Grant Sanders


I started in this business as an art director, then became a copywriter, then a creative director. And today, after founding SAND in 2019, I’m more of a conceptual thinker who designs and writes in equal measure. SAND stands for Strategy Art Narrative Design — the four superpowers we bring to bear for clients in the personal and public transportation space. The goal here is to help organizations move people. Both from point A to point B, and emotionally, which is critical for building trust and delight. Past and present clients include bus rapid transit services, train lines, transit security, fare payment solutions, bike clients, and businesses involved in sustainability and green technologies. After working for hundreds of different clients in dozens of creative environments, when I created SAND I made a promise to myself that we would only work for clients that make the world a better place, which is an enviable position to be in. And we do it on Nantucket Island, 30 miles off the Massachusetts coast. Enviable squared.

How did you become involved in socially responsible communications and why do you believe design can be an effective tool for this goal?

Communications in general, and design specifically, is simply a tool. Like a hammer. You can use a hammer to build something socially questionable. Like a casino. Or a fast food place. Or you can use it to build something that contributes to the common good. Coming up through the ad business, I’ve seen plenty of examples of really brilliant, gorgeous, well-executed work that did real harm to people.

I first started to think about only taking on work that contributes to the common good when I was CD at Mintz + Hoke in Avon, CT and we were in a focus group for a new bus rapid transit line that we were helping to launch. A woman in the focus group talked about taking three different buses and commuting an hour and change each way to get to work. And it was rare that she ever got home for dinner to be with her kids. But the new service we were launching reduced her commute by over an hour. She cried when she talked about it.

That’s when the light bulb went on for me. Helping people get home at a reasonable hour to help their kids with homework was a noble thing. A wholly worthwhile thing. Reducing GHG emissions is a good thing. Getting people out of their cars and onto bikes is a good thing. Using my skills for anything less just feels misplaced at this point in my career.

Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does 2021 present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?

Duke Ellington once said: “A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” Yes, COVID is a massive, disruptive problem. But it’s also an opportunity. It has taught us something about working together even when we are not together. To be open to new ideas. To seek balance. To promote and persuade on phones. To shoot films with small, safe crews or no crews at all. To design for a two-way digital conversation (and not always an easy one). It’s a good thing. Because we are still looking at a few other social mountains to climb. Equity, affordable housing, climate change. COVID has been good training.