BEHIND THE SCENES | The Atlanta Opera’s “One-Stop Design Shop,” Dallas Duncan Franklin

1. What is your role with The Atlanta Opera?

I am the Creative Services Manager for The Atlanta Opera, which means that I am responsible for the creation and production of all print, advertising, exhibition, emarketing, and web materials for the organization. I have been in my current position for the past three years, and have eight years of experience working as a professional designer.

2. What is your background and experience, and what led you here?

Prior to moving to Atlanta and working for The Atlanta Opera, I held the position of Senior Designer at an award-winning design firm called Evenson Design Group in Los Angeles, CA. I have worked at a variety of agencies and in-house design departments in California, including CFNAPA, EMI Capitol Records, 4sight Communications, and Sebastian International. My work has been published in Communication Arts, Graphic Design USA, Graphis, LogoLounge, and CMYK among others.

In 2008, I decided to leave California and move to Georgia to get married. Serendipitously, my husband, Sam, was looking for work at the same time and saw an Atlanta Opera job posting on Opportunity Knocks. The position was a fit and I came in for a last minute interview. The company was about to hire someone and my application came in at the last possible moment. Shannon McClure, then the Director of Marketing, liked me, liked my work, and made me an offer in a matter of days. I remember being so thrilled and jumping up and down when I received the call. Working in the performing arts had always been a dream of mine, and I feel very fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time!

3. Why do we have a Creative Services Manager?

Having an in-house creative is a luxury for any organization. Most companies have to “farm out” their design work to agencies and freelancers, which can be time-consuming and expensive. It’s wonderful that The Atlanta Opera understands the value of having someone “on call” at any time to create and fulfill artwork needs as they arise. Having an in-house designer also allows more control and consistency over company branding so that all materials coming out of the organization have a unified look and feel.

4. What are some of your favorite campaigns or projects?

The Atlanta Opera’s 30th Anniversary Season in 2009-10 was a wonderful opportunity for me to show off my skills. Not only did we create an award-winning logo that was published in LogoLounge Volume 6, but we also curated a 30th Anniversary Costume Exhibit in conjunction with the Costume Shop. This bright and vibrant exhibit was on display at every production during the 2009-10 Season at the Cobb Energy Centre.

The award-winning 2009-10 Season artwork is another favorite of mine. I shot all of the imagery with my medium format hasselblad camera(the same camera model that was used on the Apollo Moon Landings). Many of the final shots were taken right outside in the parking lot using Atlanta Opera staff. The Aida image of the great pyramid of Egypt was taken when I was in college during a trip to Cairo. The Elixir of Love image on the grass was taken in my front yard.

For the creation of the 2010-11 Season imagery, I decided to partner with The Portfolio Center photography department and create a class competition in which students would compete to create artwork for La bohème, Porgy and Bess, and Così fan tutte. The students came up with the ideas and I helped to coordinate the photo shoots. The experience was incredibly rewarding and we were again able to use staff for one of the three pieces (thank you Lindsay Smith and Charles Swint!)

The annual La Belle Soirée invitations allow us to play with beautiful spring themes and colors. The 2009 invitation flowers “blossomed” from a 1-color green “Save the Date” postcard, to a 4-color invitation.

These Student Discount Posters were fun, vibrant, and perfect for a college audience. I feel that they embody, in one image, the dynamism and spirit of an Atlanta Opera production.

Finally, The Atlanta Opera Ball poses a yearly challenge for me to create artwork that is new and fresh, but palatable to a wide range of artistic sensibilities. The Ball Artwork for 2010 was particularly beautiful, as we were able to use vintage 19th Century Poster Artwork designed by Jules Cheret on the invitation package.

5. Why do you do what you do?

I have always been a visual person. Design has so much to offer as a discipline because it touches on so many different things: branding, communication, marketing, psychology, and more. I find that I am consistently challenged and forced to tap into all of my knowledge and experience on a daily basis. Ultimately, I am an avid believer in strong, simple communication that informs, as well as surprises.

I know that a design is successful not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. I hope to add a little bit more white space to a visually saturated world.