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My animation of the scale and structure of the human genome is part of the MIT Museum Gene Cultures exhibit.
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As the night comes on, the signs reveal the mystery of the cell.
I created a font to encode genomic sequence on the wayfinding signs in my DNA on 10th public art project. Download the font it and make your own creations.

DNA on 10th — Science this way

There are some new shapes on the streets of Vancouver.

“DNA on 10th” wayfinding signs on the Health Care corridor are

based on sequence data from the Personal OncoGenomics program and

designed at Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre.

When the night comes on,

the signs take on a new personality.

$alt $alt

North sign in day

North sign at night

$alt $alt

South sign in day

South sign at night

Our signs help you navigate the Health Care Corridor on West 10th Avenue. And if you take a closer look at their design, you'll see the footprint of groundbreaking science happening right here in the city.

What do the sign show?

Your genes are coded in molecules of DNA using four bases—A, C, G and T. Errors in this code are called mutations, interfere with the complex biology of a cell and result in disease.

Each shape on the sign represents a base and each row represents a gene sequence. The shapes of complementary bases are vertical (A/T) or horizontal (C/G) reflections. Circles inside the shape indicate where a base repeats twice (small circle) or three times (large circle). These shapes are part of the DNA ON 10TH font designed for the sign.

Bright bases signal a gene mutation and form a double helix—the 3-dimensional shape of DNA. The sequence along the helix is part of the TP53 gene—an important tumour suppressor and regulator of cell division.

There are several puzzles and Easter eggs built into the sign.

How are the north and south designs different?

Sequence in rows that intersect with the 5' helix (the one that starts on the bottom row) are oriented in the direction of the sign.

The helix shape on the north sign is as the helix on the south sign would appear if you were to look at it from the back.

Are you sure the DNA helix is winding the right way?

Pretty sure.

Why are the signs changing color?

The signs are dimly backlit—they have different day and night personalities.

As the night comes on, the mysteries of the cell are revealed—the background sequence and the DNA double helix become distinguishable.

Where did the data for the signs come from?

The data represent DNA of cancer patients sequenced at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at BC Cancer the to guide treatment decisions. Each unique row of shapes is a real gene sequence implicated in cancer.

Modern breakthroughs in cancer treatment have been made possible by genomics, the study of DNA and its role in heredity, health and disease. In our our Personalized OncoGenomics program (POG), we compare patients’ tumour and normal DNA to find the best targeted therapies.

Where are the signs?

On the east side of the intersection of 10th Avenue and Oak Street (view map).

designed at

BC Cancer Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center

in collaboration with

PUBLIC Architecture + Communication

concept + design

Martin Krzywinski

data wrangling

Greg Taylor

Josh Davies

Nikki Martin

Isaac Beckie

Darryl D'Souza

Caralyn Reisle

Erich Chuah


Richard Moore

Inanc Birol

Steven Jones

Marco Marra


Kevin Sauve


PUBLIC Architecture + Communication

Aaron Sportack

Susan Mavor

sign manufacture

Knight Signs


Intersection of Oak Street & 10th Ave

© 1999–2023 Martin Krzywinski | contact | Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences CentreBC Cancer Research CenterBC CancerPHSA