David Carson Influence Poster


For my influence poster project I decided to use David Carson as my inspiration for my design. David Carson is an American graphic designer but some of his other many talents is he is also an art director and surfer. Carson is best known for his original magazine design and his use of experimental typography. What initially drew me into Carson’s work was the complexity and abstractness of his work, while using seemingly simple techniques. As a designer, I find that I typically use very simple colors and concepts but alter it into a way so it is more complex and attention grabbing. I feel that David Carson does a great job accomplishing this with his work. Some of designs have a lot of aspects to them while others are very simple but he uses his elements decisively to create something visually appealing. Additionally, I love how when I look at his work I find that there is such an attention to detail and there are small elements that are easy to overlook if not closely observed and I find this alluring. This is why I used David Carson for my inspiration – because he is unique, abstract, and eye catching.

I began my design by deciding what I wanted to use as my background. For many of Carson’s work he does not necessarily use the background as the focal point, more as a support to his creative design and typography. That is why I decided to use a picture I previously took of Little 500 riders that was slightly off focused in the background. However just like Carson’s work, I wanted my poster to be dynamic and not look too stagnant and with that I wanted my poster to emulate the motion of the riders itself. So I decided to copy the original picture and paste it on top of the same photo, however I adjusted the opacity and shifted the photo to the right just a few picas to give the photo some motion and dimension. After I finished that, I wanted to adjust the color of the picture as well to imitate Carson’s “duller” shades that he uses in his work. To do this, I put a tone of sepia above the photo and adjusted that opacity so it altered the colors slightly to Carson’s tones.

After I was satisfied with the look of my background I worked on the Little 500 title at the bottom of the poster. I already knew I wanted to use Carson’s motif of using words as a background by placing them on top of each other and writing something on those words. So I made “Little 500” into a symbol and adjusted some of the default settings so I was able to spray Little 500 heavily in a way that could be read but also read on top of. Next I moved onto finding the typeface I wanted on top of this motif. Since Carson is so well known for his typography and the way he uses it, I wanted to make sure I chose something that mimicked his work. I found a font titles DCC Sharp Distress Black on DaFont and thought the distressed sans serif really encompassed something Carson might use in his own graphic design work. I decided to have Little fill up most of the space on top of the words motif but I wanted to do something different with 500. Carson tends to adjust his typography quite a bit by rotating and reflecting different elements in his designs. That is why I flipped the 500 so it was reflecting the Little. I initially had the Little in white however I felt that there was a more stylistic way having that typography. So I created a clipping mask so the Little actually displays the picture that would be underneath Little and the words motif. I felt this elevated the nameplate more in an inventive way that Carson might think to do.

After the nameplate, I moved on to deciding how I was going to incorporate the rest of the information. I wanted to keep the same typeface for the numbers to give the design to coordination, however I wanted to make sure it was displayed in an interesting way. So I designed it for the type to go vertical and horizontal to provide some variety within the design, much like Carson does in his pieces. I also layered the numbers to provide a look of movement and motion that mimics the motion in the background picture itself. When adding the words I wanted to incorporate overlapping and displacement like Carson does in a lot of his work that is why the lettering is disarrayed and in different sizes. I also reflected all the S’s because reflection is a theme that Carson tends to use throughout his designs. After I was content with my basic layout of my poster I wanted to find a way to imitate Carson’s feel of being rather monochromatic. My first draft had many aspects that I liked and I felt it did a decent job mirroring Carson’s work. However one issue I had with it is that I felt like I incorporated too many colors by leaving the background as is. That is why I edited my colors to gray scale to match Carson’s color schemes. Along with that I also added an aged film texture on top of the photo to give the poster more depth and coarseness.

Overall I enjoyed the challenge of this project. It pushed me to explore my creative realm in finding a way to use inspiration without completely replicating that influence. With that being said, I think my biggest struggle with this project was trying to stay true to Carson’s work while providing something that could still be functional as well. Carson’s abstract designs can be very appealing and provoking, however when it comes to an informational poster it was a challenge trying to find the right balance of abstract and legibility. However working through that challenge allowed me to push myself outside my comfort zone as a designer. That is why I enjoyed this project – I definitely feel like I learned and grew as a designer.