Principles of cell and tissue organization


About the logo

The creation of the Zerial Lab logo 

The text which follows outlines how the logo, one of the main elements of the visual identity of Zerial Lab, was created. Gianluca, the graphic designer (, defines hereunder the main challenges in carrying out this assignment, the reasons for choosing the mosaic symbol to represent the laboratory’s activity and the choice of specific colors to characterize it.

All in one

In creating the Zerial Lab logo we concentrated first of all on the choice of a visual symbol, keeping in mind the double challenge concerning the open-mindedness of the laboratory both in its fundamental research activities and in its external relations.

On the one hand, the symbol representing the laboratory should not limit the laboratory’s investigative field nor its flexibility in terms of technological and methodical innovation.  For example, had we chosen to draw a subcellular (organelle) compartment, we would have overlooked the work done by Zerial Lab at another scale such as the liver as a whole.  In the same way, should we have represented its 3D tissue reconstruction technique, we would have certainly highlighted one of the Laboratory’s advanced technology, but at the expense of its other past and future technologies.

On the other hand, as the dynamism of Zerial Lab develops also through a constant dialogue with a variety of entities, such as government authorities, industry, world of art, the city of Dresden;  the design of the logo had to be meaningful not only to the scientific community, but also to a wider less specialized public.  However, when proposing a more abstract graphic design in order to reach a larger audience, we were regularly faced with the fact that biologists have their own interpretation of abstract forms, and that their interpretation may differ considerably from that perceived by the majority of people.

In fact, this profession observes daily all types of shapes for which they have already clearly defined symbols and specific schematic codes.  For this reason, just to give an example, a spiral form which could have been used to poetically illustrate how fundamental research “plunges into the unknown”, when submitted to a biologist would appear as a “cochlea of the internal ear”, nothing to do with Zerial Lab. 

With its colorful mosaic design, the Zerial Lab logo symbolizes the vitality of the following “collective properties”: those of the biological systems studied, those of its team of collaborators, those of the various means employed in each project.

Aspects of the metaphor

Then an approach was found around the sketch of a mosaic.

More than a simple visual reference to the laboratory’s activity, the choice of a mosaic has also a metaphorical advantage. The mosaic represents how heterogeneous elements, having a limited individual value, once united, work for a common cause and are able to fulfill a function as a whole. This is exactly the concept of “collective properties”, a key concept in systems biology which is deeply involved in the scientific approach of Zerial Lab, and which reflects at same time its own organization.

With a certain amount of graphic abstraction, the mosaic could then relate to numerous types of cellular organizations studied by the laboratory in the liver tissue, but it could also symbolize the team’s structure because of its mix of complementary talents and personalities, as well as the varied methods, knowledge and technologies which the laboratory implements.

Still in terms of graphics, to better illustrate each of these three interpretations, the mosaic was confined in a round shape reinforced by a thin outline.  Thus, if we choose the interpretation of a cellular organization, it could be a detail observed through the lens a microscope to understand a much wider cellular process.  If instead we see that of a team of collaborators, the concept of unity for a common goal is reinforced.  Finally, if we see a multitude of components forming the expertise of Zerial Lab, such expertise, regardless its complexity appears perfectly contained and controlled.

As far as the inscription of the laboratory’s name within the logo was concerned, as for the mosaic, the notion of cohesion was fundamental.  The Team Leader and his laboratory are two inseparable entities which nourish one another, this is why this strong link is illustrated by placing the letters « l » « a » and « b » of « lab » respectively aligned with the letters « i », « a » and « l » of « Zerial ».

Lively colors

The colors applied to these rather stable graphic elements had to be chosen so as to reflect the dynamics of this laboratory not quite like others.

As it was not necessary to confirm the seriousness of the laboratory because of its success and well-known reputation, we did not choose cold “austere“ colors generally found in logos about biological research.  Very often these are blue or green, combined or not on a white background, so as to deliver a reassuring message, calm and immaculate, keeping a respectable distance.  This association of colors has the advantage of evoking, almost instinctively and by habit biology.  However, when reiterated in the great majority of laboratory logos, it also reflects an image of “private club” where laboratories share the same vision of research and follow the same rules.

What distinguishes Zerial Lab and determines its strength and success is a clear dynamism supported by an ability to adapt.  We decided to relay this in its logo by the choice of the color red, often rejected in logos dealing with biology, to impose with all its force the word “lab” and give to the word the fighting spirit and positive character it deserves.

In the same way, instead of limiting the colors of the mosaic to a number of ”cold” colors, we used mostly warm colors to represent this laboratory as an entity which is lively and easily accessible, therefore able to communicate, react, move and adapt in order  to capture the challenges of research in the field of molecular cell biology. 


Gianluca, graphic designer

Zerial lab