By Ángel Guillén

How David Carson TypeTalk changed the way of seeing graphic design

United States map designed for the “Amtrak’s national route map”. By David Carson. www.davidcarsondesign.com


A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the talk organized by the BCU with David Carson as the special guest. Before knowing that he was coming to Birmingham after a lot of years I did not know his work, but the weeks before his visit I started to be really interested in his peculiar way of working and creating graphic images. I was expectant of what Carson could teach us that evening.

What attracted me the most about David Carson is his sense of humor. His way of acting and thinking is actually reflected in his design and it is the fact that makes him different from other graphic designers For instance, if he did not like an image a text or a colour but it was a requirement of the client, he would turn it around, or put it in a small size, or look for a way to comply with the requirements but being true to his style.

I would also like to highlight his refusal to use any type of graphic structure when designing. Carson prefers to be guided by his personal perspective instead of being limited by a grid. In my point of view, we should not go to any of the extremes. I believe that the use of a structure is necessary, but we must never limit ourselves mathematically to it, but rely on our vision as designers to break those limits in an appropriate and logical way.

Me at the TypeTalk. Photograph by @luketonge at @designfestbrum.

In my opinion, I think it is important to maintain a balance between what a client asks you to do and your own style and identity as a graphic designer. It is clear that when you start your professional career this is much more difficult and you cannot take the freedom that Carson enjoys, but you should always feel proud of the work you do despite the inconveniences.

Another important point that marked me from Carson’s talk is his way of looking for inspiration and seeing the world. I learned that we must be attentive to what surrounds us. We never know where we can find the answer to our questions. In nature, in a bar, in a station, or in the bathroom! It seemed incredible to me how he uses all these life experiences in his designs (even his bloody wounds surfing!).

Finally, although having a style as personal as Carson’s is very positive, this has certain drawbacks. I think his way of working would not fit into all the categories of graphic design and limits his flexibility. His style can be very adequate in editorial design, for example, but it does not fit in my point of view in fields like branding.

In conclusion, the special design of David Carson has made me open my eyes, be attentive to what surrounds me, experience, learn, play and innovate. Find the irreverent side of design and improve as a person and professional.

Photograph of TypeTalk by David Carson.