Ordnance Survey maps out future as OS

Ordnance Survey has been rebranded OS in a project led by Other, which has looked to evocate the company’s position as a modern big data organisation.

OS was formed in 1791 to help protect Britain from the threat imposed by Napoleon Bonaparte by mapping the coastline and soon grew to become a mapping company.

Today, according to OS, mapping only accounts for 5 per cent of its total annual revenues – the rest of its work involves collecting, storing and sharing location-based data; the likes of which include the location of every fixed physical object in Great Britain, from the ground upwards to within 1cm of accuracy.

Other began the project by conducting its own survey into the brand perception of OS before undertaking a semiotic audit of the brand. This meant looking at the cultural symbols and codes found in OS’s work in mapping, geography, data and technology.

Looking at visual and verbal language in these four areas Other creative director Ilinca Dumitrescu says there were many findings: “Among other things we learned that traditionally in mapping the colour blue has represented exploration and adventure, while red stands for navigation or destination.”

Their findings were categorised as “residual codes” (those that have been engrained for some time), “dominant codes” which reflect the current mood and “emergent codes” showing new ways of thinking.

Dumitrescu says these were kept front of mind as the project progressed. His team studied maps and mapping and came up with a “beautiful data” concept.

“We looked at the old ways of marking up distances on maps by using pins at specific points. By studying the relationship between these pins you can create impressive polygon shapes,” says Dumitrescu.

Four values were established: Adventurous, Incisive, Restless and True, which led into the logo development. Guidelines have been developed for a tone of voice, which is also anchored by these words.


The OS name change reflects the fact that “OS” had been colloquially adopted within the organisation some time ago according to Dumitrescu.

The new logo retains the full Ordnance Survey name while also introducing the organisation as OS.

Dumitrescu says it resonated with the testing group who found it to have “high brand recognition and understanding”.

The final logo sees the company “put on the map literally” as the O is used as a window featuring the new headquarters in Southampton. The O represents the urban world and the S features the rural world and depicts a river and footpaths.

The map content at the centre of the logo can be changed to reflect content and in some cases, can even reflect a specific place. 


New colourways have been evolved out of the old logo palette of magenta and deep purple. They bear a resemblence to red which represents destination and navigation, and blue that represents discovery and exploration according to Dumitrescu. The new brand colours have been chosen with online and off-line use in mind.

Three scales for the new logo have been developed – “standard”, which is a mid-scale version for general use, a “rich” logo designed to have a stronger visual impact and a “clean” logo, which doesn’t contain any map detailing and is for use on a small scale.  

Meanwhile the strapline “Finding a way” sets out OS’s strategic intent, which according to Dumitrescu is “the ability to empower individuals, businesses and organisations with maps and data”.

At the same time the “positive tone” of the strapline captures the energy and purpose of the organisation and shows how OS will “find a way to realise all of the possibilities of a technology connected world.”

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  • Kirado November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    So they cribbed the name for the apple operating system OS. Not too smart.

  • Anthony Sully November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    From the colour choice it could be a French company – very disappointing.

  • Nathan Ryder November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    A few comments on this re-branding from me:

    1) Kirado (see comment above) is that sarcasm, a joke or are you just not very well informed? OS have been around for a bit longer than apple my friend….

    2) Anthony Sully (see comment above)… again, is that sarcasm, a joke or are you just not very well informed? OS have been around for a bit longer than France my friend!…. – that’s sarcasm!

    …but, on a more technical issue; I use OS mapping at work a lot, I’ve downloaded the new files I need, including style guides etc, read up on the usage guidelines and then opened my very first EPS version of the 88 files contained within said folder…. oh dear me! Some bright spark has left a font within the ‘text’ layer which my computer doesn’t have and I’m pretty sure everyone else will get the same, rather annoying, error message.

    DON’T WORRY – it’s not the end of the world!
    Like I said, it’s on the font layer and if you look in wire frame view you will see the offending font marked with a little x – just delete it – it’s nothing important (just bad very artworking)…. naughty, naughty!

    I don’t mind the actual re-design, it’s a bit busy though.

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