Greenspace’s identity for The OWO balances modern luxury with the London landmark’s rich history
London-based branding studio Greenspace, alongside Colophon Foundry, have crafted a turn of the century-inspired identity and bespoke typeface family for The OWO, a Grade II listed building formerly known as The Old War Office. Located in the city’s Whitehall area, The OWO has a rich, stately history, most notably known for its uses throughout political and military leadership, as well as its influence on many literary and cinematic creations. Now home to the English capital’s first Raffles hotel, it houses 125 rooms, and nine restaurants, alongside a host of bars, spas and more.
With this weighted history in mind, Greenspace made sure to strike a graphically mature balance between The OWO’s heritage and its contemporary standing within the luxury hotel scene. Studying the building's context, they investigated early 20th century British Grotesque typefaces, where they found a surprising abundance of character. “In that era, the hand-drawn nature of type meant subtle imperfections existed in the final print material that lent them a distinctive feel,” CEO Adrian Caddy tells us, with their findings inspiring the hotel’s logomark and signature overlapping ‘W.’
Turning to Colophon Foundry to flesh out letters into an expanded typeface family, the result of their partnership is The OWO’s own bespoke typeface ‘1906’ – named after the building’s opening year – flush with three accompanying weights and alternate characters. “We chose Colophon because of their sensitivity to the origins of type,” Caddy recalls, “and their ability to make them feel at ease in a contemporary, digital space,” strengths made clear in 1906’s effortless translation from the slick movement on The OWO’s website to the pearlescent finishes of their sophisticated, tactile stationery.
Full of character, whilst maintaining a utility and rigour necessary to carry the full weight of the identity across all its touchpoints, the exaggerated strokes and stark angles of the typeface provide a flourish to 1906 that cements the historical influences of its design, alongside a candour and sincerity that firmly root it in the modern and, most importantly, digital age.
Bolstering 1906, and conveying the splendour of the hotel itself, is the identity’s notable use of colour. Chosen to reflect the materials used throughout the building, such as its Portland stone, Alabaster marble and tiled mosaics, the colours pair together beautifully, radiating an apologetic luxury in tandem with the identity’s favour of subtlety over excess. This is no more perfectly summarised than Greenspace’s use of patterns, utilising the aesthetic of morse code to ground the identity in typographic nuance. “They echo some of the sensitive work carried out within its walls,” Caddy concludes, “including morse code denoting the geographical coordinates of The OWO itself.”