During the period of 19821987, Carson worked as a teacher in Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, California. In 1983, Carson started to experiment with graphic design and found himself immersed in the artistic and bohemian culture of Southern California. By the late eighties he had developed his signature style, using "dirty" type and non-mainstream photography. He would later be dubbed the "father of grunge."
Carson went on to become the art director of Transworld Skateboarding magazine. Among other things, he was also a professional surfer and in 1989 Carson was qualified as the 9th best surfer in the world. His career as a surfer helped him to direct a surfing magazine, called Beach Culture. This magazine lasted for three years but, through the pages of Beach Culture, Carson made his first significant impact on the world of graphic design and typography with ideas that were called innovative even by those that were not fond of his work. From 1991-1992, Carson worked for Surfer magazine. A stint at How magazine (a trade magazine aimed at designers) followed, and soon Carson launched Ray Gun, a magazine of international standards which had music and lifestyle as its subject. Ray Gun made Carson very well-known and attracted new admirers to his work. In this period, journals such as the New York Times (May 1994) and Newsweek (1996) featured Carson and increased his publicity greatly. In 1995, Carson founded his own studio, David Carson Design in New York City, and started to attract major clients from all over the United States. During the next three years (1995-1998), Carson was doing work for Pepsi Cola, Ray Ban (orbs project), Nike, Microsoft, Budweiser, Giorgio Armani, NBC, American Airlines and Levi Strauss Jeans.
From 1998 on, DCD started an international career and worked for a variety of new clients, including AT&T, British Airways, Kodak, Lycra, Packard Bell, Sony, Suzuki, Toyota, Warner Bros., CNN, Cuervo Gold, Johnson AIDS Foundation, MTV...
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