Form Over Function for David Carson: From Controversy to Acclaim

By John R. Kleinpeter.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

David Carson is perhaps the most widely known graphic designer in the world today. Made famous by his controversial innovations in editorial typography, his provocative art direction for “Beach Culture” and “Ray Gun” magazines in the 1980s and 1990s was criticized by the predominant Modernist design movement. Modernist designer Paul Rand was an early critic of the budding design style. Historian Philip Meggs was critical of modernists for narrowly focusing on the deviation from standard practice instead of the broader relevant importance of the movement. Carson swayed the delicate balance between aesthetic form and the function of readability in communication. His typographic interpretations of editorial content marked a turning point in the history of graphic design. Without his experimental divergence from established design practices, Carson’s work may not have achieved the flood of notoriety that helped to elevate him to an elite status within the international design community. For Carson, form over function equated to stardom over obscurity.

Keywords: David Carson, Typographic Practice, Editorial Typography, Graphic Design History, Form Over Function

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.479-488. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.186MB).

John R. Kleinpeter

Lecturer, Department of Design, California State University Long Beach, California, USA

John Kleinpeter is a graphic designer with over 25 years in design practice. His work has been exhibited, published and/or distributed internationally. John has produced work for JCPenney, Dr Pepper/7UP, Frito-Lay, The John Wooden Classic and Eversoft. He received his Master of Fine Arts in Design from California State University, Fullerton and has been teaching students in the areas of graphic, industrial, interior and general design since 2001. His research interests include design history, practice and application.

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