About Us

Since 1969, every aspect of the monument industry has changed. The one thing that remains the same is Design Mart's commitment to you and the families you serve. Design Mart has been adapting and growing with you for 50 years. 

From hand-drawn monuments to digital design, technology has changed, but Design Mart's mission is still the same: To help the retailer provide a personal memorial and the best service possible.

In 1969 the country anxiously watched as Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. And in an old gasoline station in Elberton, Georgia, Design Mart was born.

Many things have changed since 1969, including the gas station location of Design Mart. While change occurs, commitment to quality is still the heart of what keeps Design Mart at the leading edge of the memorial marketing and sales industry. 

As Design Mart grows and serves a new generation of memorial retailers more talent and space are required.  Today, in our new facility, Design Mart has a team of artists, web developers and support staff ready to serve you.

When Design Mart began, full-size pencil layouts on tracing paper, with chalk and carbon paper to transfer designs to stencil were high tech.

Next came plastic plates by 3M and others. These could be easily pressed into stencil, cutting it, so the sandblaster would pull the stencil and begin blasting and shaping.  With a wide selection of DMart designs on plastic punch plates, everyone could design and produce personal monuments, but no one had to be an artist. In the late 80s and early 90s all our designs were digitized, and our artists are available to create custom artwork as seen here.

Design Mart believes in giving back to the monument industry. Each year we host the retail monument students who enrolled with the Elberton Granite Association. Retailers come from all over the United States to spend nearly a week in Elberton learning about granite, monument production, and sales. We have have been an EGA member since 1969, and we are proud to give back to these students who have traveled so far to improve their knowledge and make themselves the best retail memorialists they can be.

In the photo above, Joe Fernandez, founder of Design Mart, teaches one of the EGA’s retailer classes. This photo is from the late 70s or early 80s when monument images were still drawn by hand. Students were very interested in the many sketches, t-squares, curves, brushes, air brushes, and shades of ink required to make a design. At right, Mike Fernandez, who purchased Design Mart in the 90s, demonstrates the Online Monument Designer to another generation of memorialists.

Our mission is simple: Provide the monument industry’s retailers with the materials and support they need to serve grieving families - providing a personal, meaningful memorial for generations to come.

Design prints, catalogs, and brochures were the norm until the 90s. That’s when web sites and digital design began to establish a foothold and forever change retail sales methods.

While Design Mart has sold more than 30 million brochures and 100,000+ catalogs, we remain at the leading edge of technology with the Online Monument Designer & Catalog. Selling and designing can be done in a sales room, cemetery, or home. All that’s needed is an internet connection.

Reaching more customers and growing your business doesn’t require a large budget. Simply put, families can’t purchase a monument from you unless they have heard of you. In the past, Yellow Pages and direct mail were the best ways to reach out to customers. Now it’s all about the web and social media. Design Mart has designed and continues to host hundreds of monument web sites. For those who already have web sites, we can connect our Legacy Online Catalog & Monument Designer to make browsing easier for the customer as well as the monument retailer.

History of Design Mart

Design Mart traces its roots back to 1920s when John Fernandez left Franco's dictatorship in Spain and arrived in Cuba. Soon after that, he took another voyage up the east coast and settled in Barre, Vermont where he worked in a growing granite industry. While in Barre, John worked for Jones Brothers, and was one of the craftsmen who created the well-known work at the center of downtown Barre. It was in Barre that he met and married Julia Pena before making their way south to Elberton, Georgia.

While two of their sons went into granite manufacturing, the other, Joe, went to work as an apprentice draftsman in several of Elberton's larger manufacturing companies. After working at Coggins Granite Industries and a stint in the US Army, he went to work for Ben Smith of Premier Designs where he perfected airbrush techniques that can be seen in all of DMart's early work. Joe opened Design Mart in 1969 in downtown Elberton and served the local industry with drafting services and realistic airbrushed renderings for manufacturer reps and retailers.

Our Unique Approach

Design Mart's approach would be different from that of Premier Designs. Design firms had previously focused on individual photographically reproduced prints from a darkroom. Joe saw sales moving from a door-to-door task to one driven by targeted direct mail, and in 1969 started his own company - Design Mart. He compiled his design collections into brochures and matching sales books such as Precious Memories, A Closer Walk and Ties That Bind, which are still in demand today.

All Design Mart designs continue to carry unique identification numbers for monuments as well as components used to draw each monument. These numbers, coupled with a selection of alternate carvings in the back of each sales book make it possible for retailers and manufacturers to quickly customize monuments by number without guesswork.

Industry Revolution in 1970s

The mid 1970s saw a revolution in the pre-cutting of rubber sandblast stencil for carving and lettering on monuments. Sandblast masks made of heavy rubber had long been used to sandblast lettering, panels and flowers on monuments. Rubber was glued to the face of the granite monument and an actual size drawing was traced onto the rubber. After transfer, a cutter used a knife to hand-cut over the pencil lines that were transferred to the stencil. Rubber was then removed to reveal the stone underneath, which would be sandblasted.

Working with John Gaspari of Pall Limited (later PMD) and 3M, Design Mart aided in the development of a thin layer of mylar between the rubber and backing. Design Mart furnished popular component designs (flowers and panels) to be produced in plastic stencil cutting "punch plates" that acted like cookie cutters when pressed into the stencil under great pressure. The plate would press through and cut the stencil, but the mylar backing would stay in place. This made it possible for stencil to be pulled (or weeded) in the studio and then taken into the plant for application to the stone without a worker having to cut stencil by hand after it was applied to the stone. Stencil presses and plates were popular throughout the late 80s and early 90s when CAD systems were first used to cut stencil. The component identification process lent itself to an easy transition into the cut-and-paste world of digital clip art.

Technology Revolution in 1990s

In the early 90s Joe's son, Mike, returned to Elberton, and purchased Design Mart. By the mid 90s he had digitized many of Design Mart's popular design components that had been used as plastic plates. Complete monument designs formatted for CAD applications followed. Popular titles such as Precious Memories were the first to be digitized and led to the digitization of more than 25 different collections.

Companies such as Master Layout, Cochrans, Premier Designs and MonuCad all had their own collections that were sold with each system. Design Mart was the first company to offer CAD files in a variety of formats such as AI, EPS and DXF that were compatible with all CAD and illustration systems. For the first time, a company could use any established monument application as well as AutoCad, Illustrator, Corel and many others to open standard DMart designs and use them to cut sandblast stencil.

The mid 90s also led Design Mart to create many industry specific fonts in TrueType format such as Modified Roman, Condensed Roman and Vermarco. Users were no longer bound to a system with proprietary fonts such as Gerber or MonuCad.

The mid to late 90s also gave rise to email and websites. Manufacturers and retailers alike began ordering popular DMart CAD files by email. Design Mart created its first website and followed it with the creation of a site commissioned by the Elberton Granite Association. Today Design Mart hosts the third generation website for the EGA as well as hundreds of sites designed and built specifically for monument retailers.

Entering the 21st Century, Design Mart Leads Industry Innovation

After the year 2000 Design Mart created the industry's first click-and-drag monument design software, which ran from a CD and featured a basic selection of monument shapes, components, panels and fonts.

This was followed in 2006 by the online version of the Monument Designer, which allowed users to create colorful images of photo realistic monuments for sales presentations. All components were standards which made it easy for studio artists to build CAD files to match the images created by retailers. An online Catalog database was included in a subscription to the online Monument Designer and allowed users to search all DMart catalogs by monument or component number, family name or monument type and size.

In 2014 work began on Design Mart's new generation of online Monument Designer and Catalog. Several online design tools were on the market, but they only allowed the user to create an image of the monument. There was no CAD file created. Studio artists still had to create CAD files to match the monument portrayed in the image. Using Scalable Vector Graphics, Design Mart created a program that would render photo-realistic monument images while, at the same time, creating CAD files that were ready for stencil cutting.

Design Mart continues to cut pre-cut sandblast stencil and create customized digital artwork for the monument industry.

How Did They Do That?!

We’re bringing you a look at how presentation drawings were created in the past...long before CAD systems and Photoshop. It was all about pencils, pens, and airbrushes.

Roses & Leaves
In the enlarged carving shown on the top right of this image it is easy to see how the entire carving was frosted by airbrush. After that, sunken portions of a carving were given some additional ink from the same airbrush. When the ink dried, highlights were scratched onto the high points of the leaves and petals by lightly dragging a broad-blade stylus with microscopic teeth notched into it. Both the fine point stylus and the broad stylus were handmade from dental drill bits.

In the circle around the rose bloom, you’ll see that the shadow is heavier at the top left. That’s where the light source is located on every airbrushed Dmart design. A line is scratched around the entire carving to simulate the light reflected by the edge of the polish on each v-line. After zooming out, the highlights are almost imperceptible, but it’s one of the small things that makes Dmart presentations special.

Like carving, lettering, and all other aspects of a drawing, panels were first drawn by pencil on tracing paper using a triangle and T-square. After drawings were created and refined on tracing paper, a pencil was rubbed on the back of the tracing allowing a carbon paper-like transfer of the design to scratch board.

Inking was the first thing to be done on the scratch board. Panels and other lines drawn with logarithmic and French curves were drawn with a fine pen while smaller, tighter curves and letters were inked with a very fine camel hair brush.

Letters were transferred from the original drawing onto scratch board and a fine camel hair brush was used to create a light gray letter. Ink was diluted with water to match the shade of gray on all other Dmart designs. After the light gray wash dried, a darker gray was applied on the left side of every part of the letters to create a V-like appearance with the light source located at the top left. A stylus was used to scratch a highlight on the right side of the letters where light would catch the edge of the frosted surface.

Base Reflections & Highlights
Reflections were always applied to the polished tops of bases to simulate the mirror-like polish. In the design on the left of this image, the carving ends at the joint. This section of the frosted top of the base was masked off while polish was applied. When the mask was removed, the carving appeared to reflect on the polished top of the base.

The right sides of monuments and bases were always airbrushed and scratched to show reflective polish.

You’ll also notice the rock pitch on the right side of the base is slightly darker than the rock pitch on the front of the base, and the rock pitch on the side of the monument is slightly darker than the rock pitch on top of the monument. Like all other aspects of a Dmart design, everything was created with a light source located at the top left.

Rock pitch was applied at the end of the design process and was accomplished with a series of templates made from blotter paper. Joe Fernandez, and later, his son, Mike, tore small sections from the paper to form large, small, long and short curvatures. These templates were held against the water color and airbrush drawing and a specially tuned Paasche airbrush, with a tweaked mixture of water and black India Ink, was used to delicately apply a darker spray at the edge of the template - giving the illusion of a scalloped rock pitch surface.

These days it's much easier, and you can check out the new photo edited versions in our latest books, brochures, and our Online Monument Designer & Catalog.

In 50 years almost every aspect of the monument industry has changed. The one thing that remains the same is Design Mart's commitment to you and the families you serve. Design Mart has been adapting and growing with you for 50 years. From hand-drawn monuments to digital design, technology has changed, but Design Mart's mission is still the same: To help the retailer provide a personal memorial and the best service possible.

Design Mart & Keystone Alumni Collaborate On Memorial Tribute To Legendary Coach Vince Dooley

Keystone Memorials of Elberton, Georgia, has constructed many granite projects on the University of Georgia campus including walls, an Olympic Memorial, an Alumni Memorial, bases for statues, several signs, and the popular statue of UGA's famous bulldog mascot located in Sanford Stadium. UGA alumnus Tom Oglesby and sons George and Ross, also UGA alumni, have collaborated on several projects with Design Mart in the past. Joe and Mike Fernandez, both UGA alumni, were glad to help with a design for a memorial to legendary UGA Coach Vince Dooley.

The design went through about 20 sketches and revisions before landing on the final concept, and some of those are shown here. After preliminary sketches by Joe, Mike presented different options for polished surfaces on the black monument. In the end, the Dooley name would be the only polished black surface. In addition, the family decided to change from acanthus shown at the tops of the columns in the original sketch (shown below) to a Bible, the UGA logo, the UGA arch, and a flower to represent the Dooleys' love of gardening (as shown in the final monument photos). Ross also worked with the family to revise the design to include crosses on the front and back of the monument.


Vince Dooley Monument 

Polish Treatment Rejected 

Polish Treatment Rejected 

Proposed Lot With Family Markers 

After the monument was set, Mike and his parents, Joe and Katherine, visited Oconee Hill Cemetery behind Sanford Stadium. Shown below: Joe Fernandez (UGA '68), and his son Mike Fernandez (UGA '87).

Mike and Joe Fernandez Designers of Vince Dooley Monument 

Mike and Joe Fernandez Designers of Vince Dooley Monument 

To visit the memorial in Bulldog Haven, enter Oconee Hill Cemetery behind Sanford Stadium, take a left, cross the river, then stay to the right. You'll eventually come to Bulldog Haven nestled in the woods.
Vince Dooley
Head Coach 1964-1988
Continued as Athletic Director until 2004
Overall 201-77-10 record
1 National Championship - 1980
6 SEC Championships
Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994
Died October 28, 2022
Buried at Bulldog Haven section of Oconee Hill Cemetery on November 3, 2022 

As the Fernandez family was taking a few photos and paying their respects, a '66 letterman from Pennsylvania, Jim Massey, drove up, and there was a reunion of old Dawgs.

How Memorial Day Got Its Start

As you would expect, there was much healing for our nation to do at the end of the war between the Confederate States and United States.  In fact, Confederate soldiers' grave plaques were inscribed in Latin, with Deo Vindice or God Will Vindicate.  Clearly, there would be deep wounds for generations to come.  Design Mart's Mike Fernandez is shown here explaining one of the plaques to a recent Elberton Granite Association class.

Originally know as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the war when families gathered to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers.  During the first celebration of Decoration Day more than 5,000 people decorated the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate dead at Arlington cemetery.  This event, in 1868, was inspired by many local celebrations in communities during the three years following the end of the war.

After World War I our nation began to remember those who had perished in all wars.  In 1966 President Johnson named Waterloo, New York, as the official birthplace of the celebration since they had made an annual event of it.  In 1971 Congress declared the last Monday in May to be Memorial Day.

The monument industry also works with families who have set Memorial Day as a goal for memorializing loved ones.  Many granite suppliers and retailers alike begin to get ready in Spring for the deadlines associated with Memorial Day deliveries.


Social Media