David Carson

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It might be said that the age of fluro died when David Carson walked through the doors of Surfer magazine in 1990. At that point, he had already begun securing his place in the annals of art history as a master of dark, post-modern, grunge-influenced graphic design.

Before art and design defined Carson’s illustrious career, he was a red hot surfer from Cocoa Beach, Florida. By the 1970s, he was a top-ten ranked surfer in the Western Surfing Association (WSA) with an Infinity Surfboards signature model. 

At the same time, he was diving headlong into typography and photography. He gained recognition in the late 80s and early 90s when he worked for Skateboarder and Surfer magazines, pushing the boundaries of print publication design. He climbed the ladder at Surfer, securing the coveted role of Art Director.

Carson’s work was heavily influenced by the grunge movement of the 90s. He started Ray Gun magazine, an alternative music and lifestyle magazine, and went on to start his own design firm, David Carson Design. He has written and co-authored several books characterizing design trends, and his work has been featured in more than 180 magazine and newspaper articles in publications around the world, including a feature in Newsweek magazine and a front-page article in The New York Times

The London-based Creative Review magazine dubbed Carson “Art Director of the Era,” and the American Center for Design has called his contributions to Ray Gun magazine “the most important work coming out of America.” His work on Beach Culture magazine won “Best Overall Design” and “Cover of the Year” from the Society of Publication Designers in New York. And, according to the readers of Graphic Design USA magazine, Carson is the sixth most influential designer of the past half decade.

These days, Carson lectures extensively around the world and at colleges across America, including Cranbrook, ARTcenter, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Cal Arts. In his more recent work, Carson has branched out into television and video, producing commercials, documentaries, short films, and more. He was recently selected by Apple as one of the 30 most influential Mac users in their history. Smithsonian Institute magazine called Carson “one of America’s most important artists,” and Newsweek praises, “He changed the public face of graphic design.”

Carson was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2016. 

Photos courtesy David Carson