me to make a difference.

Prescribing to the opinions, objectives or dreams of others in order to measure my success does not inspire me. Which takes me back to a comment made earlier by jonsel: We should all be so steadfast in our convictions. In order to do this we must first have convictions.

On Nov.13.2003 at 07:40 PM
nancy mazzei’s comment is:



On Nov.13.2003 at 08:45 PM
brook’s comment is:

quit hatin' ya playa hatas.

did i just say that?

like it or not, he has and will influence your work...or at least your thoughts. so be thankful he at least did what he did.

did halle berry just say her dog has a dingleberry on leno? she did. she's hot anyways. quit trying to be famous everyone.

On Nov.13.2003 at 11:11 PM
Dave2’s comment is:

There was a time when I wanted to be a commercial pilot. I ended up going to a four year school to get a bachelor degree in anything, my pilot vocational school required it. So I chose graphic design because a friend of mine told me I was good with computers...

So I entered the program (before portfolio review) and had no idea what design was and knew even less about those who practiced it. One semester I took a History of Graphic Design class and learned about all the important people and work that they had done and one was David Carson (the other being Art Chantry). That winter break, I decided to buy my first two design books, Carson's The End of Print and Chantry's Some People Can't Surf and it changed my life. That was the moment I fell in love with design, because I saw, for the first time, what graphic design looked like when it was pushed to the edge...what the possibilities were....that not everything about design was a Frito's package.

I was so inspired that I wrote David a huge thank you letter blabbing on and on about how much he inspired me to be a designer. To my amazement, this stranger...the man who wrote this book I was holding...this guy who was in my history book actually wrote me back and actually offered to come to my school and lecture (I of course threw out the question in my email)! Unfortunately it didn't work out after several attempts, but the simple fact remains that Carson and Chantry are the reasons I'm a broke-ass designer now instead of a commercial pilot who gets paid to travel all over the world. I don't know whether to hate them or love them.

Regardless, I can attest that Carson is not an asshole, though he does owe me a beer.

Anyway, thought I'd throw that one out there

On Nov.14.2003 at 02:36 AM
surts’s comment is:

I think it's interesting to note that Critique magazine started publishing during a time when David was very popular. Perhaps there's a connection - a reaction to illegibility?

Interview wise, I'd be more interested in reading one with Mazzei.

On Nov.14.2003 at 07:27 AM
Armin’s comment is:

I'll ask Bradley if he wants to conduct it.

On Nov.14.2003 at 08:51 AM
Ginny ’s comment is:

Brook: it's people like you with comments like you just made that make people shy away from saying their opinion in SU. This issue has been addressed many times before, but I'm pointing it out now. If you start ridiculing blog's because they don't feel the same way you do, it's not helping this be an open forum.

What fun is it if everyone has the same opinion? I really think you need to re-read those blogs that you're referring to because I don't think anyone said "I hate his work or I hate David Carson".

Like it or not...Brook, you can't tell people that a designer "will" influence their work. How can you make such a blanketed statement? How can the outcome be measured?

But alas, I digress.

On Nov.14.2003 at 09:09 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> I'll ask Bradley if he wants to conduct it.

dude. and ya wonder why there's blood in the house.

On Nov.14.2003 at 11:40 AM
nancy mazzei’s comment is:

I'll ask Bradley if he wants to conduct it.

Brilliant! please do.

On Nov.14.2003 at 11:51 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Did anybody see this in HOW magazine? It was the Creativity issue a few months back, I was flippin' through it and saw it, and I was all like is that by Carson? You know? It's like a kid-friendly version of Ray Gun... then again, it is a for a children's hospital.

Sorry for the not-so-great scan, I forgot to check the descreen option and I am not scanning it again.

On Nov.14.2003 at 02:15 PM
Steven’s comment is:

I met David in '96 at the AIGA conference in Seattle. At that time, he was white-hot in the design community. And yet, he was very unassuming, approachable, and down-to-earth. Since then, I've had contact briefly with him a couple of times (most recently in Vancouver at the AIGA conference). Each time, he's been low-key and friendly.

But I always felt that he was a little ill at-ease with the level of his fame: that people took him far more seriously than he even took himself. I've always felt that he was sort of a reluctant revolutionist or rockstar, just doing his own personal creative exploration while the design community reacted around him. All the hyperbola that swirls around him has to be really stressful.

Obviously, from some of the previous posts, he has flaked-out on occasions. And yeah, that's not really cool, for a number of reasons. But I don't think this comes from a malevolent or self-righteous distain for others. I just think that he has a much more casual relationship to the design profession, and "professionalism" in general, than most other designers. Good or bad, that's how he is.

David Carson's creative vision opened my mind to seeing design in new ways and has allowed me to express myself in a much broader manner. This seems to be the case with many of us. Perhaps then, what's most important about David's creative oeuvre lies more in what he has generated within ourselves as creatives than what he has done himself.

BTW, another trully groundbreaking, revolutionary, intuitively-oriented designer that is rarely mentioned any more is April Greiman. I've always wondered why she hasn't been given more acknowledgement.

On Nov.15.2003 at 01:46 AM
michael’s comment is:

Seeing issues of Ray Gun in my youth was one of the things that, unbeknownst to me, eventually led me to fall in love with design. I still find David's philosophy and work to be extremely inspiring. Thanks for the interview.

On Nov.16.2003 at 09:43 PM
Nacho’s comment is:

Here is my recount about meeting Dave.

In 1991 I was starting to work on my first professional project in Mexico City, an alternative culture magazine for young people, my two biggest influences at the moment were of course Neville Brody, Rudy VanderLans and a little known art director who was designing a curious surf magazine called Beach Culture. As soon as i got the first issue printed, I sent a copy to all my gurus, Brody didn't respond, Rudy sent a short but nice thank you letter and the art director of Beach Culture sent a very funny and encouraging hand scripted letter. I was very impressed that this foreign designer took his time to answer me personally and not get his secretary to do so.

The next year I attended the How design conference in San Diego with the only purpose of meeting this kind designer, His presentation was brief, very informal and with a lot of personal stories and photos, which I thought was very unusual in such a formal context. Also curious was that many famous designers were present in the room (Rudy VanderLans amongst them). At the end of his conference I approached him and gave him the second issue of my magazine, he remembered well the first one i've sent and gave me some quick professional advise.

In the summer of 94 I attended one of his first workshops in New York at the School of Visual Arts, Ray Gun was starting to get serious attention in the design press and he was almost at the crest of his popularity. The workshop was simple and fun the best thing was that he got all the group to attend the inauguration cocktail of that year's Type Directors Club and also he promised to try and publish the best work of the workshop in Ray Gun.

A few months later I saw him again in Fuse 94, he still remembered me from the workshop and we had a few drinks in the after party.

In 1995 I tried to invite him to my university in Mexico he declined after several e-mails, I was very disappointed that after all the good impressions I had of him he wouldn't visit my country. Then his first book came out I discovered that he had used one of the images my sister had created during his workshop, it was uncredited and had a very prominent space in the introduction pages, we wrote to him and he republished a credited but stamp size reproduction of the image in his second book. After this I no longer cared or looked at any work he produced.

So in the end I concluded that famous designers are like movie stars they create different personalities for different contexts, they can be very kind and giving but they can also use their clout to their convenience, I think that each generation learns and suffers this truth, and in doing so we mature and move beyond our influences.

Y Chida la entrevista Armin, casi lo tuviste contra la pared.

On Nov.20.2003 at 02:59 PM
griff’s comment is:

I seriously doubt that anyone (designer or not) honestly felt love at first sight when viewing the work of Carson for the first time.

I have grown to like his work, but like Armin revisiting the library, it look a sincere effort.

That being said, I greatly admire Carson not for his design skills but rather having the balls to push his vision. It is much easier to travel an established path. (echoing Ginny's comments above)

I also believe other planets aligned to aid Carson (timing, Raygun, technology, surf culture, punk music, etc.).

It does make me wonder how many times each one of us have comped something that had the potential to spark a design movement, but time, money, resources, common sense, or clients killed it before it was concieved.

On Nov.20.2003 at 04:04 PM
lynn garrett’s comment is:

well, David Carson was a teacher at my high school. Not in design, in world civilization. He was the advisor for the yearbook. He was the cute young surfer teacher. There was a photo of him in the yearbook with a towel around his neck, water dripping from his hair, and some of the girls clipped it out of the yearbook to put on the door of their locker. He was even the coach for our school's Surf Team (I grew up in Del Mar, so yes, we had a surf team).

So imagine my surprise when, as I went through design school I suddenly found Mr. Carson becoming a design star. I bragged to my friends that he was my teacher, as I watched his career take off & subscribed to Ray Gun.

I saw him speak at the Envision Conference in the early 90s and decided to say hello. I am ashamed to this day of how he behaved.

I cautiously but excitedly walked up to him outside of the conference as people fawned over him. I waited my turn & then I said, "You may not remember me Mr. Carson, but I was in your world civ class. You were my teacher." Instead of smiling or showing warmth, he looked around as though he was worried about who would hear what I'd said. Then he said, "Wow. Well, that was a long time ago." (It was probably 6 years at that point)

It was obvious he didn't want to talk about his past as a high school teacher, something he should've been proud of. While I was obviously at this conference as a young, ambitious, impressionable student of design and we had a genuine history of time spent together, he brushed me aside as though I would ruin his image & I will never forget that.

The biggest lesson I learned from David Carson had nothing to do with design. He made me realize that no matter where I go to in my life, I hope to never treat others that way. The plain truth is that the people you step on when you are heading up are the same ones you run into on the way down. I had admired him as my teacher & in one fell swoop he lost my respect instantly. As my design career has continued & progressed, when I've heard David Carson's name over the years that moment is what is in the forefront of my mind. I could care less about anything he designs. As a person & role model he's not someone I would ever look up to again.

I'm nearing 40 now and will be a designer until the day I die so I'm sure David & I will someday run into eachother again. If that happens, I can assure you that I will be much less interested in giving him my own valuable time or kindness. And the fact is, I have already learned that he won't care. Sadly, he won't even know the difference.

On May.04.2004 at 05:15 PM
Feluxe’s comment is:

I'm sure David & I will someday run into eachother again.

How so? I havent seen his work around in a long time. You may wanna see whos teaching that civ class next semester.

On May.04.2004 at 09:56 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> How so? I havent seen his work around in a long time.

He has that new book, which surprisingly has not led to a wave of PR on his part. As well as the Book of Probes for McLuhan. He is still "doing" a lot of workshops and presentations but outside the US� I guess the traveling around the world is addictive, specially if your expenses are covered.

Point being that while his work doesn't get as much attention as before, he is still making the rounds within the design field. And he was at the Vancouver conference� and he paid for his own ticket and admission.

On May.05.2004 at 11:08 AM
mazzei’s comment is:

Yeah, I’m sure his only motivation for teaching internationally, with his experience, is free flying and free hotel rooms. The fact that he paid in Vancouver was probably due to an error the Hotel probably didn’t have the conferences corporate card yet. Can someone check up? and confirm that he paid or didn’t? this is very important to the design community. If he paid he is credible if not he’s just that tired “RayGunny” guy.

On May.05.2004 at 03:30 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Ugh, I give, I give� bad comments on my part.

Talk about sarcasm though� I thought I had it mastered.

On May.05.2004 at 03:57 PM
Lynn Garrett’s comment is:

Hell, if I had the chance there is no possibility that I would turn down any free world travel offered to me. I can't fault anyone for that!

On May.05.2004 at 04:53 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

Okay, here's my rant. Someone asked that all the Carson-haters speak up, so here we go...

The rise of the "design star" in our profession has always baffled and bothered me. It's not just David Carson that I find annoying, but his devoted young followers. He has nothing new to say. He should have stayed a surfer, or a world civ. teacher.

While I'm on the subject of annoying designers, here are a couple more names to throw in the ring:

Stefan Sagmeister. His work is all about himself. His design all looks the same, and usually includes an image of himself, or a part of his body. He's had one idea, and he uses it over an over again. Enough already. He should take another sabbatical.

April Greiman is downright mean (I speak from personal experience), and like every other "star" designer, is not worthy of adoration. Besides, the last interesting thing she designed was... well, I can't even remember, it's been so long.

At the end of the day, we're all just designers. We design things. That's it. Nothing magical or mysterious about it.

Idol worship is absurd. Learning from other talented designers is wonderful, and should be encouraged. But when ego and stardom gets in the way, we all lose.

On May.06.2004 at 07:37 PM
kev’s comment is:

Whenever I read anyone trashing Carson or anyone else, for that matter, I have this feeling that they're really just jealous.

Jealous that they can't design like they want to and get paid for it.

Jealous that they're so accustomed to working in the way they do.

Jealous that they aren't "famous."

Laypeople, when talking about modern art, often say something like "my 7 year old could've done that." I imagine that most designers who spent all their time learning how to craft grid layouts feel that their time has been wasted learning all that they have. So they defend themselves, by belittling Mr. Carson or others, saying that "a first year design student could've done that."

One other thing: I remember having an indepth discussion with my professor once about the differences between quark and pagemaker, which was better, why everyone seems to use quark, etc. After discussing all the ins and outs, he told me that Carson used a crappy old version of Pagemaker to do all he did, which, I think, was his way of saying that it doesn't matter.

On May.07.2004 at 02:19 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Daniel, a similar topic on Design Observer touches on some of the concerns you mention. But more broadly it talks about our (people in general not just designers) need to idolize somebody, something, somewhere and somehow. What I find interesting is that those people who are famous their personal traits get blown up out of proportion and we all help in promoting and propelling that notion. As an example only: would Greiman, Sagmeister or Carson be equally cranky if they weren't famous? Possibly so, but we make sure that everybody knows that they are cranky because they are in a visible and vulnerable position. I'm not sure what my point is exactly, but this idolatry culture in design — heck, in the USA — is getting out of hand. Just when you think it can get worse, it gets so much more terrible.

In graphic design there is also a lot of love for stuff� whether it is fonts, annual reports, CD packaging, magazines designed by (usually famous) designers we must have them, touch them, show them off to friends, keep them in plastic bags (for the record, I don't keep them in plastic bags — just away from sunlight). Is that any different? Or less dysfunctional than looking up to people?

Just some random questions and ramblings for a rainy Friday.

On May.07.2004 at 08:53 AM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

Cotton Candy, February 9, 2004

Reviewer: A reader from Santa Barbara, CA Nothing new here... except maybe the over the top self reverential entries... a page from a past calendar logging his world tour espousing his personal greatness in the design world and a picture of him paddling out from his home in paradise... with quotes about how meaningful it is to be a god of design... arrogant self serving propoganda in a flashy package... Trek is like cotton candy it looks enticing and mouthwatering from a distance but once you get ahold of it, your joy is shortlived... its a sticky, sugary, syrupy mess that winds up in the trash after a few bites... Carson is old news... repetitive and trite... for real bleeding edge design thats not old news try AREA from Phaidon now thats substance.

Trek review from from Amazon.com

On May.07.2004 at 11:41 AM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

Stefan Sagmeister. His work is all about himself. .... He's had one idea, and he uses it over an over again. Enough already.

Interesting. I've actually never heard Sag sacked as such. He is one of a few champions of concept and causal design. He cares deeply and represents the best we have to offer. Shame on you.

On May.07.2004 at 11:44 AM
kev’s comment is:

Could someone please direct me to some work of Sagmeister's? What I've seen, I haven't liked at all. There is a chance, though, that I just haven't seen enough.

On May.07.2004 at 12:01 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

Armin, thanks for the interesting comments -- you've helped expand the conversation, which is cool. We do live in an age of idolatry and obsession with fame, and it's only natural that this would bleed over to other professions (look at Donny Deutsch, for example -- why else would he be on Trump's "Apprentice" and as a pundit on CNBC if he wasn't seeking fame and fortune?)

One quick point, though: I don't know if Sagmeister and Carson are cranky or not -- I didn't really state an opinion on that. My only intention was to point out my dislike for their design, and for the self-serving posturing of their careers. Greiman, well, she IS cranky, and I was simply pointing that out because earlier in the discussion someone breathlessly praised her supposed "genius."

And hey, Kev, chill out. Man. Jealousy? Are you serious? I'm not sure who you're talking about (definitely not me, and most likely very few of the contributors to this discussion). I would never say anything at all to the effect of "my 7-year old could've done that." That is just downright silly, and not my position at all. Ever. I know you were referring to "laypeople," but to even bring up that tired old cliche in this discussion is just, well, tired. And amateur. And a little bit offensive.

My responses to your little "jealousy" list:

I design what I want, and I get paid for it. I have been for over 20 years.

I'm very happy with the way I work, and very comfortable with my methods and abilities. I love what I do, and always have.

Fame is for pansies. Seriously, as a designer, fame is the last thing I ever even considered. I design stuff. I'm not a rock star wannabe, an actor waiting on tables hoping for that big break. I have no desire to pursue fame in order to increase billings, or to enable myself to travel to lame conferences around the world. My sole ambition as a designer has always been to create great things. Because of this, I question the ambitions of today's more well-known designers -- the ones like Carson or whomever. For the most part, the more well-known designers seem to be in it for the "right" reasons, and when fame does come, it's often accidental or coincidental.

So please, think before you make such broad accusations. Your comments pretty much proclaimed that I, and anyone else with a negative opinion of any famous person (especially designers or artists) are jealous. That's just sillytalk.

On May.07.2004 at 12:08 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

A few thoughts regarding Stefan Sagmeister's work: I'm in a fortunate position in that I've been able to get to know Stefan on a personal level. Honestly, he's the least pretentious "design star" in our industry. He's approachable, articulate and an all around nice person.

Sagmeister: A thoughtful, intelligent designer who is able to attract clients who are willing to take risks.

I feel lucky to have him represent the profession.

On May.07.2004 at 12:13 PM
Daniel’s comment is:


Well, I'm happy to be the first to have a negative opinion of Sagmeister's work. I'm surprised you've never heard anyone else express the same opinons.

If he's the best our profession has to offer, then we're doomed. We're doomed to a future of mediocre, self-serving design.

Sagmeister's contribution in the current (otherwise amazing) issue of Nozone IX: Empire, we are presented with two pages of him posing alongside various business signage that includes the word "Empire" in the name of the company. It's a sort of tongue-in-cheek comic novella that satirically explains that he is "not an imperialist." It makes a funny little statement that adds to the discussion within the book, but as soon as I saw his face, that he used himself as the subject, I lost all respect for his viewpoint.

So yes, he's got the concept thing nailed -- he's a great idea guy, and maybe his motivations are respectable, but enough already -- I'm tired of seeing his likeness in so much of his work. It's just boring, and self-serving.

On May.07.2004 at 12:26 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Could someone please direct me to some work of Sagmeister's?


> One quick point, though: I don't know if Sagmeister and Carson are cranky or not

Yeah, sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you did, nor that do I. I was just trying to make a point with the examples at hand. I have had the chance to meet each of them only once, and they were both real nice and approachable. (And Sagmeister's accent is awesome!).

> I feel lucky to have him represent the profession.

I agree, I'd just change that notion to I feel lucky to have him be one of the designers who represent the profession.

On May.07.2004 at 12:28 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

I think Stefan does what he can to "make you look". If asked, he will tell you that is very interested in the body, especially when integrated in art and design. He's very comfortable with this approach.

I can understand though, if this is not your cup 'o tea.

His recent work includes an annual report for a lighting company - can't remember the name - is one of the coolest things I've laid hands on. I think it's in the current issue of How. You should check it out, as it's quite different from some of his other well known work. Also, a daring packaging design for a Talking Heads cd anthology. Although awkward to hold, my best friend (huge Talking Head fan) absolutely loved it.

On May.07.2004 at 12:38 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

Armin, I just read the on Design Observer discussion you mentioned. It's great. So much more interesting, and without the whole "jealousy" angle.

I especially enjoyed Steven Heller's comments about the Apple Store, and his new hero at the Genius Bar. Funny stuff.

On May.07.2004 at 12:44 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

Robynne, thanks for the heads-up on Stefan's latest work. I'll definitely check it out, especially because you described it as "one of the coolest things you've laid hands on."

On May.07.2004 at 12:47 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

Daniel: Ha Ha!! That's funny.

On May.07.2004 at 12:51 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

Robynne, seriously, I'm not being sarcastic!

When someone describes something as being the coolest, I am always interested in checking it out.

My mind is definitely open, and changeable, no matter who created it.

On May.07.2004 at 12:54 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

Daniel: My mind is dirtier. I thought you were referring to the abundant "nudity" in Sagmeister's work.

("one of the coolest things you've laid hands on" was hysterical in that context.)

On May.07.2004 at 12:59 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

Robynne, I had no idea the extent of your dirty mind.

Damn, I totally missed the joke. My career in comedy was over before it even started.

On May.07.2004 at 01:04 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

D: That's Okay, the internet is like that. I was going to write something like " Yeah, it was really hard to put down", and let you have at it

Anyway, it is a great piece. In person, even better.

Back to work now....

On May.07.2004 at 01:10 PM
kev’s comment is:

My sole ambition as a designer has always been to create great things.

(my emphasis)

What do you mean by that? Great in the eyes of who? Certainly no one's work can be great in a vaccuum.

I think that there's a lot of posturing going on with you, and many other designers. You've rationalized not being famous, or at the very least, doing things that people admire.

Can you really say you're happy with what you're doing? Or are you just content?

The point of my original post was this: People trash Carson all the time, especially here. I don't think it's fair. That's all. My explanation for why they do this is merely conjecture.

One thing I've noticed about designers is that, as a whole, the sense of community is just not the same as, say, with music. With music, it's not unheard of for bands to be friends, to gig together, and whatnot, but designers, for the most part, have huge egos and can't handle it when someone else gets attention, which is where I think all the negativity about Carson comes from.

On May.07.2004 at 02:20 PM
Daniel’s comment is:


Does it matter how I define "great" things? Do you really think I work in a vacuum? How do you presume to know these things about me?

And why the enormous display of attitude, Kev? And the extreme accusatory tone? I really, really don't appreciate it.

You're telling me I'm posturing. Who's doing the posturing here? Why are you so terribly obsessed with fame (I could really, really give a shit about it, and it has nothing to do with whether or not I ever achieve it). It's not an excuse, or a posture -- it's who I am, and it is what I believe. Don't even start to question what my core beliefs are. Fame, and the pursuit of it, is for people with no talent and no soul. It's an empty "achievement," a meaningless endeavour.

And who are you to infer that my statement of being truly happy is a lie, and that I might possibly just be "content"? That's just amazing to me. You don't even know me, or my motivations, or what I've done or what I will do.

You're trying to tell me that musicians don't have big egos, and that designers are the only ones guilty of egomaniacal behavior? Do you live in a vacuum? Are you oblivious to the world of rock-and-roll, and the sheer insanity that goes on behind the scenes? The infighting, the band break-ups (have you heard of a band called The Beatles?) Seriously, that is just absurd. Your view of the music world is utopian and idealistic.

So some designers have big egos. You bitch and moan about the "lack of community" in the design world, but do you see the rockstars of this world tapping away on their computers in forums like this one (of which there are many), or contributing to the discourse prevalent in many magazines (eye, Emigre)? Did you forget that in most design studios and ad agencies, designers, writers, and other creatives collaborate on a daily basis, working toward a common goal, forming something of a community over time?

Are you unemployed, inexperienced, or just a little overly-sensitive, and incapable of seeing your idols in a less-than-dazzling light?

Quit the finger-pointing and the accusatory attitude so I can quit this ridiculous ranting.

On May.07.2004 at 04:23 PM
kev’s comment is:

This topic is about David Carson.

I was curious as to why people seem to be so against him as of late, that's all.

In an attempt to figure this out, I was working through some possible answers.

I was trying to avoid the whole "well, I'm trashing him because I don't like him" line of reasoning because that doesn't get anyone anywhere.

I'm sorry my conjecture has offended you, Daniel.

Essentially, what I was trying to say was this: I imagine your average employed designer to be of a somewhat conservative mindset (designwise) because they are slightly worried that they will lose their job. I feel that all designers have some degree of fear about this, moreso than your average person. Carson represents, to them, a risk that is too large to take. If they did something like that, they'd lose their job. So they, from the very beginning of their careers, work in a very different manner, a safe, profitable, manner, and Carson is the antithesis of that, built up in their minds as bad because his type of work isn't profitable.

Basically your standard anti-capitalism rant.

Although I admire his work and find it aesthetically pleasing, I doubt that I would ever do much like it, (if I ever did get a job) basically, because I too, would be scared of losing it.

I'm sorry I used you, Daniel, as a symbol of the "everydesigner". I didn't mean to single you out. I know nothing about you except that you have a job.

On May.08.2004 at 12:58 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

>I feel that all designers have some degree of fear about this, moreso than your average person. Carson represents, to them, a risk that is too large to take. If they did something like that, they'd lose their job. So they, from the very beginning of their careers, work in a very different manner, a safe, profitable, manner

Kevin: Really? I have no idea what David Carson's financial "picture" is, so to speak, but I do have the sense that Landor made a lot of money designing the Lucent logo (which in another thread on this site, folks felt that it was "original" and "ballsy"), that Pentagram makes good money doing some of the best work around, and Milton Glaser has been making pretty good bucks for quite some time. Why do you think that edgy, breakthrough work can't be profitable? Why do you feel "the average employed designer to be of a somewhat conservative mindset (designwise) because they are slightly worried that they will lose their job?" Isn't that what would make them average to begin with? As the proprietor of a design business, I would hope that the designers working in our firm would be trying to do work that is really good, and that good work will get them noticed, and awards and better positions with better pay. If people are approaching their work with fear--afraid they will lose their jobs unless they present work that is more conservative, then aren't they short-changing the client, and ultimately undermining the power that design has? You can approach life (and design) from either a place of power or a place of fear. Why assume that acceptable work must be conservative? An argument could be made that if a client can't see what is great in work that isn't conservative, then perhaps that work isn't very good to begin with, or we are at fault for not being able to show them why the less conservative work is better. I find that if you can strategically show a conservative client why less conservative work will be more persuasive or effective or marketable (i.e. buyable), then they will be less fearful of taking a stand. In other words, if we, the designers, believe in it, and can articulately, passionately and intellectually prove the less conservative work is better, than it is much more likely that the client will "buy" it. The onus is on us to show the client the way.

On May.08.2004 at 08:59 AM
kev’s comment is:


In general, I don't think you could call graphic design a risk-taking, progressive profession.

There's a big difference between things like the Lucent Logo and the stuff that Pentagram does and the work of Carson.

On May.08.2004 at 12:25 PM
ed acosta’s comment is:

dc was huge back in the 90s. he opened the door for a lot of people and caused many people to question their beliefs. i recently flipped through his new book "trek" and can honestly say with all due respect, that his trek is ending. his latest work seems out of tune with his audience. back in the day he was hip because he was designing a mag with cool bands and now it looks like work of an old man trying to still be hip. there are younger cats that do it better.

On May.09.2004 at 12:47 AM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

There's a big difference between the Lucent Logo... Pentagram and the work of Carson.

Kev, I love ya man. Even though your head apparently burrows itself deep below the Canadian undergrowth. Lucent Logo (Landor), Pentagram (AirTrans Logo), Carson (Microsoft Logo Animation circa '98) dont live in separate houses. Work is work. I love ya man. PS- Get a haircut.

Sagmeister's ....as soon as I saw his face, that he used himself as the subject, I lost all respect for his viewpoint.

The way youve couched it, one would believe Sagmeister is on the cover of Teen Beat or sumpn. Get a grip. Nozone is a political rantzine. In his editorial, Stefan had someone shoot purposefully bad digital photos of Empire locations and made a strong point about popular opinion. HIs use of photography is totally original and puts a human touch into his ideas. Self serving? Nah. OK. OK. He showed us his testes and cut up his chest. Maybe you were offended because it makes our profession appear unprofessional? No? Maybe youre jealous of his testicals?

From what I can tell his are droopy ole codgers deserving of a golf clap. The man has all kindsa game....

ps- glad to hear R.Raye chiming in. One classy lady. say hello to Victor and the dogs.

On May.09.2004 at 10:04 PM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

PS- Back to my Old 97s Fight Songs CD.

On May.09.2004 at 10:07 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

Felix, thanks for lightening the mood in here. It was getting stuffy.

About Nozone, and Stefan's "purposefully bad" photos of himself. They're not very original at all, sorry to say. And in a "political rantzine," the last thing I want to see is someone showing how amazingly with-it they are, and how deeply ironic they can be. It's bogus and unoriginal, but at least he tried. His idea was fine, but the execution was lame and utterly lacking in irony.

On May.10.2004 at 11:36 AM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

Hey Socksmell:

Nice to find you here. Your site is a hoot.

Since this is a thread about Carson, I'm proud to say I never went through a "David Carson" phase. Nothing personal at all, just not my bag.

On May.10.2004 at 09:17 PM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

not my bag.

Me neither. I say: If youre gonna to lerch onto to someone elses post Chantry Zoxed-garblization-fabrications, be original about it (ie: K. Cooper, certainly a bit of influence from the deconstrukto Carson 90's but oh so nicely done with "Seven"). Eh, what do I know? Zero. Exactly.

Back to my Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers CD

On May.11.2004 at 04:15 PM
lynnster’s comment is:

Yes Felix, thanks for lightening it up in here. I think where Kev's points become lost is when they start to sound like personal attacks of the little people... who is he to say what the average designer is or does? And who is he to tell us we're all jealous? Or that we're not happy?

One thing I've found in life is that the people who feel the need to pick others apart often do so because it makes them feel better about themselves. Now you can apply this theory to the David Carson bashers if you like (although as I said, he was my world civ teacher... and I can assure you that when I bash him it's not because I ever wanted to, it's because I consider him a big doo doo head whose work does nothing for me)... or you can apply this to Kev's manner of defending the famous by putting everyone else down. You choose for yourself.

And as for design being a safe profession, I was literally disowned by my mother in 1987 for choosing to go to art school instead of doing what she wanted me to do. Sooo... speak for yourself. As a freelancer, there are times where I have to fight like a warrior for every dime I make and every job I get... it's not exactly a cushy existence. One week I'm working 70 hours, the next I'm watching Oprah & waiting for the phone to ring... and in between I work so hard obsessively trying to create pretty things that smoke is often seen coming out of my ears.

Design isn't a risky profession? You must be one of those people with a cushy job who's afraid of getting fired then. I can only speak for myself and in my life, sometimes being a designer is a battle of survival. You think that a bank teller deals with that kinda stuff? I actually quit designing in 1994 for a year to be a waitress because being a designer felt too hard of a road. But here I am ten years later. Which leads to another unique thing about design... as opposed to many other jobs where people only show up for the paycheck, when the desire to be a good designer is in your heart & soul you really can't run away from it no matter how many cups of coffee you pour.

Ok, I'm done babbling. There's my 5�.

On May.16.2004 at 11:53 AM
Deanna Glaze’s comment is:

First off, I just want to say that I'm enjoying starting my day reading through Speak Up threads. I love the high level of discussion. Now about Carson...

Regardless of what you personally think of David Carson, his work has been influential. There has probably been more work created in reaction to his style than work copied from his style. I personally don't care if he was rude to a former high school student or hung over for a presentation. So many artists have a reputation of being jerks (Picasso, Dylan...) but does it minimize their contribution?

And I have to defend Sagmeister. He is one of my design heroes. At one point in my career, I was very discouraged and seriously considered changing careers. After reading his book, Made You Look, I emailed him to thank him for the book and briefly told him how discouraged I'd been. He emailed me back the same day with such kind words and basically told me to keep going.

Inspiration can be born of outrage as much as admiration. Use everything that moves you, both beautiful and disdainful, to become a better designer.

On Jun.02.2004 at 09:13 AM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

So many artists have a reputation of being jerks (Picasso, Dylan...) but does it minimize their contribution?

Youre right. Thing is, our profession is somewhat small. If youre an ass, its likely to effect people in a discourageing way (esp young people, who cant discern between good ideas and trendy Carson-crap).

I'm quite thankful for Carson- his deconstruction stirred it up when design was stale. But looking back... urgh.

On Jun.02.2004 at 09:22 PM
Deanna’s comment is:

Youre right. Thing is, our profession is somewhat small. If youre an ass, its likely to effect people in a discourageing way (esp young people, who cant discern between good ideas and trendy Carson-crap).

Ah. Well, there's a difference between affecting people in a discouraging way and leading young designers astray with bad design. :)

I just went back and looked through some of Carson's work again and, though some of his work seems like experiments gone wild, some of his work is so beautiful to me in its anarchy. The first time I picked up a Carson book (as a young designer) I was totally enchanted. For me it was a permission slip to be naughty. Carson was responsible in saying that one must understand the rules before shattering them.

I wish more designers (including myself) had the courage to take risks like David Carson has in his career.

On Jun.02.2004 at 11:40 PM
kev’s comment is:

Apparently people didn't like what I had to say. I stoped reading this discussion before people started talking about me.

I still think that design needs another good kick in the pants. It's getting old and stale again. I just kept staring at the stupid AMC "personal ad" thing on the train tonight and it made me sigh, in my mind, at least.

If it's any consolation, rock & roll needs a good kick in the pants, too.

I'm not old enough to already be nostalgic for my teens. This is sad.

On Aug.12.2004 at 02:47 AM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:


Your comments resonate more with me than most in this post. Why would people dislike and dismiss Carson's work so much?

Stylistically, I definitely think his work had its particular place... but so does everything else, and it's no 'fault' of Carson's that he did something to which everyone was paying attention.

Of course, I wasn't aware of Speak Up when this all transpired, but I'm willing to back you up now. People need to take themselsves a little more lightly - and not be so quick to dismiss work (or the creator) that has been so significant. Can you imagine trying to describe 90's graphic design without Carson? I can't. His work was more public facing (and noticed) than anything else I can recall. And to me, it doesn't matter if I like him and his work or not.

On Aug.12.2004 at 07:33 AM
kev’s comment is:

Thank you, Mr. Twigg.

Seriously, though, has there been anyone as important/famous as Carson since the 90's? (And don't say Sagmeister.)

On Aug.12.2004 at 11:11 AM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

Kev -

I would hesitate to use the words "important/famous"... too many important things have happened in graphic design for me to single someone out. However, I do think there are few people who have had the kind of public exposure that Carson had.

I was always rooting for P. Scott Makela (1960-1999) from the moment I saw Janet and Michael Jackson's Scream music video. But that was my personal preference, and he was the reason I discovered graphic design.

On Aug.12.2004 at 01:34 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Andrew, I couldn't agree more regarding Scott Makela� it's a shame. That type in Scream is some of the most exciting I have seen in a long time.

> has there been anyone as important/famous as Carson since the 90's?

The basic answer is no. Now — moreso than in the 90s, 80s, 60s — there are many, many talented designers creating amazing work (among them, yes, Sagmeister) but nobody (not even, yes, Sagmeister) has had the impact or the following or the hoopla that Carson had. It seems that after the 90s with the passing of Makela, Kalman, Bass and Rand not many people grabbed on to the torch and said "hey, follow me". Weird, no?

Like I said, it's not like there aren't any relevant/famous people now, au contraire, there are so many relevant/famous people that the bar has been lowered (or raised?) making it hard for any one group or individual to really stand out.

On Aug.12.2004 at 02:13 PM
VVN’s comment is:

I wonder if the plumbers go through this?. I was never caught up in the Carson craze myself. It's interesting how hero worship affect our industry. Not all things designed is intended to revolutionize the world. I would imagine 90% of the designers out there see design as a profession...a means to an end. Who is to say Designer X is better then Designer Y? its all subjective relative to the context.

On Aug.14.2004 at 05:56 AM
kev’s comment is:


I don't think so.

I see an awful lot of design in my day-to-day life that is terrible. Stuff that I would never accept money for.

That's my context, and in my context, it's bad.

If you're not intending to revolutionize the world, then you might as well just let some secretary do it in Word. It doesn't matter anyway, so why should it look good?

If you don't intend to revolutionize the world, then I think you're not doing your job. Sure, your revolution may never take off, but at least you try and I think that's better than just toeing the line.

On Aug.14.2004 at 12:11 PM
VVN’s comment is:


Everything is based on context or the situation it was created under. Without this... there are no parameters to judge if the design solution is sucessful. I belive one should push the boundaries in every project, but within the target and the goals of the project.

The designers job is to solve a specific need for thier client not to satisfy one's own artist ego. If you start designing for design books and competition, then your ripping your clients off.

As for revolutions...you must pick your battles, and pick your war. If not, you'll just be tired and jaded.

Lastly. A professor of mine told this to our entire class the first day. "Designer are Prositutes...get use to it" "If you don't like it...go major in print making."

On Aug.15.2004 at 12:27 AM
SG’s comment is:

All people are prostitutes, as The Pop Group once sang. But that doesn't mean you have to behave like a desperate crack wh*re.

On Aug.15.2004 at 06:36 PM
Andrew Twigg’s comment is:

I was going to write a long reply, the effect being: I these terms, a designer can also be a sex expert, i.e. someone like steven heller could be the carrie bradshaw of graphic design.

But what does it matter?

No metaphor is needed when designers are talking about design. Carson did something truly unique, and he had clients who wanted balls-to-the-wall design. Which is great. Kev, I don't agree with you that a designer should be out to change the world with every design. Not every design should change the world. Design can be used to do things big and small.

Nonetheless, David Carson did some very big things, and in effect, still is - after all, we're still talking about him. Love or hate, it's very easy to argue he has been one of the most significant designers of recent history. I don't know of anyone else who is so reviled, praised, hated, mimicked, avoided, or over-referenced. That's a good sign of influence.

On Aug.15.2004 at 08:33 PM
Don’s comment is:

"Designer are Prostitutes...get use to it" "If you don't like it...go major in print making."

So if this line of bullshit were actually true, out of curiousity, what kind of prostitute was (is) Carson? If there was no other recurring theme, he certainly said "go fuck yourself" through his work often enough. By your definition, I suppose Rand, Bass, Tibor, etc., were all prostitutes as well?

The dictionary defines a prostitute as:

1. One who solicits and accepts payment for sex acts.

2. One who sells one's abilities, talent, or name for an unworthy purpose.

I guess it all depends on one's view of unworthy. Despite many talented teachers, there are also mediocre ones out there. Just because some professor in a beginnning design class said it's so, hardly makes it a fact. The sad part is often how many students take every instructor's word as gospel because they are so hungry to learn, and forget to question the source.

To be clear Carson doesn't need defending here. His work has made us all think. It may not stand the test of time so well, but it will obviously still provoke a good discussion even today. Breaking all the rules may be exciting and seem visionary or rebellious in the short term, but even this becomes passe when substance and content take a back seat.

As an aside, David was an attendee at last October's AIGA Power of Design Conference in Vancouver - and there were many young designers that didn't even know who he was, though their portfolios still bear glimpses of his influence.

On Aug.16.2004 at 11:47 AM
Ronald’s comment is:

Granted, Carson did something 20 years ago in the realm of design that had never really been explored to the degree that he had taken it to. It was hardly unique, and most designers didnt further explore this style of design because of practicality and functionality. He found his niche, and stuck to it...unfortunately, that is all he has done in the last 20 years.

His work was exciting say in early 90's, but has since become mundane and boring. His books are rediculous and his lack of flexibility are childish at best. When I met him in the late 92, I expected him to continue on with endless new possibilities in the design field, but what I saw was a repetition of un-godly proportions. That is why most of the up and coming designers have no idea who he is. His work is forgettable in the sea of great design.

On Oct.27.2004 at 03:12 PM
Sean’s comment is:

Hey guys/people/designers/ladies/

I've been reading and skimming thru peoples threads. Im writing a mini essay for University.. and am looking for quotes from people in and out of the design field that trash Davids work.

I dont hate his work per say, the theme of my essay is, well here is the tite:

Overated: A look into the work of David Carson

The second part of my essay suggests there are far better and more successfull rule breakers. As an example I use Fillip Marinetti and Herb Lubalin.

Any help, thoughts or links would be great! :) thank u..

here is the last line of my essay...

I feel If people want to understand how to smash the rules they should look at Marinetti and Lubalin. David Carson is important, but people seem to see him as important for the wrong reasons. His work is something that is cool rather than really good- and that is the difference.

On May.09.2007 at 05:17 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Sean, some of the boys over at Be A Design Group seem to dislike him quite enough.

On May.09.2007 at 07:28 PM