Behind the scenes: 2021 Holiday card – EMBL Communications

EMBL Communications

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Behind the scenes: 2021 Holiday card

Our mission was to create a Holiday card that visually reflects life sciences. 


To visualise a snowflake-shaped protein structure, rendered in a ribbon representation, to link molecular biology with holiday decoration and festive season greetings.

sketch draft holiday
Sketch representing the main visual ideas for the 2021 EMBL holiday card

Searching for the perfect protein

In collaboration with our colleagues at EMBL-EBI, we conducted a deep search to find suitable protein structures for our visual concept.

Protein structure
3D structure of three snowflake-shaped proteins: 6TV0, 7B9S, and 2BG9. Renders extracted from RCSB Protein Data Bank (PDB).

After some deliberation, PDB entry 6TV0, Serratia spp. Cynase hydratase, released in January of 2021 by EMBL researchers,  was selected as our feature protein. This protein is important because it converts cynate (a toxic ion) into carbon dioxide and ammonia (harmless chemicals that can easily be removed from the body).

Playing with style

Render Styles
Protein render styles

Choosing style and colors was the next step of the process. We selected a gold and green color palette, to introduce a festive holiday mood and align with EMBL’s corporate design.

The message and scientific credits

We drafted the text  in parallel to the protein render, to include a subtle play on words as you read and open the card.

We added the PDB file reference to emphasise the scientific accuracy of our holiday card.

Final look and feel

Protein structure
Final look and feel for the 2021 EMBL holiday card
Holiday card
Printed version of the 2021 EMBL holiday card
2021 Holiday card animation

We hope that you enjoyed this year’s holiday card. Happy 2022 from the EMBL Creative Team!