Here's where we post periodic updates on what we've been up to at Fathom. Reflections on the interesting stories that emerge from our client work, side projects, after-hours rabbitholes, and other miscellaneous threads of inquiry.
In early 2022, the team was talking about generating imaginary science-fiction book covers. Paul started some sketches of this generator, and after a few iterations of the titles and cover art for these books, he had a catalog. As the team reviewed the catalog, with books such as ‘Situation Under A Mausoleum’, ‘Courtyard 15’, and ‘New York Heliosphere’, we mused that we should generate the text of the books themselves.
This side project is an exploration of lo-fi generative art. My initial idea was to spin up titles for speculative novels — a serendipity engine for an imaginary bookshelf. Often, machine learning is used to mimic style and syntax when working generatively with text, but I was curious to see where a looser and less sophisticated process might lead.
After a decade-long run, we've decided to shut down the “3rd Floor” shop. Originally named after the room that had housed our printed material and shipping supplies at 214 Cambridge Street, we continued shipping everything from a portrait of the collaborations of Miles Davis to a visual inventory of Wikipedia.
This was originally intended to be a spring 2021 e-mail, which became a summer update, then it was gonna be “goodbye to our intern” in August, then part of it was spun out as its own post in October. Finally it was gonna wrap up the year and now… here we are to kick off 2022! (On the 25th day of January.)
For years, Pardis Sabeti has tried to get funding to build the necessary tools to mitigate the “next pandemic.” On the front lines of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, she saw firsthand all the ways in which institutions and infrastructure broke down. Most simply, the time to act is not during a crisis — when people are frightened, institutions are stressed, and the day-to-day is itself exhausting. The results are predictable: a haphazard response, money suddenly flowing to all the wrong places, and substantial inequities where the vulnerable become only more so.
To navigate the strange territory of the past year, which included learning to collaborate with team members 5,000 miles away, keeping 10,000 students safe from COVID-19, and balancing time with our families, pets, and plants, we did what we do best: we iterated.
If you’ve had an opportunity to check out fathom.info recently, you may have noticed that we redesigned our website. Our new site better reflects our strengths as a company, highlighting projects that showcase our strong design capabilities and unique approach to data.
Growing up, I spent most of my time at school embellishing notebook pages with intricate landscapes and labyrinths filled with alien characters. Actually, I still do that. To me, the open-ended nature of mazes expresses something both playful and profound. I recently dove back into mazemaking to explore its potential as a generative typographic form, creating a series of sketches that evolved into a typeface, called Mazeletter.
Before we went on break for the holidays in December, the office got together to brainstorm solutions to a question we’ve been thinking hard about over the past few months: what does a good health app look like? “Good,” of course, can mean countless different things. It could mean that it’s good at reminding you to exercise and eat well, good for logging personal health information, or good at predicting when a chronic condition may flare up.
At the end of the year, we like to take some time to recap what we accomplished over the past 12 months. From client work to internal projects to talks and new hires, there’s a lot to celebrate. Here’s the best of Fathom from 2019: