On EMBL’s graphic design history

“Look back to move forwards” is a well-known saying. Thus, I recently turned to EMBL’s archivist, Anne-Flore Laloë, who helped me to search EMBL’s amazing archive to learn how EMBL has depicted itself through the years. Maybe knowing more about our first visual identity could help us better project ourselves today and into the future? It was an inspiring travel though time and provided useful hints for the next steps of EMBL’s new corporate design. Continue reading “On EMBL’s graphic design history”

Is it sometimes ok to retouch scientific images?

We’re all familiar with the controversy that the use of photoshop to alter images of womens’ bodies in the media can cause. Whether the purpose is to smooth a wrinkle or tuck in a tummy, many people intuitively feel ‘improving’ an image is wrong and public debate about the issue is rife.

I came across my own version of this controversy while trying to make a large banner for the foyer in EMBL’s site in Grenoble that would show crystallised proteins. The banners are 100 cm wide and 200 cm high. To make sure print quality is good, I needed an image in this size with at least 96 dpi. AND: we would like to show crystals produced in one of our labs. I asked our scientists in Grenoble about a nice image with the highest resolution they can produce with an electron or light microscope. And this is where my story starts. Continue reading “Is it sometimes ok to retouch scientific images?”

What we could have done better in Corporate Design Sprint 2

Here we are hanging out our dirty laundry. As “fail forward” is one of our drivers in the agile work method, learning from what we could have done better in the sprints is as crucial as the achievements of our goals.

So here are some useful lessons we have drawn from this last sprint.
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EMBL sub-brands

We are beginning to look at the thorny issue of EMBL’s sub-brands. Do we need them, and if so, how should we accommodate them in our design system?

A sub-brand is an entity in the brand map that refers to the umbrella brand but carries its own name and strategic positioning. It is distinct and has its own brand assets and standards.

EMBL’s most developed sub-brand is EMBL-EBI, but we have many others such as ELLS, the Science and Society programme, EMBLEM, and a plethora of (somewhat) connected or associated brands such as EMBL Australia, EMBO, Elixir. We also have a lot of disassociated brands, notably in EMBL-EBI’s online services such as Ensembl.

In this post I give you a peek into how we are approaching the issue of sub-brands. Let’s look at the case of the EMBL-EBI sub-brand.
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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.
Continue reading “A design language system for EMBL”

Selecting a new typeface for EMBL: Fira

[This blog post was penned by the entire team that took part in the first Corporate Design sprint]

We have been using Helvetica Neue as EMBL’s official typeface for some time now. We wanted to test whether this is the best and most sustainable choice for the organisation moving forward. There are few fonts as iconic as the Helvetica family, but it also comes with baggage:
Continue reading “Selecting a new typeface for EMBL: Fira”

CD-Sprint 1: getting excited about the brand

Our framework for the first week is to focus on the brand map as well as the brand strategy and related initial design principles. We started with a brainstorming session, so called “the first burst”. That implies answering questions like “what do we need”, “what are the blockers”, “what does success look like” and “what are our design principles”, including capturing “governance” and “risks”.
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CD1: on EMBL’s brand

The word “brand” has become a common word in our daily language, but it is used in different contexts with different meanings. The word has its origin in ranching, when branding marks were seared into an animal’s skin to identify its owner. Television and print advertising saw the word being used more broadly and branding has now come to denote all the features that can distinguish an organisation or product as distinct from its rivals.

There are different types of brands, and the type that EMBL chooses to be will affect almost all levels of its communications.
Continue reading “CD1: on EMBL’s brand”

Why design matters

In the 20th Century the Modernists believed that good design was about usefulness, how well an object performed its function. For others, good design is more subjective, it’s about style and taste. I see it a little differently: I define design as the deliberate creation of value for an organisation. Good design fosters more dynamic and purposeful cultures within an organisation, stimulating higher visibility and delivering tangible bottom-line results.
Continue reading “Why design matters”