Corporate design sprint 4 – EMBL Communications

EMBL Communications

Informing, inspiring, and engaging society with EMBL’s research, services and training

Corporate design sprint 4

In previous Corporate Design sprints we defined fontcolours and logo positioning. In the fourth corporate design sprint (CDSprint 4), which kicked off last week, we want to explore the very first applications of these elements together to shape a consistent new look and feel across different products. We’ll be releasing prototypes for you to view in June.

Before launching ourselves into this work, we looked back at all the knowledge we had gained through the last sprints. Here is a list of some insights and thoughts from this process.

The EMBL logo

We keep realising that the scalability of the logo is a challenge: it doesn’t work well at small sizes, especially in digital products. It becomes clearer and more urgent to think about how to reiterate the logo itself.

There are two main arguments we decided initially to hold on any redesign of the logo until 2021:

  1. A logo redesign and its application on all EMBL products and communication channels is very expensive.
  2. The EMBL logo has been – so far – the only coherent graphic design element in our visual communications. Over the years, this logo has become an identifiable “stamp”of quality for many of our target audience segments.

The current logo has value and we should be careful when making any kind of changes. But what to do about the scale issues? We’ll explore this during prototyping in this sprint.

Logo positioning

  • The logo positioning always on the top right did not work on the website prototypes because that’s where users expect to find a search field.
  • In print: on top right is an improvement in order to make the logo visible when on a display rack, for example.
  • In PPT: it draws too much attention. Lower right works well thus we decided to show the logo on the slides only where it is necessary.

Colour scheme

  • The new green as solid and primary colour had not its expected effects. Whitespace, big images and the black bar will be the carrier of the visual identity.
  • For links in apps on the web, none of the colours from our new palette scored high in UX. We therefore added one more colour to the scheme: azzure.


  • Fira is still a very strong, distinct, nice typeface. As every font, it comes with some weaknesses in what we need for our applications. The main things we would like to improve are the caption/labeling weights, the shape of the “M” or an alternate “M”, the Fira “data additions”. We have discussed and currently explore if we need a Monospace italic and a Fira Serif. More on this topic will be outlined in a different blog post :).
  • As Microsoft office font we chose Trebuchet in (eventually) combination with Consolas. Trebuchet is not known well and one of the the better Microsoft fonts, in some of its details related to Fira. This additional defined Microsoft font guarantees that every PPT presentation will have the correct font settings, no matter on which system the presentation is stored and presented. It facilitates collaboration as well, which is crucial in our day to day work.

Corporate design roadmap

So these are the insights that we’re working from, and we’re now busy working on prototypes. What’s next?

  • You will see prototypes from corporate design sprint 4 in June.
  • We are exploring an “EMBL-first” brand strategy that gives prominence to the EMBL brand while allowing EMBL sub brands and entities such as projects to position themselves. This will be presented to the Heads of Units meeting for input in June.
  • The first products in alpha you will see will be EMBL themes for both Grav, and WordPress, followed by templates for Google docs and Google slides.
  • Existing templates, such as the EMBL Powerpoint template, will be updated to the new design system in Q4 of this year in alpha, in beta by the end of Q1 2019 and released in Q3 2019.
  • A launch of the full design system, which includes templates, design guidelines and documentation, will be in Q3 2019.


I would like to thank the amazing sprint team, in alphabetic order: Cian, Dan, Iulia, Ken, Mark, Spencer! Such a great pleasure to work with you!