This is a story about a biodesign company (Geltor) and a woman-led creative agency (&Walsh) that have come together to change the way you think about synthetic biology.
Geltor is a 6-year-old company that uses a fermentation process to design synthetic, animal-free alternatives to proteins like collagen and elastin. It’s like nature, but in a lab. The proteins can be used in beauty, food, and beverage products, but biodesign is still an emerging field, with a lack of consumer awareness.
In its new branding identity for Geltor, &Walsh has set the benchmark for a visual language that is engaging, informative, and appealing. In the increasingly competitive field that is synthetic biology—and biotechnology more broadly—the project suggests that clever branding may be an indispensable tool for companies like Geltor who want to stand out from the crowd and sell a new kind of vision to companies.
As the name implies, biodesign exists at the intersection of biology and design. Also known as synthetic biology, or bioengineered design, the industry has been around for about two decades and is estimated to reach $24 billion by 2028. Applications vary from plastics to cosmetics to the environment.
At Geltor, products include a “biodesigned” collagen that isn’t derived from animal products, and an elastin protein that’s identical to the one our bodies produce. The biodesigned ingredients come in a 2% solution and powder form, which are available for various companies to purchase and incorporate into their product lines.
This is an industry that’s rooted in science, but for the uninitiated, it may seem like the antithesis of organic (which happens to be another growing market). This is where &Walsh comes in. Simply put, the way a brand communicates its values and its benefits can influence the way consumers react.
Take the much-debated GMO industry. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, 88% of scientists said it’s safe to eat genetically modified foods, yet only 37% of consumers share the same view because a lack of communication and clear labeling has conditioned us to believe that synthetically modified things are bad for us.
For Geltor, &Walsh combined vibrant colors with flowers and leaves encased in 3D spheres. &Walsh founder Jessica Walsh says the visuals take cues from the so-called tree of life—a model and research tool used to explore the evolution of life and describe the relationships between the different species on Earth. “We were also inspired by glass orb terrariums, a place for growth and life,” Walsh says.
Growing inside each “orb” is a dazzling concoction of elements plucked from nature, every one of them inspired by Geltor’s various proteins and their benefits.
For Collume—a vegan collagen that can be used in cosmetics—the designers incorporated marine elements like a coral reef and a pearl oyster to reflect the product’s marine origins.
For PrimaColl—an animal-free collagen for food and beverage products—they illustrated edible plants like red clovers, butterfly pea flowers, and rose hips. “The image is intended to speak to the ingestible side of Geltor’s products,” Walsh says.
Throughout, the color palette appears like a saturated version of what may be found in nature.
“It’s not just about replicating existing proteins but using biodesign to create even better proteins than what exists in nature or from animals,” Walsh explains. “We liked the idea of dialing everything up in terms of color, saturation, and sharpness to show this idea of the enhancements that can be made through biodesign.”
In many ways, biodesign has opened up a world of possibilities for industries far and wide. Walsh says it is key to building a more sustainable future. “We wanted our visual worlds to celebrate the inspiration behind each product, and the custom ingredients that they create with their clients,” she says. “As a leader in the space, it is important that Geltor’s brand can be innovative and imaginative enough to invite a larger audience into the conversation.”