WarpLight
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WarpLight

From Project Atmosphere to Atmos & WarpLight

How it happened, from start to finish

Some might know our name, some might not, and that’s okay.

A decent handful of passionate developers and creators came together to bring the name Project Atmosphere to fruition, the goal to continue on the legacy of what once was a loved home by many, (minus the controversy that only accelerated its death).

Day after day, as the closure date came closer and closer, the desire to create a replacement skyrocketed (no pun intended), and there were multiple options to move to and startups wanted to join in on the action as well. Some were already well established, such as Twitter, while some others were a bit uncommon, but still had their fair share of attention, like MeWe. Startups were trying to come up with a replication of the dying platform as well, and Project Atmosphere was one of them.

The icons

The first sketch of the logo that a community member created — October 8, 2018

Surely just a black and white drawing would not have worked out well as an official icon, so several community members and developers tested their skills by coming up with more icons, shown below. Some are not shown due to the high number of sketches and concepts present in the archives.

A more refined version of another member’s sketch that a community member created — October 8, 2018
A professional attempt at a icon from a former developer — January 30, 2019
A overhauled attempt at the icon from a former developer — January 30, 2019
The final version of the Atmos logo in Interstellar Purple from a former developer — January 31, 2019

Project Atmosphere was gaining quite a decent following from the community, and that same public support kept the project alive to the point where it was then known as Project Atmos, likely due to its ease to say with the shortened word.

First steps

With an official look for Project Atmos, the word began to spread, and people began to catch on to the potential of the group, grabbing the attention of many as the group continued to develop, and so did the ideas for what the Atmos interface would have looked like.

An early sketch of a profile page by a community member — October 8, 2020

2018 was a great year for development, from a rapidly maturing set of designs to the continued love from the community, 2019 was rapidly approaching, and so was August 2019, the day when Google+ would be disabled for personal accounts. (It would still accessible to G Suite users for awhile).

Sadly, in December 2018, it was reported that Google+ was compromised once more, and this moved the shutdown date from August 2019 to April 2nd, 2019. With roughly 5 months now gone, the rush to develop and find alternatives only continued to accelerate.

It was January 2019, and Atmos’ development continued on, now with like buttons, comments, and even mark-up for text in early prototypes.

One of the developers demonstrating some features on a prototype version of Atmos — January 20, 2019

The elephant in the room could not be ignored at this point in time. Sure, development was still underway, but with 5 less months to complete and release the project to the public, there was a bit of a time crunch, and it was noticeable in more ways than one. There was no collections, which Google+ had, nor was there communities, which is where a good majority of people found their first few friends on the Google+ platform. There was also a visual disparity between Project Atmos and Google+ at the time, and while it was a lot cleaner than some of the earlier concepts and sketches, it still was falling behind in multiple areas.

Launch day

On June 21, 2019, Project Atmos was opened to the public, and in just three days, the platform had more than one-thousand members and counting.

Old tweets from the Project Atmos account at the time — Photo taken October 23, 2020, tweets created on June 24, 2019

And while some users were just fine with the platform as it was, some others, not so much. The lack of collections, communities, and other features drove some users into boredom, since there wasn’t much that could be done, other than posting onto your own profile and looking at a feed which didn’t really process posts in ways the developers wanted it to.

The first-gen Project Atmos home feed and user interface, virtually unchanged since launch — October 23, 2020

In early-2019, one of the community members who was not yet in the group of developers took notice of both the potential of the project, as well as the visual eye-sore that was the first generation interface, and from that point on, they took initiative and joined the development group. Starting with public relations, they also began to re-imagine the Atmos experience from scratch, while still keeping the familiarity of both first-gen Atmos, as well as to borrow a few features from the then defunct Google+ platform.

The turning point in Atmos’ design

The rejuvenation

Just shortly after launch, sketches were already being produced in attempt to come up with the next-generation interface, and most of those sketches turned out to be total monstrosities, (which were thankfully not used and not shared, more on that later).

One of the first few sketches of the post creator interface — April 16, 2019

The rest of 2019 continued to pass, the new designs (and skills) continued to improve with time, with the usual internal controversy over little details, which ultimately lead to a solution that satisfied both ends.

Then came 2020. Not that 2020, but the kinda-okay 2020.

Atmos was still alive, not as active as the initial hype may have suggested, but it was still online, and the designers were still screaming at each other to figure out what would or wouldn’t work, and more sketches continued to be produced

On January 16, 2020, the first step towards the next generation of Atmos was publicly announced, somewhat…

Another old tweet from the Project Atmos account at the time — Photo taken October 23, 2020, tweet created on January 16, 2020

That announcement wasn’t much to write home about, but it showed that Project Atmos was far from neglected, and that work was continuing behind the scenes, even if the one year anniversary was fast approaching with no significant changes to the platform.

But then came April, and something wonderful began to take shape. (The first few flops were hidden from the public, and rightfully so, we saved your eyes!)

And one more thing, since it was April.

I mean, it’s obvious. It was April 1st and we could not (and still don’t) resist.

Graphics design is my passion
We’re not sorry

After the little tease on the first of April, another early preview of the new interface was shared on April 11, 2020.

One of the first previews of the new user interface — April 11, 2020

From that point onward, the next generation interface had more and more sketches produced for it, all of which continued to piggy-back off of the first generation Atmos interface, as well as with the aid from several screenshots taken from Google+ when it was still available to G Suite users.

On that same day, another teaser was curated, this time focusing on the completely redesigned dark mode, as well as to show off the new post designs as well, dropping the sharp corners and pill-shaped buttons for rounded, carefully distanced elements.

One of the new dark mode samples; you can also see where the designer gets their inspiration from — April 15, 2020

Contradictions

It felt almost as if the finish line was nearby, but that feeling turned out to be completely false, as the previous designs were used to help develop more complicated, contradicting designs that lead absolutely nowhere.

Ultimately, last-minute changes were eaten by even more last-minute changes.

One of the design samples that was sent out in June — June 4, 2020

This back-and-forth between different design changes and alterations lead to a set of design languages being created.

Yes, plural! Let’s look at each one, from the oldest to the newest. Don’t ask when they were created because we lost track of the dates, there was too many of them. Trust us.

We kept the same kind of structure and design choices from the samples shown above, but it didn’t look right. Some elements were seen as “holes”, like the buttons at the bottom.

We then tried to lighten up the situation by lowering the contrast between the lightest and darkest parts, but those holes still existed. Thankfully, we were able to demonstrate the use of carefully-picked colors that would be used on the platform, this one using “Offbeat Blue”.

Oh god it’s floating.

Yeah, this one didn’t last long, but this design language was called Depth, more like Death, since we killed it almost instantly. We made the top elements pure white with shadows, and their backgrounds a darker shade of said white.

Then came Horizon to save us all

The Horizon update

Horizon was yet another attempt at creating and sticking with a set design language. This used the same rounded shapes as before, but dropped the “holes” in place for “cut out” elements, featuring thin, yet clean, rounded lines that surrounded each element within the user interface, helping to establish a sense of containment without creating the unintended impression of dips or holes in the user interface.

The Horizon design language and privacy selector

We also brought Horizon to our redesigned dark mode, which worked out pretty well, as it becomes quite easy to differentiate between different elements and hierarchies.

The Horizon design language and “full-screen” post & comment views

With Horizon, we were able to continue creating sketches without having to waste time on figuring out what would or wouldn’t work. Horizon also helped to emphasize containment of the interface’s elements in more complex scenarios, such as in a account switcher.

Multiple user accounts — Looks like a sticker sheet too

The rebranding(s)

Just as how the switch from Project Atmosphere to Project Atmos was a huge leap forwards, the change from Project Atmos to just Atmos was just the same. There was a feeling that Atmos was more than just a project, so it was dropped from the name. On August 2, 2020, the second rebranding was announced to the public, along with a new wordmark to replace the previous one WHICH SEEMED TO BE A LITTLE TOO LOUD GIVEN THAT IT WAS IN ALL CAPS WHILE ALSO USING A REALLY SHARP FONT.

ONE OF THE EARLIER VERSIONS OF THE WORDMARK

We switched the font used for the wordmark from Montserrat to Ubuntu Medium, and it really paid off, given that it doesn’t scream at you, and that it also isn’t as sharp as the previous version.

A revised version of the wordmark which used the Ubuntu Medium typeface

In early 2021, the typeface was switched once again. The goal was to have the same approachability and friendliness which was present in our UI, for both the name of the group and our services. As WarpLight is fairly new, the “by WarpLight” extension will help further extend the presence of our group, which can help introduce more people into our developing ecosystem of services.

The third generation of our brand typography

But that wasn’t the only thing that changed. The developers didn’t have any sort of public identity aside from their usernames and just “Atmos”. It was also understood that we could not just stay as Atmos forever, as it would limit us to being identified only by that specific platform, likely restricting us to only that product as well if we happened to grow.

Over time, select developers were chosen from the existing group that developed Project Atmos, and were invited to join an entirely new group, one that was determined to build technologies that respect the privacy of its users, one that was determined to make the users a priority when designing products and services, one that gives a :middle_finger: to ads and trackers.

The all-new look for WarpLight going forward

Welcome to WarpLight

We wish to develop the next generation of services to those who are ready to move to a user-centric, privacy-focused ecosystem of services that were made for each other, by design, for our users, everywhere.

You might be wondering about Atmos again. Rest assured, our commitment to the platform and our community has not changed at all, and if anything, it has only grown stronger, as we will continue to develop the Horizon update which will completely replace the first-generation Atmos experience with a new, modern, refreshed UI that will set itself apart upon release.

We hope you had fun seeing how we evolved and matured in just a few years, and we’re hoping you can stick around to see the next-generation of Atmos, expected to be available to the public by the end of Q2 2021.

Until then, stay safe!

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We’re developing the next generation of services for those who are ready to move to user-centric, privacy-focused ecosystems that were made for each other, by design, for everyone, everywhere.

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Justin

Justin

UI & UX designer, IT & networking infrastructure professional with 30+ IT certifications, founder of WarpLight which develops next-gen web services

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