For many years, the visual language of digital maps and apps has been defined by ‘The Pin’. This symbol has been overused and abused as a pointer and even more so as a branding device.
A pin might seem precise but the technology behind it is often flawed. Put a street address into a search engne and the majority of times it will make an informed guess as to the location. The pin points to latitude and longitude coordinate pairs but try to write them down or tell someone over the phone that you want to meet them at 51.521251, -0.203586 and errors always creep in.
Our new identity takes inspiration from how what3words uniquely solves the location problem. Its global grid of 3m x 3m squares – with each square identified by a 3 word address – creates a uniform and accurate addressing system that is easy to communicate.
Creating a universal symbol
Our mission is to become the global standard for communicating location, so to create a universal mark we also needed the what3words icon to feel as familiar as a classic map mark. The team went back to cartographic basics and researched map symbols. They are all incredibly simple, pictographically descriptive and importantly, can be easily drawn by hand.
We needed to find a way to highlight a square in a grid as simply as possible. Finding your location on the map at a glance, without obscuring the underlying map, was a fundamental requirement. The symbol had to represent a 3 word address across languages and scripts. With multiple languages already available, and more in the pipeline, helping users spot the 3 word address on a checkout form or in a navigation app is vitally important. To this end, we took inspiration from the use of “@” and “#” that provide an instant context for the words that follow the symbol.
The new what3words logo
A grid square identified by a 3 word address: that’s what our new symbol captures in a simple and universal mark. The square represents the 3m x 3m grid and the 3 strokes the 3 unique words. It also does a job of highlighting a specific grid square incredibly effectively.
The new what3words identity acts as pure information design, providing an accurate visual marker for 3 word addresses across all partner platforms – it’s a symbol that is as uniform as the 57 trillion squares that underpin the system.
The wordmark has also been redesigned to fit the new symbol. The bespoke typography has strong vertical and horizontal lines that mirror the symbol and convey confidence. The “3” is a very important aspect of our brand and has been given extra weight by dropping it below the baseline.
The symbol is a minimalist icon that helps users find it at a glance in any context, be that a check-out page, a business card, an address label on a package or underneath a restaurant listing in a guidebook.
A flexible identity
what3words has embraced the principles of Function, Personalisation and Adaptation. This now allows our commercial partners and individual users to integrate 3 word addresses into their apps, businesses and personal lives in many more ways.
3 word addresses are used by a wealth of partners across the world and need to integrate smoothly with their requirements. The symbol’s colour can be changed to match the colour space of the environment it appears, whilst still maintaining its universal function.
A frame for the world
Every square on the grid identifies a place with a unique story – a loving home, a thriving small business, a faulty power windmill, a festival tent or the best fishing spot. The 3 word address symbol acts as a frame into which images, patterns or colours can be added. Users can add meaning and take ownership of that location.
This is just the beginning of our new identity system. what3words is also rolling out an expanded colour palette, new typeface, motion design guidelines and storytelling style, to reflect the exciting ways the world is using 3 word addresses.
The symbol is functional and will be integrated into the what3words map and app, providing improved location clarity and greater accuracy in the user experience. Please refer to the style guide for more detail.
We’re looking forward to developing it with designers and developers across the world, and in doing so give everyone access to a 3 word address.