‘Design Is . . . Expressing What’s Going on Inside’

“For me design is like music--rhythmic and multilayered with color, balance, scale and texture,” says graphic designer Tyrone James Drake, whose poster for a proposed Fusion Film Festival on race in America has the visual beat and texture of a musical score.

Drake, 39, grew up in Oakland during the period of Black Panther activism. “There was a lot going on there. My view about life in general is based on the environment I grew up in,” he says. “Design is basically about people expressing what’s going on inside them.”

Drake graduated in 1996 from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. “My design career is really in its infancy,” he says cheerfully. “I’m kind of like old new blood!”

He views his work as “organizing information to create identity for a company or product--it’s all about the combination of type and image, and how they play together.”


As an independent designer, he enjoys the freedom to work for Disney on one hand and the Crenshaw Christian Center on the other--"that’s heaven.” Not only does Los Angeles provide the rich mix of clients that allows such versatility, he says, it is also visually inspiring.

An active member of the Organization of Black Designers, Drake has spearheaded its L.A. chapter’s visual identity work, developing a short multimedia presentation for 1997 WestWeek. He thinks he’s lucky to be working during the computer age.

“I’m passionate about design” he adds. “It’s not just an art form but also an expression of my social and political concerns.”