Dawn DeVries Sokol


{The End of Print and My Dislike for David Carson}

The other day while in Border's I picked up a book that I had never considered buying before and, well, bought it. It's called The End of Print: The Grafik Design of David Carson. This book was first published in 1995, and revised and republished in 2000. My first exposure to Mr. Carson didn't win him any awards with me.

It was many moons ago that I attended my second HOW Design Conference in San Diego. The keynote speaker: David Carson. My boss at the time RAVED about David Carson—he was SUCH a genius. She was over the moon that he would be at the conference. Me, I was rebellious. At the time—where I was working—I was very much anti-establishment (OK, still am a little and that job made me that way)...So I wasn't inclined to agree much with my boss. And I had even more reason during this time: The keynote speech was a MAJOR flop. I wasn't the only one to feel that way. Many were murmuring the next day how Carson seemed drunk, EXTREMELY egotistical and a major waste of time. Some people actually had walked out on the speech. My boss, on the other hand, continued to be infatuated. She even bought The End of Print at the conference with two of my co-workers and sought out Carson to autograph the copies...He did so in a weird fashion: he set them all down on a table together and autographed across them, so that no one copy contained his full autograph. You needed the set of three to see his entire signing. I rolled my eyes as I witnessed the signing and my boss fawned over him.

Cut to a couple years later at another HOW Conference, this time in Dallas. I was working for another magazine and a woman whom I hope never to cross paths with again. (Think The Devil Wears Prada). She made my former boss look like a saint. And who should I run into at this conference but my former boss, who actually had some sincere, heartfelt advice for me in my current position. I began to see her and appreciate her in new way. And she wasn't the only one...

We attended a seminar on type together. It was a panel seminar, with several leading type designers speaking and discussing type trends. At the last minute, the conference planners had to make a substitution of one of the panel's participants as they couldn't make it. They substituted this person with DAVID CARSON. At first, I considered walking out and attending another seminar, but I'm so glad I didn't.

The discussion of the panel quickly shifted (off point) to how designers should have some kind of license or certification to practice graphic design. Formal training was a must. For me, this was alarming. WHAT?! I had no graphic design education, no formal training at an institution. So, these people wanted me to change professions. PULLEASEEE...It's not like we were trying to practice LAW or MEDICINE!!! They were taking themselves a little too seriously.

And up speaks David Carson, who couldn't contain himself any longer. Now, mind you, Carson had achieved STAGGERING success and celebrity in the graphic design world. He developed the grunge look. He art directed such magazines as Beach Culture, Surfer and Ray Gun and created ads for MTV, Nike and Sony. He was the bad boy of design. And his experience was also back door...He pointed out that HE had no formal training, no graphic design degree...should he not be a graphic designer? And at that moment, I felt a bit of a bond with him. He was speaking up for me, for all graphic designers who had no design degree, but had ability, knowledge and good experience. Not everyone needed a degree, he said. He basically told off the other panel members in a roundabout way and steered the conversation back to where it should have been: type. The other panel members stammered and tried to smooth it out with him. I just giggled to myself. I couldn't believe it. He had won me over.

Now, I didn't go running out and buy The End of Print after that. I didn't go mooning over Carson and his work. It took me a few more years (like about 12)...But I saw that book last week, flipped through the pages and remembered how my admiration developed for him. After looking to surf, street and skateboarding cultures lately to inspire my journaling, the purchase of Carson's book was a no-brainer. He broke all the rules with type, design and layout. The rebel of print has a new admirer.