School of Art, Media, and Technology

BFACD Alumni Feature: Erik Carter

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Design for electronic/pop band Majical Cloudz’ album Are You Alone?

Erik Carter’s work is both aesthetically provocative and conceptually driven. The graphic designer and art director graduated as a CD major in 2011 and has gone on to work for MTV, The New York Times, and The Office of Paul Sahre. His book covers and illustrations have received notable recognition in the design world and beyond. His recent article for Literary Hub, Secrets of the Book Designer: the Many Ways a Cover is Rejected reveals the strenuous process of creating and selecting a cover for production.

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Book Cover Design for Oreo

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Illustration for The New Yorker

What were your favorite classes at Parsons?

Design as Idea, taught by Bob Gill and Aesthetics, taught by Arnold Klein. Bob Gill was a founding partner of Pentagram, among a million other things, and he taught me that graphic design could be about ideas, not about style, which was revelatory to me at the time. He would tell us these crazy anecdotes about how Charlie Watts was his intern or how Herb Lubalin would reject his work. Conversely, Arnold Klein was an accurately self-described poet and a scholar and I liked his teaching so much that I ended up taking three classes with him. He would name his classes outlandish titles, such as Erotic Themes in Art & Design, just to trick students into signing up, and then proceeded to anger them once they realized that they would not be looking at butts or boobs. The readings he gave by R.G. Collingwood, Plato, and George Santayana taught me that design could be an exploration of beauty and style. These two conflicting philosophies have stayed with me over the years and served as a foundation of my practice.

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Book Cover Design for Is that Kafka?

What did you wish you knew as a student that you know now?

You will end up throwing everything you make at school into the bin.

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Cover illustration for The New York Times Magazine

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Book cover design for Spencer Madsen’s You Can Make Anything Sad

Who do you look up to in the design community?

Paul Sahre, my first boss, is, I believe, an inch or two taller. Also Richard Turley, who I worked for at MTV, towered at least three inches over me.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Watching Nicki Minaj rehearse “Anaconda” at the VMAs changed my entire outlook on life.

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Book cover design for Verso’s Verso Futures series

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