How the process of designing a global design icon is helping us build a global brand

by Ivan Pols, Creative Director at what3words

A cafe window with a red sign displaying a what3words address in Chinese

It was the right time for the right question

I really love startup life.

Our brains see stories

When I joined what3words I noticed I couldn’t help but read a what3words address like it was a sentence, and I wasn’t alone.

Building on what works

The original what3words logo (a red pin containing 3 white apostrophes
The original what3words logo (a red pin containing 3 white apostrophes

Looking for a global symbol

When we looked for solutions to these questions maps were a wonderful inspiration. Map symbols identify locations of interest and danger; like churches, bridges and gates. These symbols have been used for hundreds of years and permeate our culture.

Helping everyone talk about everywhere

what3words users can be anyone; from Mercedes-Benz owners in Germany to healthcare workers in Uganda, postal workers in the Solomon Islands and autonomous vehicle passengers in California — basically anyone who may need to reliably use a very precise location.

51.520847, -0.19552100 ←→ filled.count.soap

The system works in over 40 languages across 240 territories in human-to-human and human-to-computer interactions, using handwriting, text, scan and voice in thousands of businesses and services.

Design, iterate and test

The design process was fast. We settled on the idea during a design review with the founders and CMO where we discussed ideas while I sketched them on the big screen. It was a great meeting.

The what3words symbol

///filled.count.soap

How /// works

Firstly, /// makes it very easy to see a what3words address in text. For example, you’ll spot an address like pinks.driven.covers much more quickly when I write it as ///pinks.driven.covers.

Photo of Stone’s Brewing ///Fear.Movie.Lions beer packaging.
Photo of Stone’s Brewing ///Fear.Movie.Lions beer packaging.

When does a design become a global standard?

I think we’ve found a design that helps people understand a 3 word address more clearly.

what3words is the simplest way to talk about location. It has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares, each with a unique 3 word address.

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