Grant Design Collaborative celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. It’s hard to believe I took a sojourn on my way home to Atlanta in Fall of 1996, and I drove right to our building in Historic Downtown Canton out of some strange twist of fate. I leased the third floor of the Galt Building, and we moved in over the holidays later that year. I purchased the entire building six months later, and our studios have remained on the top two floors for two decades. While I actually formed the firm a year earlier after closing my previous one, DESIGN! in Dalton, Georgia, we truly did not begin as Grant Design Collaborative until moving to Canton and assembling a new team of talented and passionate designers.
Over the years, we have experienced our shares of highs and lows, but the spirit and commitment to great design has remained constant. We’ve had Fortune 50 clients and local start ups, and Grant’s creative team approached each project from the same strategic perspective. On some days, the highest high and lowest low came in tandem. On the morning of 9/11, I was eagerly preparing to leave home for our first conference call with a new client, Herman Miller. Grant had been retained to develop a new brand strategy for their A+D team, and we couldn’t have been more excited to begin. While getting dressed, I saw a brief story on CNN about a small plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers. By the time I got to the office and our call had begun with the client, located in New York, the second plane hit, and the Herman Miller team had to evacuate their offices. Soon after, we knew what was transpiring, and our team went across the street to a restaurant to watch in horror as the tragedy unfolded. It was one of the longest days of my life and, certainly, one of the most difficult for the firm.
As soon as air travel resumed, I was on a flight to New York to meet with the Herman Miller team. I recall how eerily quiet the city was when I arrived and the level of shock that existed. Of course, the shock resonated throughout the business world, including Grant’s own clients, and the next year mostly involved serving as a brand therapist. A lot of our design colleagues lost their jobs or their firms during this time, and the subsequent recession took an even greater toll on the industry. Through it all, Grant Design Collaborative survived and continued to produce great work. It was not easy and not without cost, but tenacity is one of our greatest strengths.
In the past six years, our firm has been honed to a core team of the most talented and dedicated designers practicing today. From methodology to pure creative genius, I have the honor and privilege to collaborate and learn with Matt DeFrain, Elizabeth Seidle and Kurt Seidle and CB Smithwick on a daily basis. Recently, we developed a motto for Grant Design Collaborative – Classic Design, Modern Strategy – and we strive to develop brand roadmaps to navigate our clients through an increasingly complex world. We learn by doing, listening and thinking on a different level. To be certain, we are extremely proud of and humbled by our international awards and recognition, but we manage our reputation by producing real world results for our clients.
Throughout the year, Grant Design Collaborative will be celebrating twenty years of classic design and modern strategy. At times, we will be retrospective of past projects or experiences that shaped the firm we are today. We will also share some personal stories and insights that define our culture.
Granted, two decades is a long span, but our collective experience will continue to define and inform our design solutions.