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”

Doing and enabling

In our communications for EMBL, we have traditionally highlighted what EMBL does: research, training, services and so on. As I have said before, what EMBL does in each of these areas is not unique in the life sciences. Efforts to describe what we do as unique will therefore rely on things that are difficult to substantiate such as, “EMBL strives for excellence” or “the EMBL spirit is unique”. I’m not saying that these things are not true, but they are not tangible and they are difficult to describe and justify. So what tangible thing or things might we use to differentiate and position EMBL? Continue reading “Doing and enabling”

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”

The EMBL Triangle Key: From brand structure to information architecture

Last week I wrote about how the EMBL Corporate Design Sprint distilled a brand map into a brand structure. Today I’m writing the second installation with a post on how we’re using those core principles as the base for our brand information architecture (hereafter: IA) and a unique tool: the EMBL Triangle Key.

Continue reading “The EMBL Triangle Key: From brand structure to information architecture”

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”

Mapping brand structure to support communication

During EMBL’s 43 years it has grown in size, scope and geography. Today EMBL has six sites, many activity areas and focuses on five related but distinct missions.

There is a very strong unifying concept at the core of EMBL. However, during those years of growth a solid conceptual view of how websites, brochures and newsletter relate to each other has not yet been forged and adapted holistically.

Today, products vary in look, format and feel — some of that is for very practical reasons and some reasons are largely attributable to entropy.
Continue reading “Mapping brand structure to support communication”

Our Design Principles

The design sprint that started a couple of weeks ago began with the team describing their visions, their ideas, and thoughts of what a new EMBL corporate design could look and feel like. Central to describing and understanding why something looks the way it does are our design principles.

Many organisations have design principles to guide their work. They are often described as ‘the star to sail your ship by’; a set of common beliefs and guidelines for a project, product, organisation, or initiative. Some of my favourites are documented here.

Here is our first draft of a set of principles that came out of the last two weeks working together. This is just the start. As per principle #2, we’re showing this as early as we can so we can get feedback and iterate.
Continue reading “Our Design Principles”

Name it for what it does

A lesson re-learned in naming GitHub repos 

As part of the Corporate Design sprint, we had need to set up a GitHub team and repositories to home and share work on the EMBL Design Language and Design Lab (more on what those are in a future post).

As an abstract task, it’s easy. Except what to name the team? What to name the repositories?

Continue reading “Name it for what it does”

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”.
Continue reading “CD-Sprint 1: getting excited about the brand”