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The Missouri-trained artist honors black icons with playing cards

As a rising young black graphic designer, Kearra Johnson wants to bring more culture to her industry.

The 23-year-old began studying graphic design in his sophomore year at the Paseo Academy of Design and Performing Arts. She had studied other forms of the visual arts, but she had enjoyed graphic design.

“It made sense, because I’ve always loved 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 of hers.

Johnson began working on his passion project at HU: a deck of cards featuring iconic black characters that 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 deck of cards it turned into a full-fledged product launch when she graduated. Johnson began selling cards online and in stores such as Made in KC and The Black Pantry. Then she got the attention of Fast Company, CNN and NPR. Her sales have skyrocketed.

    The Revolution deck of cards contains 12 iconic black change machines.
The Revolution deck of cards contains 12 iconic black change machines.

Johnson hopes the cards will portray blacks in everyday places.

“Show (people) black individuals on these cards,” Johnson said, “and show them that they were powerful individuals and made change happen.”

As with the Revolution Card Deck, Johnson wants all of his creative pursuits to balance culture and identity and change existing perceptions. He says his creations of him should spark conversations and break down barriers.

“I would like to continue to create things that have not been seen and things that challenge culture, challenge acceptance of our culture,” Johnson said.

Johnson has faced some discrimination in her camp as a black woman, but says she mostly felt welcome. In difficult times, she reassures herself by being proud of her identity.

“At the end of the day, if you do your best and then own your identity, I feel you can only do great things,” Johnson said.

Johnson is already creating new designs and products to help her and others own their identity. She is revamping her merchandising line as well released a cup that says “Dope, Black and Favored”.

Johnson recently moved to Denver to work with a production company called Fresh Face Media. He is on a mission to add to the Mile High City creative scene. He says it’s nothing like Kansas City.

“The city of Kansas is smaller, but it has a more abundant and simply out of the ordinary creative scene for blacks,” Johnson said. “So I’m definitely trying to tap into what’s here and help elevate it.”

To keep up with Johnson and his work, keep an eye on her websiteTikTok (@bystudiolo) and Instagram (@ studiol.o).

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