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The new RISC OS cogwheel
Richard Hallas explains the thinking behind the new RISC OS logo

The launch of a new version of RISC OS with the Select scheme seemed like as good a time as any to introduce a new logo to represent the operating system as a whole. Since the demise of Acorn and the acquisition of its name by a third party, the use of the Acorn 'nut' logo to represent RISC OS has become inappropriate, and the newer 3D cube logo refers specifically to RISC OS 4. A new generic design was therefore required, which could be used to refer to all versions of RISC OS, past, present and future.

The logo eventually chosen was a stylised green cogwheel device. Among its design considerations, the following were important:

1. As a simple, symmetrical shape, it's complex enough to be easily recognisable whilst being simple enough to be used even at very small sizes, such as within icons or as bullet-points in text.

2. It can be used as solid black in monochrome printing, as a flat green logo in spot-colour printing, or with 3D highlights in full-colour printing or on a computer screen.

3. It is suitable for use either alone or in combination with other copies of itself, or as an element in another design, such as replacing the letter "O" in RISCOS Ltd.


4. The use of a cogwheel is intended to represent the component-style nature of RISC OS:

  • RISC OS is a modular operating system, comprising many small pieces which fit together to make a more complex whole.

  • RISC OS can either provide a complete system in itself or can be used in conjunction with other components.

5. The cogwheel is coloured green to convey the fact that RISC OS is closely associated with 'green issues' such as low power consumption, efficiency and modest hardware requirements. The colour also provides a link with the green Acorn logo of the past.

6. There are subtle allusions to the 32-bit nature of RISC OS: as there are four 8-bit bytes in a 32-bit word, each cogwheel has eight teeth, and four cogwheels can be used in an interlocking square to represent a more visually interesting '32-bit' design.

7. The single cogwheel is arranged so that it is standing on a single tooth, in which orientation it resembles an asterisk. This makes it highly appropriate for use as the RISC OS Task Manager icon, as it is through the Task Manager that *-commands are issued on the RISC OS desktop.

A lengthy article concerning the conception and design of the new RISC OS branding in much more detail will appear in issue 7 of Foundation RISC User magazine.

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Page updated 30-08-2001