David Carson, why not?

Interview to the self-educated designer known by his experimental style

David Carson talk at ESdesign

More than 300 people were gathered last may for the David Carson's talk at ESdesign. He open up the 2018-2019 school year with a conference through his more highlighted projects.

Thanks to ESdesign, we had the chance to ask him some questions about music, design and surf.

When you do a design for an album do you listen to the music?
I have to. Initially I do it to get a sense of what I must represent or reinforce. And once I made this decision, then it’s not that necessary to listen to that specific music because I am in my working environment, but somewhere in the process you must absolutely listen to the music you are doing the design for.

What do you think is the relationship between music and design nowadays?
I can only speak personally, and I have to say I can’t work without music, it is a huge part of my process. Music, design and art are a very related fields and I think it is very important that they collaborate. I designed a lot of articles involving music, the starting point is to always listen to the music and try to interpret well how it will look like. And that is very challenging and fun. If you are a designer or art director and you are working in music and you come up with something that represents visually, and the former agrees that that represents their music you feel like you really got it. It happened to me maybe only one or two times!

You started designing during the 80’ and 90’, do you think this relationship changed nowadays that there is more information, internet and social media?  
I think is got more generic somehow not as human or related to the music maybe. Not completely, but some things from the design world get more marginalized and kind of gentrified, and somehow less special. We lost some surfaces, like posters and album covers that used to be places for the artists to show their strengths. But now, poster design for events are done for the same company that print the posters, put them up, put them down and they even design it too! Not so long ago, I was in Seattle for a festival on behalf of Ray Gun magazine and it was always a good place to find some posters of the concert to take them home, but last time I was there I couldn’t found one poster that I would like to take, because they are done by this companies that do this kind of safe ok design, but they do not have the spirit or the attitude of experimentation.

Do you think underground design got more mainstream?
I don’t think Kurt Cobain hated the name “grunge” as much as I do, I think some writer came up with that term and said that I was doing grunge design. Maybe music is still as experimental and new, but the ways that is represented it became more generic. Not always, sometimes I can still see some interesting flyers or posters.

Has surf culture somehow influenced your projects?
I was always involved on that world because I am from southern California and surf and skateboarding created an environment of experimentation. My first job was in a skateboarding magazine and I been doing design and in the field since then. Not because I was a frustrated old skater but because that was an opening I had, and all these things came up together and that was how I started my career in graphic design. Which happen to work very well with the way I work.

David Carson talk at ESdesign

How not having a formal training helped in your work?
I never learned all the things I am not supposed to do, so in my case I only make things that make sense to me like, how I can reinforce what I just read or listened. People say  you broke that rule, you can’t do that! And I am always like: why not? That’s a philosophy I still have, why not? Why I can’t do that?
My design sensitivity will be different If I had this training, similar but maybe more restrictive.

What are your influences? Do you think it’s important to go always further design and have more interests like art, music, etc... and let that influence you?
It is important to not look only to all the design anuals, and the work of other designers, you must use your life experience and your personality, your way of thinking and seeing things, because nobody can copy that. Everyone can buy the same software or do a reasonable layout. But nobody can bring a unique life experience to a project. So If you do that you are gonna do a good job and you are gonna enjoy it.
Get ideas from life and from life and from what you give and been given.

David Carson talk at ESdesign

At the end of the conference David Carson answered the questions from the assistants to the talk:

When do you know that a project is done?
It is very difficult to know when something is finished, what works better for me is to leave it rest overnight and the next day in the morning, if I see it and I like it, then I consider it done, but If I am not sure I definitly have to continue working on it.

Which is the best way to create an emotional reaction of the audience with graphic design?
To provoque an emotion you have to be connected with what you are reading, listening or interpreting, and bring your reaction to the design you are doing. This is the best way to achieve the same reaction from the audience. My advice is that you have to get involved, obsessed and emotionally connected with what you are doing. If you do something in five minutes, people will have a brief and superficial reaction to it.

Any advice for all the professionals that want to work in design?
Be persistent and do what you like. Sounds a little bit like a cliché, but really works. You will be working for a long time in your life, better if you have passion for what you do.


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