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David Carson MasterClass – Worth The Money? (2023 Review)

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Following the traditional rules or the directions from your software can make graphic design unsatisfying and bland.

Thankfully, David Carson is here to teach you his intuitive approach for creating impressive designs in this his MasterClass, David Carson Teaches Graphic Design.

His course is mainly designed for graphic designers but It’s also useful for creative people. The course claims to help people create amazing visual designs which are intuitive, personal, and communicative.

But does this MasterClass live up to its promises?

Well, that’s what you’ll find in this review. I have watched the whole class and will try sharing my thoughts in a balanced manner. I’ll also share the pros and cons later in the article.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

David Carson Teaches Graphic Design | Official Trailer | MasterClass – YouTube

David Carson Teaches Graphic Design, MasterClass Trailer

What Is David Carson Teaches Graphic Design?

The David Carson Teaches Graphic Design is an online course that teaches people an intuitive approach to graphic design. It explores typography, photography, logo design, and more as you learn how to follow your mind and make an impact.

David Carson, a pioneering graphic designer who revolutionized visual communication in the 1990s, created this class for graphic designers and claims that it will help them create intuitive, personal, and communicative visual designs.

The class consists of 13 easy-to-consume lectures which total to a little over 2 hours. David makes sure the class never gets boring. If you start watching, you’ll probably finish it before realizing it!

About David Carson

David Carson MasterClass screenshot

David Carson is a prominent graphic designer who revolutionized graphic designing with his innovative yet chaotic typographies and distinct layouts. 

Originally a sociology major, it wasn’t until he was 26 when he took his first graphic design course at the University of Arizona, taught by artist and designer Jackson Boelts. 

Afterwards, he became in awe of graphic designing and enrolled in a small Oregon art school. He took graphic designing workshops here and there and finally started his career as an intern at a magazine called Action Now.

David was rebellious and didn’t care about the supposed rules of print design. He ended up radically cropping photos, mixing opposing fonts and putting text wherever he saw fit. 

This earned him many stints at magazines like Musician, SELF, Surfer. But it wasn’t until 1992 that David truly showed the world that he has championed the holistic concept of visual communication with his work in a magazine called Ray Gun.

He effectively invented a new visual language within the print medium and rather than just a graphic designer became a bonafide celebrity.

Dave went on to start his own studio and attracted big giants like Nike, Pepsi, Microsoft, Armani, BMW. He has published four books and won more than 240 awards, including the prestigious American Institute of Graphic Arts gold medal in 2014. 

David claims he was able to achieve such heights he followed his mind. 

He believes that the rules limit our creativity and created this course to help people follow their mind. He wants people to create work which feels “right” to them rather than what the softwares tells them is “right”.

Top Benefits Of This MasterClass

  • Graphic designers of any level can take this course and understand it.
  • The course is narrated by David in such a charismatic way that makes taking it exciting.
  • As a designer, you will learn to listen to your intuition more and use it in your designs.
  • David shares a lot of sincere advice and tips which can help you not just in graphic design but in life too.
  • You will see a lot of David’s famed work and the design process behind it.
  • The course also contains a small version of David’s workshop that he gives all over the world.

Outline Of The MasterClass

Heading of David Carson's masterclass

Let’s talk about what you’re actually getting in the master class. In the next section, I’m going to take you through every lesson one-by-one so you understand the full extent of what this course has to offer.

Lesson 1: Meet Your Instructor: David Carson

This is from lesson one of David Carson Teaches Graphic Design

David opens up the course to emphasize that if everyone loves your work then you’re probably being too generic and playing it safe. 

I was amazed by the fascinating testimonials shown next, on how he has revolutionized graphic design with his rule-breaking approach. Learning from such a pioneer is definitely exciting!

Moving on, David seems to express dissatisfaction about the direction graphic design has been going in. He feels that graphic design has become too generic, automatic and the excitement has been taken out.

David believes that graphic design at its best, can express the feelings of the designer through visual communication. 

He hopes that this class can help bring back some of the craft and the appreciation to detail to create better work. 

Then we see him talk about what kind of topics he will discuss in the course:

  • Graphic design
  • Typography
  • Photography
  • Collage making
  • Logo making
  • A small version of a workshop he gives around the world

On an ending note, David suggests that everyone has an intuition, a unique one at that, it’s just that they don’t learn to use it but that’s what he’s gonna teach you in the next lesson!

Lesson 2: An Intuitive Approach to Design

David expands on the intuition that it could have the right answers to our designs and most of the time it does, we need to just learn to use it more.

In the following sections he shows some of his work and explains what may seem chaotic and random is simply him following his intuition. 

An interestng visual by David Carson. Source: David carson masterclass lesson 2

The above design was rejected for readability issues but David felt that this design on a boring shopping mall’s window display could have made people stop and look in the door. 

(Well it really does look unreadable, sorry David…but hey I think it could have served the purpose i.e. to get people to notice the store.)

Later, David shows more of his work to explain that using existing things in new ways is a big job of the designer to get people looking again.

He also suggests starting to notice things in your environment. As nobody is you, you’ll notice things which others don’t.

Lastly, he goes on to say that intuition in design is crucial. Everyone can use it but everyone’s gonna be different due to their different upbringings, experiences; So being able to listen to your intuition can create great unique work.

I think this lesson was more related to self-realization than purely graphic design, but David starts focusing on the design part in later lessons starting from typography.

Lesson 3: Send a Message With Typography

Text that says typography. It comes from lesson 2 of david carson's masterclass

David starts up with how he feels about typography with the William Burroughs quote “The word is an image”, like it’s an image that happens to spell something.

But before that, it’s about sending a message in how it’s worked out in the design, layout and what fonts were used.

We see him explaining his design process where he starts with the font choice. He thinks every font has a different personality and you need to choose the one YOU think is the best.

David urges designers to take ownership of their decisions and do what feels right to them even if it’s mixing different fonts together. It doesn’t matter if it feels bizarre to others, it needs to feel “right” to you.

Moving on, we see David on a bit of a rant here about computer generated hand-writing fonts. He feels that agencies using such fonts is just like taking humanness away from it, if you want to use hand-writing then actually write it.

David touches on the colors here that although it reinforces the message, it should compliment the design than overpower it.

He also mentions that he’s never used grids, which isn’t surprising considering he came as an outsider to the visual design field. 

David strongly believes that designers themselves should make all decisions and is against grids or any supporting software which tells us what to do.

He suggests that designers start from a blank page and not follow grids or any guideline, just arrange things until they feel right and help send the desired message.

Overall, David wants you to make the design decisions yourselves in order to make exciting designs and attract an exciting audience.

Lesson 4: Using Photography in Design

Although David is best known for his typography, his bold photography treatments like radical cropping made his work sensational.

David starts with the importance of photos in graphic design on how they can bring life to something and make perfectly focused, colored designs from forgettable to memorable.

Following this, David shows some of his work and tries to explain different aspects of using photography in graphic design.

David dislikes the conventional approach of magazines where they would put boxes for the images to go in, instead he would look at the image and see whether it needs some cropping, enlarging or maybe a little bleed. 

The following picture shows exactly that:

An interesting visual from lesson four of david carson teaches graphic design - masterclass review

At that time, such radical cropping of photos was seen as “rebellious”. But for David, it was adding energy to the whole design.

David also suggests to not always go for the obvious choice when you are given a photo to work with. He would focus on aspects which others miss out to make the whole design unique and interesting.

He emphasizes on how selecting the right photos to reinforce the desired meaning is so crucial to the design. 

On an ending note, David calls on us to try and experiment new things to make the design process fun, there’s a lot of boring designers out there and David wouldn’t want you to be one.

Lesson 5: Put Yourself Into Your Work: Assignment 1

from lesson 5 of david carson's masterclass

Whenever David tours over the world, he delivers a graphic design workshop to show that designs can communicate before we even read them.

A small version of his workshop is displayed here and divided into three sessions: Lesson 5, 8 and 12. 

In the first session, David asks a group of students to make a black & white only design to show who they are, while using only 3 letters from their name.

He asks questions like What kind of person do you think they are? Are they friendly, are they shy, would you want to be with them in an alley at 3 o’clock in the morning?

David brings the discussion forward on how people can interpret the designs which says that it’s a designer’s job to try to convey messages while using minimum words.

David also urges us to try this assignment at home to see what kind of message we are giving before someone even reads the words!

In this lesson, David talks through what makes logos successful and also demonstrates his own logo designing process from his home studio.

To start off with the logo, David repeats the quote that just like “The word is an image”, a logo is also an image. An image that people wanna recognize from a distance and put on their hats, shirts or maybe even their expensive car!

David shows some of his logo designs to explain how logos need to be recognizable, memorable and represent something about the company that separates them from competitors.

David also mentions the positive and negative aspects of logos especially when they are related to people. 

The benefits being that it may help people relate to the person more. While he uses the logo design of 2016 Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton to explain the negative aspects it can have.

from lesson 6 of david carson's masterclass on graphic design

David felt that as a designer, her logo was “distinct, sharp and not very inviting” but, in his opinion, represented all the qualities that people didn’t like about Hillary Clinton. A better logo wouldn’t have turned the outcome but this one certainly didn’t help either.

The last section of this lesson is the most exciting part as David shows how he does logo designing from his home studio! 

He explains his design process and more, I think you’ll love this lesson as a graphic designer. It’s so amazing to see him show different versions of the same logo.

Lesson 7: Life as a Working Designer

David offers a lot of sincere advice here for designers and also helps them draw a big-picture in their mind on where they want to be as a designer.

David thinks every designer needs to make a fundamental decision: 

Go to where the work is, like if you want to work on some Hollywood movie poster then go to Hollywood. Either do that or just decide where you want to live and go find work there and pick what you can. 

Later David advises to limit your distractions and isolate yourself when you’re working on a design. 

You don’t want a passerby commenting on your design that “hey that’s looking weird, what are you doing” that’s just gonna register in your mind and ruin the design.

He also believes that community work is often a mess and at best turns OK rather than a great design. 

Lastly, David expresses his belief in spec (free work) despite it being a bit controversial with lots of strong emotions from both sides.

David says that if you have a lot of freedom to experiment but little to no money, it’s still worth a shot as long as it’s not grunt work where you can’t be creative.

He also mentions that he still does spec projects from time to time which is shocking considering even his seemingly simple designs are worth thousands of dollars!

Lesson 8: Tap Into the Power of Color: Assignment 2

david carson presenting art to people - this is from lesson 8 of the david carson masterclass

In the second group session, David reviews the second assignment: Create a design that reflects how your week is going, while using only color and texture.

David asks participants questions regarding their submitted designs to build up a story on what the artist is trying to say, like how’s their week going?

Upon watching this lesson, you might not have the same feelings they are expressing but don’t worry art is subjective so it’s totally fine. 

Lesson 9: Collage Art for Designers

part of the david carson masterclass (lesson 9)

In this lesson, he creates several hand-made collages in real time, talking through his source materials, design decisions, and how to follow your gut.

We see David arranging different pieces together until they start to feel good to him. 

He makes sure that there are minimum words to be read and would even tear down words and posters.

Finally he glues them together and argues that pieces moving during gluing sometimes make them even better. 

Arguably, collage making is probably not for every designer but seeing David doing work in real time is interesting nonetheless.

Just in case you were not into collage making, the next lesson is especially unique and exciting where David explains how to work with clients.

Lesson 10: Working With Clients

If you want to make a living from graphic design, you need to learn how to work with clients and David shows here exactly how he does that.

He always starts from the creative brief to get an initial picture on what the client wants them to do, what kind of fonts would be best for it and more.

After following the brief, David pushes us to think of going beyond the expectations, like sending experimental designs wouldn’t be too shocking as most companies are used to experiments at that point. 

David also emphasizes that you need to explain to your client why the design looks the way it does, and it certainly shouldn’t be “idk it looks cool”.

screenshot from lesson 10 of david carson's masterclass

The above design was a result of many experiments and its purpose was to bring awareness to sharks being killed for their fins.

David explains how he worked with this client and also showed the early designs and clients comments about them.

Moving on, David gives more amazing advice on how to work with constraints, score small victories and bring your personal work into client work.

Lesson 11: Designing Impactful Magazines

Although magazines have taken a hit since the internet came, people still read them and David breaks down his design process for some of his editorial work he did for different magazines.

Dave starts with changing the body copy of the article to make it more interesting to jump into for a reader. 

The following design is a basic example of it where he does some font play and drops the e of “wedge” down below and it still works out well. 

font play by david carson. this comes from his masterclass on graphic design

He shares more designs to emphasize that putting things in the obvious place might not always be the play and you could do the opposite to make it more interesting.

On an ending note, David touches on readability. He feels that nothing is unreadable, instead readability is totally subjective. 

I wanted to disagree but the next design shown totally changed my mind! 

I paused the video and started to make sense of this seemingly unreadable design, but it becomes totally readable when you try it from a different perspective. Have a go at it and let us know if you got it!

screenshot from david carson's masterclass

Lesson 12: Designing Your Future: Assignment 3

screenshot from lesson 12 of david carson's masterclass on graphic design

In the third group session, David reviews the last assignment: Create a design without any restrictions that shows what kind of future you want.

Just like in the past assignment lessons, David has participants express their thoughts about the designs and then builds up a discussion from there to provide insights and general advice.

David also mentions that a design has a lot of functions before someone starts reading them, like will it intrigue the reader? Does it send a message which is consistent with what they are going to read? 

At the end he suggests that designers push themselves, experiment more and put some personal touch into the work. He also hopes that you got some of this from the class, and suggests that you do the assignments at home to create some personal work and open your mind.

Lesson 13: Make It Happen

from lesson 13 of david carson's graphic design masterclass. He's presenting to some people who appear to be students.

In the closing lesson of this class, David shares a simple yet powerful mental exercise to inspire us about taking risks to avoid regretting later.

This might come out odd but the resulting message really is powerful:

David makes the participants write their date of birth and date of “expected” death on a horizontal line. Then tells them to choose an appropriate position to write “TODAY” on the line between birth and death.

Building his point from here, he shares a sociology study that conducted surveys in nursing homes of people on their deathbeds. The survey was about what regrets do they have at the end of their life?

There were some mixed results but almost all of them had a common point: they had more regrets about things they DID NOT do in their life than things they did do.

So from the mental exercise, he made participants realize how much time of their life has been spent and how much more is left.

David argues that if you’re not taking risks today and hoping stuff works out, goodluck, but you wouldn’t want things you did not do, to haunt you at the end of your line.

It’s honestly incredible how he finishes the class with such a powerful message, which doesn’t just apply to graphic design but life in general too.

Click Here To View David Carson’s MasterClass

Who Is This Course For?

The course is mainly aimed at graphic designers as you definitely need some basic knowledge to understand the design processes to employ them in your work.

That said, It includes lessons which are not only useful to graphic design but life in general too. So even people who just want to see how a pioneer graphic designer works, this course is definitely for them. 

To sum it up, I think the following people will love this course:

  • Graphic designers, especially newer ones in the field.
  • People curious about how designers work.
  • People interested in art and graphics in general.
  • And of-course David Carson fans!

How Much Does David Carson Teaches Graphic Design Cost

MasterClass offers three price tiers for this course.

Per month you can expect to pay:

  • $15 for one user
  • $20 for two users
  • $23 for a family

MasterClass charges annually.

This may seem like a lot at first, but consider this:

When you get the David Carson’s MasterClass, you also get access to 150+ courses by world-renowned experts.

Even if you were interested in only 2 courses a month, you’d be paying well under $10 per month.

Besides, if you aren’t happy with the David Carson Teaches Graphic Design, you can get a full refund if you request it in the first 30 days.

Pros And Cons

By this point, I’ve told you everything you need to know about this MasterClass. But if you’re looking for a quick summary, here are the pros and cons.

  • Graphic designers of any level can take this course and understand it.
  • The course is narrated by David in such a charismatic way that it never gets boring.
  • As a designer, you will learn to listen to your intuition more and use it in your designs.
  • David shares a lot of sincere advice and tips which can help you not just in graphic design but in life too.
  • You will see a lot of David’s famed work and the design process behind it.
  • The course also contains a small version of David’s workshop that he gives all over the world.

David Carson Teaches Graphic Design Pros

  • Gives excellent directions to graphic designers
  • Has potential to bring a positive change in you
  • Really interesting watch and never gets boring
  • Features a lot of David’s famed designs to look at

David Carson Teaches Graphic Design Cons

  • Annual pricing may make the course inaccessible to some (though the 30 day money-back guarantee helps here)
  • The course is built on graphic design but doesn’t the teach basics of it, although this could be a pro to some
  • As art is subjective, you may not agree to all of the David’s comments and teaching

Personally, I think the cons aren’t really cons at all. If you want to get this MasterClass at the best price, I’ve included a button below.

David Carson Teaches Graphic Design Alternatives 

Here are a couple of options to consider if you don’t like the idea of this MasterClass

Coursera

Coursera offers a similar course called Fundamentals of Graphic Design.

The course claims to teach fundamental principles of graphic design like imagemaking, typography, composition, working with color and shape. It is taught by Michael Worthington whose work has been exhibited in multiple countries and he has given lectures all over the world. 

One of the main benefits of this course is that Michael starts from the very basics and helps you establish roots of graphic design. He introduces building blocks of design like shape, color, patterns, composition, typeface etc.

I saw many designers claim that the course was too basic for them with simple and boring assignments. Some people were expecting more on how to use softwares like Adobe Photoshop, InDesign etc. Duration of the course is 15 hours and costs 49$/month which falls a bit on the expensive side.

Udemy

Udemy offers a similar course called Graphic Design Masterclass – Learn GREAT Design.

The course is offered by Lindsay Marsh, a freelance graphic designer with over a decade of experience and also a teacher who has taught over 300k students online.

The course includes a lot of software use and is one of the more comprehensive online graphic design courses for beginner to intermediate learners. It is one of the unique courses which are updated with new lessons and content every now and then.

This course is like Graphic Design 101, and its targeted students are people who don’t know much about graphic design and its softwares. So a lot of time is spent on explaining tools of Adobe softwares, which intermediate and above designers might find redundant and boring.The duration of this course is the longest i.e. 29 hours and costs the most at 85$/month.

David Carson Teaches Graphic Design Personal Experience: Does It Teach Graphic Design?

I think I found this an interesting course that never gets boring and teaches you more than just graphic design. It’s full of insights and sincere advice useful for both graphic design and life in general. 

Does it teach graphic design though? My answer would be that it depends on what your expectations are. 

If you are looking for a graphic design course that starts from the very basics and teaches you software and tools, then this is probably not what you’re looking for. There’s already thousands of videos on YouTube that do exactly this.

But, if you happen to know even small bits of graphic design, then this course can supplement your existing knowledge and offer you directions to excel in as a graphic designer.

Although the duration of the course is just 2 hours and it’s hard to pause it, I would suggest you don’t rush it. If you start thinking about what the lesson just talked about, you will learn a lot of stuff in the process.

Overall, I think this is a very powerful graphic design course and you should definitely take it if you want some supplements for your existing graphic design knowledge.

Conclusion: Should You Buy David Carson’s MasterClass?

David Carson Teaches Graphic Design is an excellent course for anyone looking to excel in graphic design.

Although it doesn’t teach you much software or the basics, it gives you a lot of directions to work in as a graphic designer. Whether it’s a logo, editorial or some poster David has his famed work to explain to you the design process behind it.

To sum it up, I’ll say this course is as interesting as watching a series on Netflix. It just never gets boring with David’s charismatic narration and teaches you a lot in the process.

But with buying a MasterClass subscription you’re not only getting this course, but also access to over 150 other courses by experts in various fields!

If you’re not happy with the class within the first 30 days, you can get a full refund.

So if you know even small bits of graphic design, then I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t try it out. You can always request a refund if it’s not for you.

If you want to know more, click the link below!

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