David Carson is the crown prince of graphic design, maybe. He’s a surfer, or was. And he broke the rules. His looks, if you were to capture them with the what if these two celebrities mated are somewhere between David Cassidy and actor Bruce Greenwood and if there is a rock god equivalent of a designer, he is it. I witnessed his display of confidence (or cockiness) firsthand with my peers and one of my professors almost 18 years ago at the Engine Room, a then common meet up for the design department of the University of Georgia.

Did his status as an icon give him his impish awareness of self? I don’t think so. I believe it was always there and made him the rule breaking designer that he is.

For example, every magazine that you have ever seen probably has the bar code in the bottom corner of the cover. Working for RayGun magazine, a magazine he helped start, he decided to boldly move the barcode to the center, or left of center, or used it for a bit of carefully placed censorship. Can you do that? If you have the option without having your creative director bat their eyes, then it’s due to their awareness of Carson. His design moves were the perfect parallel and compliment to the punk/surfer ethos that he grew up in.

Related to his display of cockiness, Carson once famously changed the copy for an article to Zapf Dingbats, rendering it illegible, simply to express his dissastisfaction of the writing or maybe that of Bryan Ferry’s newest album. I would not be able to get away with this and would likely be whatever the design equivalent of disbarred is, but I’m not David Carson.

Graphic design will save the world right after rock and roll does. - David Carson

Notable Works

  • Ray Gun magazine (Art Director)
  • Blue Magazine (Co-founder)
  • Nine Inch Nails' Fragile (Design)
  • Infamous Bryan Ferry article design using Dingbats


  • Grunge Typography