Arts & Entertainment, Design & Style

Using Photography in Design

David Carson

Lesson time 13:10 min

David is best known for his typography, but his bold photography treatments are essential to his designs. He explains how his approach to photography was forged at Transworld Skateboarding magazine, where he got creative with amateur photos.

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Topics include: Case Study: Look for Something Interesting • Case Study: Tight Cropping Can Add Energy • Case Study: Don’t Go for the Obvious Choice • Case Study: Choose Photos to Reinforce the Meaning


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Photography is a huge part of graphic design. In the photos you choose or in the sections of the photos you choose, that's where you can give some life to something that otherwise might be so perfectly focused, and colored, and balanced, that it's totally forgettable. What hints can you take from the photography? A line, an angle, a white space, something that help tie this together as one piece. I think because I started on a skateboard magazine where we had very limited-- well, like, no budgets, and photos just submitted by people in the office or skaters themselves, which is a cool idea, but it often didn't work. And so I was forced to look at each photo and maybe find a section that I thought was more interesting. I'm going to go in and blow this section of the photo up. And whoa, that got really strong. That's really nice. And so I started working like that. And even if the skate photography was good, then maybe, again, it was a major article, or it was a cover article, or you had six pages or eight pages, and all I have are a couple good skate shots, well, I want more atmosphere. So it got me searching for things, but always within what I was given. So maybe type got bigger. Maybe this one little photo they thought would be small got bled, or any number of decisions like that. And I think I still work in that way. People lay out magazines now, and they leave a box for when the photo shows up. Say, no, you can't just drop that in when it shows up. Let's look at that photo. Maybe it needs to be enlarged. Maybe it needs to be a bleed. Maybe there's a section of it just more interesting. But the idea that you just drop it into a prearranged box is probably going to kill all the impact. This is really tight cropping, which I like, and I've done in a variety of sports, from the skaters, to the snowboarders, to surfers. And that's the case here. So I've cropped extremely close in on this photo of 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, with the idea, which was revolutionary at the time-- wow, I wonder if we could use this print media to get people to go to this new website thing. Do you think-- would that work? It basically says, so this is shot number five of a photo sequence of Kelly Slater, and if you want to see the whole ride, go to this web address. But that's taking two concepts-- one, that I like to crop severely. But this is probably even a little more severe because it had that other intention of teasing people to want to go to the website where they would not only see the whole wave, the whole ride, but of course, product information and everything else. This was a publicity photo which we often used, which I hated doing because everybody else has the same photo, but it's free. And so this would have been a nice photo of PJ Harvey. And I just said, oh, man, another PR photo. Everybody's going to see the same photo. You know what? Maybe I could just crop in. So I ended up cr...

About the Instructor

From Ray Gun and Transworld Skateboarding magazines to surfboards and potato chip bags, David Carson changed the trajectory of graphic design by never following the rules or sticking to the grid. Now the pioneering designer is sharing his intuitive approach so you can send a message with boundary-breaking work. Explore typography, photography, logo design, and more as you learn how to make an impact and trust your gut.

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David Carson

Pioneering graphic designer David Carson teaches you his intuitive approach to creating work that breaks rules and makes an impact.

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