This Missouri-trained artist carves out room for Black culture in graphic design
As a young, Black graphic designer on the rise, Kearra Johnson wants to bring more culture into her industry.
The 23-year-old started learning graphic design as a sophomore at the Paseo Academy of Design and Performing Arts. She’d studied other forms of visual art, but graphic design just clicked for her.
“It made sense, because I always had a love for games, computers, technology and art at the same time,” Johnson said. “The possibilities within it are so vast.”
It intrigued her so much that she started staying after school to improve her design skills. Eventually, she went to the University of Missouri to study graphic design — using it as a way to connect with people and share her art.
Johnson began working on a passion project of hers at MU: a deck of cards featuring iconic Black people who have made an impact in American history. Flip through the cards and you’ll see the familiar faces of Maya Angelou, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., Michelle Obama and more.
The Revolution Card Deck spiraled into a full-blown product launch when she graduated. Johnson started selling the cards online and in stores like Made in KC and The Black Pantry. Then came attention from Fast Company, CNN, and NPR. Her sales skyrocketed.
Johnson hopes that the cards give Black people representation in everyday places.
“It shows (people) Black individuals on these cards,” Johnson said, “and shows them that they were powerful individuals and they made change happen.”
Like with the Revolution Card Deck, Johnson wants all of her creative pursuits to balance culture and identity and to change existing perceptions. She says her creations should start conversations and break down barriers.
“I would like to continue to create things that haven't been seen and things that challenge the culture, challenge the acceptance of our culture,” Johnson said.
Johnson has faced some discrimination in her field as a Black woman, but she says she’s mostly felt welcome. In tough times, she reassures herself by taking pride in her identity.
“At the end of the day, if you do your best and then own your identity, I feel like you can kind of only do great,” said Johnson.
Johnson is already creating new designs and products to help her and others own their identity. She’s revamping her merchandise line and released a mug that says “Dope, Black, and Favored.”
Johnson recently moved to Denver to work with a production company called Fresh Face Media. She’s on a mission to add to the Mile High City’s creative scene. She says it’s nothing like Kansas City.
“Kansas city is smaller, but it has a more abundant and just out-there creative scene for Black people,” Johnson said. “So I’m definitely trying to tap into what’s here and help elevate that.”
To keep up with Johnson and her work, keep an eye on her website, TikTok (@bystudiolo) and Instagram (@studiol.o).