For a magazine that’s named after, and art directed by David Carson–a designer who is infamous for his work in the 90’s with the short-lived surfing magazine, Beach Culture, and for the rock-and-roll magazine, Ray Gun–you’d expect this cover to be something a bit more off the wall, right? While I will admit that I was initially a bit startled–I didn’t even realize that it was the cover at first! I originally saw the image without the logo–but that was because in the back of my mind I was expecting something. It was startling because of how minimalistic the type was, I think, because so much of Carson’s work over the years has been dumbed down by people to simply be “play with type for no reason”. It’s always gone much further than that, though. Type is a defining part of his work, but in reality, it isn’t always loud, grungy, broken, and distorted. It isn’t always that way because that feeling isn’t appropriate for every project.
His covers for Blue magazine (one of which I previously critiqued) come to mind when I look at this cover for C A R S O N. They are both similar in the sense that they heavily emphasize image over the copious amounts of type typically seen on magazine covers. The images that are emphasized are incredibly thought-provoking; they aren’t just a straight up head shot of someone, or a landscape, or whatever else is usually found on magazine covers. They’re not literal. Rather than bombarding your eyes with text scattered everywhere, they choose to excite your imagination by “showing”, rather than “telling”. Unfortunately, this is not something that most people are receptive to, but given the target audience of C A R S O N, it works.
This image isn’t the final cover (it’s missing the bar code and a few other things, I believe), but essentially, this is what you’ll see on the stands. The text (or should I call it the caption?) is what makes this cover for me. It acts as a springboard. It prompts my mind to start processing and deciphering the connection between it and the image. The number of connections or meanings that can be elicited are infinite. To begin deriving meaning, it is beneficial to know that each issue is apparently going to be themed. Can you figure out what the theme for this issue is? … It’s “survival”. Like I said, rather than explicitly labelling the cover with huge, bold type reading “THE SURVIVAL ISSUE!!!”, they choose an image and a caption that abstractly represents what they want to express; with this approach, readers are prompted to make an emotional connection with the image based on their past experiences, and what they know about the magazine. This approach doesn’t tell you what the theme is, but it gives you a context to “play” with as you see fit. I mean, there is just so many angles you could approach this image from; the figure is resting on what seems to be some sort of shelf–I have visions of an abandoned novelty shop, with atrocious blue walls, for some reason–it has its arms and head chipped off, yet it still must “keep dancin”, and because of this, a contrast between the sharpness of the figures open chest, and flowing skirt is created. There’s so many meanings you could attribute to this sort of thing. This kind of thing would not be possible through, for example, writing “THE SURVIVAL ISSUE!!!” and adding an image of someone “surviving” in the wilderness. It narrows the scope of your theme and the meaning of the word “survival” immediately. In being literal, you limit your audience.
The folks working on C A R S O N got it right with this first issue; their audience appreciates art and expression, they don’t want to be limited. They want to be freed, they want to be liberated.
I can’t wait to get my hands on the first issue.
C A R S O N mag website: http://www.carsonmag.net