David Carson on the spirit of being anti-grid

Conversations on the Contrary: STIR presents a series of unboxed conversations from KDY 2019, discussing contrarian thinking in design, its challenges and potential rewards.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Oct 15, 2019

Sit with David Carson for a chat, and when you do, chances are that it would largely be filled with chuckles and free-wheeling laughter, a lot of ‘I don’t knows’ and ‘maybes’ sweetly dissolved in a sea of ‘why-nots’.

I first came to know about this American graphic designer two years ago through a colleague, who was an ardent fan of the former's anti-grid approach to design. This colleague, a terrific graphic designer himself, once cited Carson as the ‘God of graphic design’. He would sit for hours on stretch, restlessly turning a brief into a real project while the same music played in the background and kept playing until the project was over. Reflective of where he sought his inspiration from, it was not long before I was following his inspiration on Instagram.

It was at the Kyoorius Designyatra in Goa recently, that I caught up with the revolutionary David Carson. Deemed the most influential contrarian, and one of the early designers who not just thought outside the box but demolished it – I could not have been more excited to get inside his mind.

While the video above reveals Carson's thoughts on being referred as the master contrarian, I would just leave little facts here. A self-taught designer with a degree in sociology, Carson’s experimental style to layout and typography revolutionised the graphic design scene in the 1990s. His early designs produced as being the founding art director of the iconic magazine Ray Gun were cited as “the most important work coming from America.”

He is widely known for a roster of diverse works, which includes magazine and book covers, branding projects, packaging design, and surfboard designs and much more. A recent project, titled nucollage.001 brings together his latest collage work as well as insights into his inspirations and creative processes.

An avid surfer, even at 64, Carson is undefined by rules, pre-defined grids and static systems. Emotional, subjective and a little too abstract, he advises young designers to listen to their own uniqueness and not let computers make too many decisions for them.

(Watch out for more design contrarians in the series, 'Conversations on the Contrary')


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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than three years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.


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