Design guidelines

How EMBL presents itself visually to the public

Graphical Elements

In order to create a consistent look and feel for all EMBL products the Creative team has developed a selection of elements that can be applied across all media. Elements are derived from EMBLs existing smallest graphical nominator, the logo. 

All graphical elements allow flexibility adaptation to various formats and communication channels.

Please contact design@embl.org in case templates with EMBL graphical elements are required.

Organic shape

The organic shapes are designed to reflect organic life and structures in an abstract form. They can be used to frame, and divide images, provide background depth and add some colour and dynamism to EMBL’s visual communications.

They should support the visual content in a way that enhances the message without obscuring details or distracting from the key message.

Application of the organic shape

The following are examples of the ways in which the organic shapes can be applied. These natural shapes visually frame and enhance images, divide sections, and can be used over an image to ensure readability of text. 

There are 3 factors to consider when applying the organic elements to visual products:

  • The shape or form within the overall composition
  • The depth and interaction you create with other elements
  • The colours and gradients you want to apply


Make sure to use the organic shapes in a subtle way. This graphical element is a visual tool to facilitate format adaption while never distracting the eye from the key message.

Design organic shape

The organic shapes are created to work without hard edges and feel flowing and natural. When using these shapes always keep at least one side of the shape off the edge (bleed) of the composition. 


No straight lines, natural flow. Overlap the edges of your media

Gradient organic shape

Three main colour options are used:
– main to dark green
– main green to main blue
– grey tones for neutral backgrounds

Most important is that the organic shapes when paired with an image do not overpower or clash. Brighter, more creative colours can be chosen for shapes, when applied as graphical element in icons and infographics.


Colours in organic shapes should not overpower images.


Our graphical element is derived from the monochrome version of the image mark in the logo. Stakeholders have noted representations of a petri dish, microscope lens, and round tables, highlighting a molecular level of biology and EMBL’s collaborative approach. The “roundel” can be applied with or without the 3D-effect. 

Application of the Roundel

The 3D Roundel is available in white (most commonly used to highlight darker images) or grey (which can be used on light images to add shadow). The roundel used in two ways

  1. Over an image: It can be used to focus the eye on a specific element of an image or to add depth to areas of an image without detail. 
  2. Contain an image: In some situations the roundel can be used to contain an image in a circular format. Here the roundel is more reminiscent of the focus point of a microscope lens.

When used over an image, a 3D roundel could be used to enhance or represent a lens zooming into details. The highlights of the roundel should not distract, or eclipse the details of faces or scientific elements of relevance. If multiple roundels are used (for example on a single coloured background), they should not be rotated as the light effects would contrast. When using the roundel in a new context (not a template or existing style) please consult the design@embl.org for approval. 


The roundel should not eclipse faces or scientific details.
New use of the roundel should be approved by the Design Team.

Additional use cases

The aim of the graphical roundel is to add variety, depth and detail to “flat” graphical areas. It comes in several forms: striped lines version, and a solid colour version. These can be used with any of the EMBL colours and should compliment, not contrast, with the background. Striped roundels should be used sparingly with photographic images and should avoid being too playful or being combined with many colours.

Additionally, the roundels can be used in infographics to house figures and create a colourful display of information. Where pie charts are used, a doughnut pie chart reflects the roundel and creates a consistent visual language through different figure types.