I expect you are familiar with the logo of the 4th International Rice Congress (IRC2014 – at left) that was held in Bangkok at the end of October last year.
But have you ever thought about the subtle messages behind this logo, and how it was used to communicate ideas about rice and rice research to a wider world audience?
And for that matter, where did the logo come from and who designed it? There’s a real story here.
The designer of the IRC2014 logo, known as Mr. Logo by many at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), is Juan V. ‘Boyet’ Lazaro IV. He is a self-taught artist who first joined IRRI in 1980 as a laborer in the Plant Pathology Division where he worked in the fields, greenhouses, and laboratories. He joined the Information Center as an illustrator in 1993. Currently, he is the creative leader in the IRRI Communication Design Unit.
The IRC2014 logo is just another example of Boyet’s talent and exquisite design innovation. When I had responsibility, among other things, for donor relations (which also included developing a range of public awareness products targeted at the donor community) I worked very closely with then Head of Communication and Publications Services (CPS), Gene Hettel, and Boyet. That was the fun part of my job.
Each time we started a new design project, I generally had a brief discussion with Boyet about the next ‘product’ I wanted him to work on, what I wanted to achieve – be it a poster for an exhibition, the cover of an Annual Report, or a flyer highlighting the impact of a particular piece of research – and the messages I needed to get across. And then I left it up to Boyet to come up with various designs. Boyet never ceased to amaze me with the designs he produced, which were always commented on favorably by those in our target audience – we got our message across.
On one occasion, for the annual meeting of the CGIAR held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2003, I wanted to illustrate how advances in genomics and particularly data from the recently-sequenced rice genome could open ‘genetic windows’ on other cereal genomes, and vice versa. Some of you may be familiar with the synteny diagram below that illustrates the close relationships between grass genomes, first developed by cereal geneticists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in the UK.
Rather complicated for the non-specialist, don’t you think?
This is what Boyet came up with after he and I discussed how we could interpret the ideas in a ‘user-friendly’ way.
The late Professor MD Gale of the John Innes Centre in the UK (and an IRRI Board member at that time) who published the first synteny diagrams with JIC colleagues, was ‘blown away’, as they say, by the simple image depicting genome relationships, and decided to use it thereafter to explain his work to non-technical audiences.
But one of Mike’s favorite collaborations with Boyet was during the preparations for IRRI’s 50th anniversary in April 2010. IRRI had persuaded the Philippines Postal Corporation to release a stamp – four as it turned out – to mark this important event. But there were no suitable designs available. This is where Boyet stepped into the picture. In this short video (from minute 4:35 onwards), played at the 50th anniversary event on 14 April 2010, Boyet is seen designing the four stamps, and discussing his various ideas with Gene and Mike.
He also designed the First Day Covers.
Incidentally, the IRRI 50th anniversary logo is also Boyet’s creation . . .