Having worked as a sociology teacher and professional surfer in the late 1970s, he art directed various music, skateboarding and surfing magazines through the 1980s. As art director of surfing magazines and more famously style magazine Ray Gun (1992-5), Carson came to worldwide attention. His layouts featured distortions or mixes of 'vernacular' typefaces and fractured imagery, rendering them almost illegible. Indeed, his maxim of the 'end of print' questioned the role of type in the emergent age of digital design, following on from California New Wave and coinciding with experiments at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Ray Gun made Carson very well-known and attracted new admirers to his work. In this period, publications such as the New York Times (May 1994) and Newsweek (1996) featured Carson and increased his publicity greatly.