Evolution evolving

We’ve been working with Professor Kevin Lala at St Andrews University for over ten years and are excited to help support the launch of his new book and learning resources. Evolution evolving, published by Princeton University Press and co-authored with colleagues from Lund University, Stanford University, Swarthmore and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, is a new scientific view of evolution; one that challenges and expands our understanding of how evolution works.

No items found.

In collaboration with the authors, we developed an identity, website, animations and other resources to help communicate this important study which offers ‘an eloquent, example-laden, accessible narrative, setting the stage and offering the story of a truly contemporary evolutionary theory.’

“It’s been a brilliant collaboration. Thank you so much for your hard work and great ideas.”

Professor Kevin Lala, St Andrews University

The identity started with the idea of the Fibonacci series, an important mathematical sequence that not only provides a foundation for many evolutionary patterns, but also acts as a foundation for artistic and creative development across fields of art, architecture, design and music.

We used the two ‘e’s of ‘evolution evolving’ for the identity, showing how evolution evolves out of itself along a path that is both mathematically predictable but also expansive and continuous, with new knowledge being found at the edge of the known and the unknown.

We also used the Fibonacci series to develop a playful approach to the website design. Using the different two-dimensional blocks within the structure to provide a frame for the website’s content and employing bright colours to bring the black and white illustrations, by David Andrews, to life.

We adapted the identity to support the book cover, bookmarks and social media sites. We will also apply it to presentations and follow-on events.

A major part of the project involved producing a series of 5-minute animations that introduce a range of scientific discoveries to a wider audience. Each animation required careful scripting, storyboarding and illustration development before it could be animated.

“The videos are absolutely brilliant!!! Very well done to your team.”

Professor Kevin Lala, St Andrews University

In Blind fish and their caves, Kevin explains how life’s amazing ability to respond flexibly to different environments provides a starting point for evolutionary change, shifting the focus from adaptation as a purely genetic process to one deeply rooted in the capacity of life to be flexible and responsive to the ever-changing environment.

In The desert woodrat, he explains how the symbiotic relationship between bacteria inside Mojave woodrats’ guts provides the solution for survival in harsh desert conditions. This incredible relationship between bacteria and host, which allows the rats to eat highly toxic, creosote-laden bushes, rewrites the story of inheritance. This story underscores the profound impact of symbiotic cooperation on the evolutionary success of species.

For the story of Whales and their tales, Kevin shows how cultural traditions transcend human evolution and exist across thousands of living things. Here, humpback whales learn new ways of fishing, passed down from generation to generation through copying, learning and remembering. This example highlights the profound impact of cultural knowledge on survival, reminding us that the sharing of wisdom is a fundamental aspect of life itself.

But while there are many discoveries that go beyond Darwin’s original evolutionary theories, science is also finding mechanisms and patterns that help to make evolution more predictable and understandable too.

In the story of Rodents’ teeth and raptors’ toes, Kevin explains that evolutionary scientists have discovered that structural adaptations in animals reveal significant insights into evolutionary processes. The teeth of mammals and the toes of birds highlight predictable patterns in evolution, demonstrating how development drives the natural selection of advantageous characteristics in different species.

The last animation that we have made ‘so far’ looks at Domestic dogs and docile pigs, amongst other animals that humans have ‘tamed’. Darwin knew that gentle animals had a range of similar characteristics, from curly tails and floppy ears to flattened noses and mottled fur. But he didn’t know why! Scientists have now discovered neural crest cells that shape the physical traits of animals. These cells move through the body during embryonic development and support a wide range of structures, including parts of the nervous system, the face, and the skin.

This discovery not only sheds light on Darwin's observations but also reveals the intricate biological mechanisms driving domestication and offers profound insights into the complex relationship between humans and our animal companions.

We have found this project immensely rewarding, through our discovery of new scientific knowledge, working with some of the world’s most thoughtful scientists and through the creative research and skills that we have used to bring their knowledge to life.

If you are interested in using design to tackle global challenges and share new knowledge and understanding with the world, do get in touch.

No items found.