The public and – on its behalf – the media are both obsessed with crime, a partial effect of which is that any old Crimewatch UK viewer can tell you that a strip of seemingly random dots is, in fact, a DNA sequence.

This mass familiarity with a powerful scientific tool gave the North London consultancy Four IV a convincing case when it paired DNA sequences with the stripes of a zebra for the cover of the annual report of The Institute of Zoology.

Portraying the meeting of science and the study of animals in a way to interest the lay reader was the aim of design director Tony Blurton and designer Jane Stanyon. A glance at the report’s cover conveys the substance of the institute’s work.

The institute, the research arm of the Zoological Society of London and of the University of London, provides a veterinary service to the two animal collections at Regent’s Park and Whipsnade zoos.

However, it’s not all sticking hands up baboons’ bums and giving bottles of milk to cute monkeys. The research is serious stuff – into animal behaviour, conservation genetics and population and evolutionary ecology to name just a few subjects.

This is the first year that the institute has decided to take a new design direction. Blurton describes the scientists as keen to encourage non-scientists to read the annual report from cover to cover.

And it was the cover that was tackled last. Three possible solutions were put to the institute: stroboscopic-style photographs of an animal’s movement; a pixelated picture of an animal: and the zebra/DNA combination. The zebra won.

Apparently, the Four IV team succeeded in a Freudian slip of the best kind during the early presentations. References to DNA somehow became D’n’AD. No awards for this report yet. But it is highly commendable.

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