I know we’re all set with 2020—and on to 2021—but I feel the need to reflect on some of the silver linings to officially scratch 2020 off the list.

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Teaching was difficult — but amazing work still persevered — client work made me grateful — but never compromised — and I could not have asked for more from my family. I am so grateful for many things and pray for everyone’s health and safety now and throughout 2021. Please read on to see what my students at BU have been up to and what Design Axl has been working on during this crazy year.


Part 2: pedagogy

In continuation from a previous post, Summer reflection Part 1: practice, Part 2: pedagogy focuses on the 2019 spring semester and summer session at Boston University. After two years teaching full-time at BU I would like to think I have a handle on things, but I continue to push myself and my students with new and relevant projects that support our departments learning objectives within the MFA and BFA. I’m excited to share some of the work from my talented students and provide a glimpse into the world of design at BU.

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A view out my office window at BU

In a nutshell

In the spring I taught Senior Thesis and…


Part 1: practice

As summer winds down I want to reflect on my work over the past 8 months. A lot is happening with my practice, Design Axl, as well as my pedagogy at Boston University. The two have gained momentum and continue to support each other. Design Axl supports clients in three strategic areas: web design, UI/UX design frameworks, and brand building. Take a look below at some of our latest work.

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My daughter, Joy, enjoying summer!

Web design

Our most recent web redesign and fantastic new client is NextView Ventures.

NextView Ventures is a group of seed stage investors who champion founders that want to redesign the Everyday…


A reflection on a very challenging yet rewarding year for Design Axl and design teaching at Boston University.

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2019 Design Axl postcard: If you’d like one, let me know!

Happy 2019

I’ve enjoyed working on some really awesome projects with some great partners and clients. I’ve also been able to build a design curriculum in lockstep with client work and vice versa. Please read on to see some highlights from the past year.

UI and UX and AR, oh my!

I’m sure there are a few acronyms I missed, but for now I’ll start with those. Over the past year, Design Axl worked with MathTalk to develop the User Interface (UI), User Experience (UX), and Augmented Reality (AR) for their forthcoming mobile app. MathTalk aims to activate public spaces for early math learning. …


We’re excited to announce the new T3 Advisors website! This article covers the 16 week collaboration between Design Axl and T3 Advisors. Design Axl, in collaboration with Code Greene Interactive, created a completely new information architecture, visual design, front-end, and back-end system.

T3 Advisors’ focus is on real estate and workplace solutions for the world’s most innovative companies.

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Research and Planning

Upon first review of T3’s previous site, it was not clear to us exactly what T3 Advisors did. Real estate brokers? Real estate developers? Interior designers? All of the above? These initial questions seemed like a great starting point to sorting out…


(Original post Spring 2018 — check for latest updates here) It’s official, my one year Lecturer position is coming to a close and I have been offered—and accepted—the position of Assistant Professor of Art, Graphic Design at BU!

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Photo by Liz Linder

It’s been a very exciting year juggling all new classes, new clients, and at the same time preparing to apply for the Assistant Professor position. It was a lengthy application process which included meeting with the National Search Committee, the Director of the School of Visual Arts, and the Dean of the College of Fine Arts. I also gave a presentation that was open to all the faculty and students in the College. I feel very fortunate to have made it through the rigorous process and am honored and thrilled to be extending my position here at Boston University. …


Vaughan Oliver is an award-winning, legendary graphic designer, artist, and author of several books, including Exhibition/Exposition and This Rimy River.

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Vaughan Oliver workshop RISD: James Grady, Camila Afanador, and Milan Nedved

James Grady: I had this revelation, and it was through my daughter, Joy, and all of these different things going on at once. Then reflecting back on the workshop I had with you where I felt really liberated, and I wasn’t forcing a conceptual narrative or social policy on what design should do instead of designing and letting the design influence me. That was the shift in my thesis, and that’s where it is now. It’s really about the everyday — I’m equating the everyday with my surroundings and asking what is observed with these surroundings? I wanted to know…


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Boy with a Movie Camera, Kona, Hawaii 1992

When I was fourteen, my family went on a trip to Kona, Hawaii, and I brought my first video camera with me, a Sony HI8 HandyCam; I was rarely seen without it. Although most tourists capture Hawaii’s environmental beauty, I, for some unknown reason, mostly chose to film anything but the typical scenic viewpoints of majestic volcanoes, black sand beaches or botanical gardens; instead, I documented the ordinary events of the everyday: the hotel elevator, the front desk attendant, the other tourists coming and going in the hotel lobbies, the bathroom, and the TV in the hotel room that was…


Intuition. Transformation. Feedback.

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Shift, in concept and method, is a view on empirically based graphic design. Inviting constant shifts of perspective — from one place, position, direction, or person, to another — I assume the stance of observer and documentarian of the transitory. My work, which operates in the liminal space between ordinary and extraordinary places, things, and people in everyday life, is a time-lapse archive (whether in print or on screen) of localized experience. Within this role I capture the “qualitative data” of my daily commute, both as record of the everyday, and as a perspective on a culture in motion. …


At the intersection of theory and practice

Design Axl is led by James Grady, a Boston-based designer and educator with nearly two decades of broad-based experience. James’ design approach is a powerful combination of theory and execution. Informed by an empirically based methodology that he developed as part of his MFA thesis at Rhode Island School of Design, it encourages a deeper level of creative exploration, which he balances with an unparalleled understanding of brand and visual communication.

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Process diagram

This intersection of education and practice continues to inform Design Axl’s creative approach. As an instructor of Graphic Design at Boston University, James has a unique testing ground to…

James Grady

Principal, Design Axl & Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, Boston University

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