A design language system for EMBL

While working on EMBL’s brand strategy we realised that there is a need for a more systematic way to guide and leverage our collective efforts to build EMBL’s corporate design. So we chose to create a design language system that works across everything we produce, whether in print or digital, thus assuring a cohesive look and feel.

In cd-sprint1 we started to define the basis for a corporate design, which will feed into a sustainable and successful design language system.

Our approach

Some of the foundations for this are:

  • Design principles: these are beliefs that act as a barometer, which give us a direction.
  • Brand map: through this exercise we looked what EMBL does and what makes it unique. The current status is the “structure map”
  • Tools: we are looking for tools which help us to disseminate the Design Language while at the same time taking care of proper documentation.
  • Collaborative and agile workflow: This work can’t be done in isolation. It has to be right for the organisation and its needs.

We worked with people from EMBL’s two biggest sites and an external design consultant with whom I have previously done brand research. The sprint team is small, with just four members and so we involved stakeholders early on. Our Strategy and Communications department has inaugurated a Strategy and Communications Advisory Committee to represent our six sites and their different departments with different needs and interests and on the 20th of July we shared the outcomes of our CD-sprint1 with this committee. Sharing insights and first prototypes at this very early stage is not how corporate design traditionally done, but we felt it was essential to gain feedback and build consensus on the fundamentals of our approach.

Why this matters

Why a design language system is important becomes very obvious when we look at the three aims of our strategy and communications:

  1. Raising EMBL’s profile: being well-known within the scientific community as well as outside this community.
  2. Enhancing the feeling of a unified organisation: EMBL is one organsation and it is about the people who mainly drive the unique EMBL spirit.
  3. Supporting meaningful engagement with our audiences: adding up on the core values like training, collaboration across many sites and different interest of various communities.

We see the creation of a design language system as an iterative process. Sometimes we might even need to go one step backwards in order to move two steps forward. Feedback, critical thinking as well as supporting us with meaningful ideas are highly appreciated.

Come and get involved!

If you are interested to see the presentation about the outcome of our cd-sprint1, please come to our meeting room in the ATC, B18, on 1 August, 16:30h. If you would like to join via VC, please drop me a note. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Author: Tabea Rauscher

I'm EMBL's Design Team Lead, proudly team member of the Strategy and Communications team at the Headquarter in Heidelberg.

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