In this paper we present a collection of graph-based methods for determining if a team of mobile robots, subjected to sensor and communication range constraints, can persistently achieve a specified formation. What we mean by this is that the formation, once achieved, will be preserved by the direct maintenance of the smallest subset of all possible pairwise inter-agent distances. In this context, formations are defined by sets of points separated by distances corresponding to desired inter-agent distances. Further, we provide graph operations to describe agent interactions that implement a given formation, as well as an algorithm that, given a persistent formation, automatically generates a sequence of such operations. Experimental results are presented that illustrate the operation of the proposed methods on real robot platforms.