A new shift

Happy new year! It’s been an eventful one. I’ve been off the radar for a while in flux with my career and I’m really excited to reflect on this past year.

James Grady
4 min readJan 12, 2018


Photo by Liz Linder

Boston University

In July, I left a long standing post at Fathom Information Design to pursue a full-time teaching position at Boston University in the College of Fine Arts. This fall, I created new syllabi and taught graduate and undergraduate students in the Graphic Design Department. It has been both extremely challenging and rewarding to transition from my previous, long-standing role in the design industry to teaching full-time, and I could not be happier. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know and working with the talented and dedicated colleagues at BU. I also can’t say enough about the experience I’ve had with the students. I can see so much of myself in many of them and it has been a pleasure to see them develop over the course of this fall semester.

Photo by Liz Linder

I was thrown right into the mix taking on three courses: Graduate Studio 2, Graduate Typography 1, and Web Design 1. The graduate studio course gave me the opportunity to activate a lot of the work I did in my thesis “shift” while in Graduate School at RISD. I helped the students with strategies and methodologies they could apply to their theses. I introduced them to concepts of liminality and recontextualization, at the same time I had them focus on tactical projects like translating a static print project into a video or interactive piece. We recently wrapped up their semester reviews, I’m very proud of the work they accomplished. These students are moving into their final semester in the spring. I can’t wait to see how their work develops.

Final Graduate Reviews
Graduate Studio 2 Section B

Design Axl

Taking on the full-time position has also opened up the opportunity for me to develop another longtime dream of starting my own design practice. In August I established Design Axl, LLC. This has given me the opportunity to work with great clients in healthcare artificial intelligence, beverage branding, and UI/UX app development. These clients are a natural extension of my nearly twenty-year career in branding and data visualization.

Precision Health AI capabilities video
Grid City beer can branding
Grid City Architectural Rendering


After 5+ years it was really hard for me to say goodbye to the folks at Fathom. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Ben Fry and all the people I had the honor to collaborate with at Fathom. I’m really proud of the work we did especially work with: On Being, The Clinton and Gates Foundation, Athena Health, and Nike to name a few. Beyond the great clients I had the opportunity to co-teach Information Design and Visualization at MIT for three semesters from 2016–2017. I also did many speaking engagements on behalf of Fathom including Visualized NYC, Beautiful Data at Harvard, and SATE at Carnegie Mellon University.

SATE at Carnegie Mellon University

Next Steps

This spring I’ll be teaching undergraduate seniors as they complete their final semester and develop their thesis projects. I will also be continuing to work with select clients and hopefully work on my website 😬. If you have an interesting project or would like to talk about anything design or education related please drop me a line.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me through this latest shift
(especially my patient wife Christina). Here’s to 2018!

James Grady
Designer | Educator
Design Axl, LLC



James Grady

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