Skip to content

diybio graphics

December 11, 2009


Last week I hired Micah & Caroline from to design an extensible diybio logo and related illustrations. I gave them a quick intro to diybio and synthetic biology (see a lot of design notes here) and asked them to create artwork that could be used by and built apon by regional groups + related organizations (diybio-nyc, bosslab, etc.). I stressed extensibility – the final design should support remixing by all interested parties.

Micah & Caroline are about halfway done and I want to show you their work so far and solicit comments and suggestions. Above all the graphics are intended to be a community resource, so they need to be built with community feedback.

They have worked on two things: an extensible diybio logo and diybio themed icons.


Micah & Caroline modified a typeface called “the mix” for the diybio logo to make it look hand-cut. When they are done they will provide the typeface for the community so that any group name can be written with it. As you can see, their current idea has been to cut out illustrations from the “golden days” of amateur science in the pattern of the typeface.

black-filled diybio text & icons

black-filled diybio text & icons

They have garnished this design with a rich wood background which I think goes far in dispelling the typical clinical, clean ethos of science imagery. But it’s also pretty “loud.”

diybio logo cut out of old science diagrams & engravings

diybio logo cut out of old science diagrams & engravings


I also asked the team to design a set of reusable icons and illustrations that represent things common to diybio activities. I wasn’t very specific.

diybio logo and icons grayscale

diybio logo and icons grayscale

What 10 icons should I ask them to design? This is really where feedback would be helpful. For instance, we could ask them to design:

A pipet; dsDNA; a microscope; a waste container; a falcon tube; e. coli; yeast; a petri dish; a generic chemical bottle; DNA sequence.

In this version they incorporated the icons into little bottle-cap pins to emphasize DIY approaches. (note: when they are finished they will provide the source illustrator files to maximize these kinds of reuse.)

diybio logo cutout of science diagrams with bottlecap logos

diybio logo cutout of science diagrams with bottlecap logos

diybio logo variations

diybio logo variations


Please please please mail your feedback to this thread on the diybio google group or in the comments below. In particular, consider these two questions:

  • what 10 icons should be designed?
  • what graphical concepts should comprise the diybio logo?

Go check out my notes for my thoughts. I hope the artwork will be a graphical synthesis of (playfulness + art + DIY) + (science + engineering + biotechnology).

(I’m still thinking about a retro-arcade-game theme…)

Also see these other handy links:

I’ll include my feedback in the comments with everyone else.

All this stuff is licensed CC-BY.


Post a comment
  1. December 12, 2009

    first of all, great effort, it’s a really good idea to give DIY Bio a visual identity !

    I’m an MA student at the Royal College of Art in London, where we intersect design and science (I’m working with biologists at the moment), and my background is graphic design, so this really appeals to me.

    A few comments/critics which are only meant as constructive, positive rants 🙂

    I don’t know the exact specs, but I’m pretty sure the license agreement for the font TheMix (yes you have to buy licenses for fonts, and it’s people’s life work) doesn’t allow you to modify it, and certainly not to re-distribute it.
    anyways, it’s something to check with
    personaly I think the type works best when it’s simple. the filling up with images, drop shadows, bevel effect, and the like don’t really add anything
    for the icons I think you’re asking the wrong question. it’s not “what 10 icons should be designed?” and trying to solve everything you will ever need in one set, but more how to create a truly DIY visual language. a bit like Tangram ( for example, then whatever icons you might need in the future, as you and the science develop, is already covered by the system …

    there, I hope it helps,
    all the best,

    ps: oh a tangram font in the image results! shows you you can even derive the logo from the form language)

  2. Mitch #
    December 30, 2009


    Just my opinions here…

    I think the visuals presented are waaay too busy. Not sure who said it first but, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

    What is the purpose of DIYBio? The mission. The vision. Sum it up in one sentence; if necessary, find a poet. Now, find an artist to draw a picture of it.

    People remember what is meaningful.
    People are moved by what is meaningful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: