Dn&co’s identity for a cancer exhibition at the Francis Crick Institute uses an innovative yet organic marbling effect

The Outwitting Cancer exhibition required an identity that was in “a constant state of flux and evolution” to reflect the Institute’s progress in science.

20 October 2021


Dn&co has revealed a marbled design across the visual identity for the Francis Crick Institute’s Outwitting Cancer exhibition in London this month. The visual identity uses bright, contrasting marbled inks swirled together, resulting in a sense of movement and change across the branding. “The result is an identity that is always in a state of flux and evolution,” says Sam Jones, design director at Dn&co that reflects both the name of the exhibition and, crucially, the Crick’s ambition to showcase the incredible progress being made in science and research.”

It was vital for Dn&co to create an identity for an exhibition that was “a first-of-its-kind,” says Jones, “revealing unprecedented insights into the causes of cancer and the Institute’s cutting-edge work into treatments.” The design aims to reflect that vision by visually perceiving cancer yet creating something that feels buoyant and hopeful out of that vision. The identity is used on banner ads, billboards, and as a wraparound on the exterior facade of the Francis Crick Institute itself.

However, it was nevertheless a challenge to tone this identity aptly. Whilst the identity needed to be visually evocative, it also needed to be sensitive to the subject matter explains Jones. “By acknowledging and reimagining familiar tropes of biological imagery through alternative forms of media, we were able to develop a visual language that feels energised but whose origin you can recognise,” he continues.

GalleryDn&co: Outwitting Cancer (Copyright © dn&co, 2021)

Dn&co: Outwitting Cancer (Copyright © dn&co, 2021)

And the marbled paints also required hands-on techniques. The design team used a small fishbowl so that swirls of ink “would twist in on themselves as they collided within the confines of the tank,” and they even occasionally used a hairdryer to accelerate the marbling movement when more visual energy was required.

“Sourcing inspiration for this project was as much about finding things that resonated, as about checking against the imagery we wanted to avoid,” says Jones on where the team found inspiration for the identity. As a team, they were very interested in the idea of “cause and effect” – “the relationship between events, when something makes something else happen as a direct consequence. As a theme, it speaks to how cancer develops in the body but also reflects a sense of progress and how science is constantly evolving to shape our understanding. This unlocked many creative avenues for us, ranging from shapes created by starling murmurations to references of generative design.”

The exhibition shows eight specially commissioned films capturing conversations between Crick’s researchers, patients and people who, meeting for the first time, explore unique personal perspectives on cancer. The exhibition also features an audiovisual installation Micro Cosmos – it’s described as an immersive film that weaves together microscopy imagery from Crick researchers and a newly commissioned composition from the artist Mira Calix.

Outwitting Cancer – Making Sense of Nature’s Enigma is a free exhibition running until 15 July 2022 at the Francis Crick Institute in London.

Dn&co: Outwitting Cancer (Copyright © dn&co, 2021)

Dn&co: Outwitting Cancer (Copyright © dn&co, 2021)

GalleryDn&co: Outwitting Cancer (Copyright © dn&co, 2021)

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Dn&co: Outwitting Cancer (Copyright © dn&co, 2021)

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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