Typography spun into a whirling end-of-century gyre in the 1990s, and David Carson was at its center. The incendiary pages of Ray Gun magazine inflamed the eyes and minds of countless young designers who sought to tap into the freedoms unlocked by his bold new style. Carson shaped everything in his path for his own purposes, endlessly contorting type, layout and grid into new configurations and abandoning design’s established truths of order and legibility. He represented a new breed of visual author.
In 1980, Carson was a 26-year-old high school teacher in southern Oregon. He received a flyer in the mail—intended for high school seniors—for a summer program in graphic design at the University of Arizona in Tucson and decided to attend. The workshop was run by Jackson Boelts, who became a mentor and lifelong friend. A few years later Carson enrolled in a summer workshop in Rapperswil, Switzerland, where instructor Hans-Rudolf Lutz challenged him to work experimentally and to find reasons for shaping form in particular ways.