Behind the scenes with designer Don Grant

CRAFT Creation & Design's Don Grant designs from his Grant Park home.

CRAFT Creation & Design’s Don Grant designs from his Grant Park home.

For over a decade, Grant Park resident Don Grant has been the creative force behind the popular poster and t-shirt designs for Oakland Cemetery’s Sunday in the Park, Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours, and Tunes from the Tombs festivals. Don chatted with Historic Oakland Foundation on his creation process and what he loves about Oakland Cemetery. 

Q: How many years have you worked with Historic Oakland Foundation to design creative for their events?

A: I’ve been working with Historic Oakland Foundation on graphics for their various events since 2005.

Q: How did you get involved with HOF and/or Oakland Cemetery?

A: I live in the neighborhood (Grant Park) but my involvement stems from when Mary Woodlan, HOF’s Director of Volunteers and Special Events contacted my then-employer, Mindpower, to ask if someone on staff could work on a poster for Sunday In the Park. I began working for myself later that year (2005) but continued and expanded my work with Oakland, eventually taking on designs for Tunes From the Tombs and the Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours.

Q: What is your ideation process for these designs?

A: Every single project I undertake has a thoughtful beginning. Before the first headline, logo, or page layout, there will be a thorough exploration of what may seem to be very simple questions. Who are we talking to? What is the most true and relevant story that we can tell? Why should they care? The specific ideation process for Oakland events always begins by asking myself “What could I say to convince someone that spending time in a 150-plus-year-old cemetery could be fun?” And there’s always a nod to the long and storied history around one of Atlanta’s last remaining antebellum features as well.

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Grant has designed collateral material for Oakland Cemetery events including Sunday in the Park, Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours, and Tunes from the Tombs.

Q: Do you have a particular design that is your favorite?

A: I don’t really have a favorite. I like different things about all of them and I always try to bring in some humor to the designs as well. Last year’s Sunday In the Park design, for instance, featured a twist on the old “See Rock City” signs that used to be on barns in the south. Several of the designs have featured my children as part of the design – the first had my son in a stroller. He’s now 14 and over six feet tall. This year’s Sunday in the Park poster design also features one of our dogs as the “life of the party.”

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Q: Do you have a favorite event or activity at Oakland Cemetery?

A: My family and I love the Halloween tour. We’ve been every year, it’s become a family tradition. Halloween is also my birthday, so I’ve always been a bit partial to that time of year.

Poster design for Sunday in the Park 2013

Grant’s poster design for Sunday in the Park 2013

Q: Who are some of your other clients at CRAFT Creation & Design, and can you tell us a little more about your design firm?

A: I do still consult with Mindpower and am excited that I get to work on educational clients with them all over the country. But I have been independent since 2005. For the most part, CRAFT is a one-man operation. I’m not very formal. I work out of my house and as much as I’d like to put on bigger britches, there’s been no good reason to do so far. However, with over 20 years of industry experience — more than half of that at traditional agencies and design firms — I understand how most of the creative process works. For the parts I scratch my head over or simply dislike doing, I have very talented friends who help me out. CRAFT is in the business of telling stories – true, authentic stories – to a very particular audience. An audience, who whether they realize it or not, will benefit by what I intend to tell them. Why? Because it’s the truth and it will change the way they see or understand a small part of the world they live in.

One of the projects I am still most proud of was the branding launch of Empire State South in Midtown. Other current clients include a mayoral candidate, a national fire & security company, Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area (If you haven’t been, go check it out!), and several other opportunities through consulting work with other groups and agencies.

Q: Thanks for chatting with us! Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?

A. Whether it’s getting a local start-up launched or telling the ongoing story of a national corporation, everything I do, from the color palette and font choice to the tone of the copy, is purposeful. I believe in being thoughtful about all choices, however, small. Every element of the communication should point back to the relevant truth that we are trying to tell. I owe at least this much to the audience in exchange for their time and attention and to the client for their confidence and remuneration.