Spooky Spotlight | Chicago Head of Design Patrick Coleman dishes on his haunting Halloween passion project

As a certified Halloween connoisseur, Patrick Coleman knows a thing or two about what it takes to make a Next Level spooky design. We spoke with the Head of Design of our Chicago studio about his love for the spooky season, his longstanding annual 'Grim Social' Halloween party, and his creative inspirations.
Thought October 26, 2021

When did your love for Halloween first transpire?

It started probably before I even remember. My birthday is just a few days before Halloween, so whenever I was lucky to have a birthday party, it was normally Halloween-themed. Also from a young age, my dad would take me to Haunted Houses. One of those visits spawned an infamous family story where my dad and I exited the haunted house, except my dad had 3 random children dramatically clinging to his waist belt as their savior, heroically guiding them through the horrors of the haunted house!

Also, I have vivid memories of nearly wearing out a VHS I had growing up of Michael Jackson’s Thriller & the Making of Thriller featurette. Watching smiling and unassuming regular people get transformed into zombies by the great Rick Baker… it really had a hilariously profound impact on me.

I started collecting Halloween decorations and other spooky stuff, which has naturally grown into just collecting things that are spooky and displayed year-round. Anyone that’s ever been on a video call with me can attest to a colorful, growing mask collection in my home office. I’ve found a large number of our clients are fans of horror movies, too, so it’s been a fun way to break the ice – and more often than you’d think, too!

Can you tell us more about your famous Grim Social and how it first originated?

When I was in college, I was a Resident Assistant for my school housing. One of the requirements of the job was to host events to get students out of their apartments, and into some kind of social atmosphere. It was an art school, so most everyone was stuck to their computers learning Flash or how to make a DVD menu in some long-gone Macromedia software. Having never missed a season of Haunted Houses since I was young, I figured it was a perfect opportunity to introduce my eclectic group of housing students to my love of the sometimes macabre and hilarious. The party evolved over the years to more simply meeting up for pizza then going to a haunted house, to where we are now: I host a colorfully decorated party at my house for some hours, then a legit shuttle (-think deluxe wedding bus) picks us up and takes us to a primo haunted house. Some years we’ve gotten back-stage tours where we get to see patrons get the daylights spooked out of them as we watch from catwalks above. I look forward to it all year, and this year insanely marks its 20th anniversary.

How have the designs for the Grim Social invites evolved over the years?

Originally, I would just make flyers or posters to notify the other students. It was a chance to design something spooky, fun, and hopefully weird. Years later, the flyers evolved into making short-form animations instead. It was just an opportunity to force myself to learn a new technique, or to just plainly have a project to look forward to every year that wasn’t otherwise creatively satisfied from other work. Some years, my schedule only allowed it to be on the simple side, but other years I’ve been able to make something a little more of it. There’s definitely a common thread when you step back and squint at them all, but I generally try to make them somewhat unique from year-to-year. It’s fun for me to share and generally gets some small amount of positive feedback from my career pals. I think people just appreciate others passion, so I’m probably more than likely just patronized!

We have to know – what are your favorite Halloween/horror films of all time?

Well… that depends! For the month of October, I try to watch something horror related every night, if I can. I normally reserve my heavy hitters for closer to Halloween proper, so this is some of that last: Monster Squad, The Exorcist, Alien, Frankenstein, Creepshow 2, Midsommar, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Patrick Coleman, Chicago Head of Design

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