We’ve had several logo design clients come to us recently, and the topic of logo lingo has come up. Most people can come up with a handful of famous logo examples if pressed…Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Apple. But there are actually several different types of logos, and that’s where many get confused when it comes to designing one for their own unique brand. So here’s an overview of what a logo actually is, and the different types you should be aware of.
There are actually several different types of logos, and that’s where many get confused when it comes to designing one for their own unique brand.
What is a logo?
A logo is a broad term for a mark that represents your company. It is different from a brand or an icon or a word. It is very simply a unique identifier for your business. Because logo is a general term, there are different types of logos to describe more specific elements.
Different types of logos
A logo mark is what most people think of when they picture a logo. This is a small symbol, usually very simple and stylized, used to represent your company. Because name recognition is key to growing your business, very few companies operate under a logo mark alone, at least not until they’ve established significant brand recognition in their field. However, you’ll often see large corporations like Starbucks and Apple transition from a combination mark to a logo mark over time as they build brand recognition. There are two types of logo marks depending on the imagery used for your brand:
A pictorial mark is a simplified image that depicts a recognizable object. This is directly representational of some aspect of your business or name (such as a Twittering bird or iconic Apple).
Benefits: Clean and recognizable, flexible for merchandise and products. Conveys your core image quickly.
Drawbacks: Extremely difficult to pull off without an established brand name. If your end goal is to get to a brand mark alone, start with a combination mark and phase out over time.
An abstract mark is like a Pictorial mark, but it represents a concept instead of a real object. The level of abstraction varies depending on the brand, but your end goal is to convey the most important value or concept your company espouses.
Benefits: Most unique marks, easy to convey a concept or key element of your business quickly.
Drawbacks: Most people won’t read into symbols very much, so if it’s too abstract or complicated, your meaning may get lost.
Wordmark (or Logotype)
Wordmarks are composed only of text that spells out the full name of the company. This text should be altered intentionally from the base font used or entirely crafted by hand to be unique to the company.
Benefits: A wordmark ensures recognition of your company name, and you can communicate a lot about your company’s vibe through typography and color.
Drawbacks: Without imagery, it’s harder to communicate what kind of service you offer at a glance. Scale also becomes an issue when you have to print small, so wordmarks are best suited to companies with shorter names and dynamic letters.
Lettermark (or Monogram)
Lettermarks incorporate the initials of a company into a unique identifier, similar to a wordmark. This is a popular format for television networks and government organizations whose names consist of multiple long words, as well as designers who rely on branded name recognition to sell products.
Benefits: Concise logo style good for building initial recognition, can be very dynamic and recognizable.
Drawbacks: Should only be used if you want your company to only be known by its initials. If you intend to be known as Moe’s Autobody Shop, branding under MAS will actively work against your name recognition goals.
This is the most common type of logo, and typically the most useful for any company. A combination mark pairs a brand mark with your company name to convey the who and what of your business at the same time. The best way to get people to recognize you is to give them your name and a memorable image to associate with it.
Benefits: Helps grow brand recognition, can be flexible over time.
Drawbacks: Can seem disconnected if not designed well. The brand mark and your business name have to share some similarities or complement each other, otherwise it can look unprofessional.
Mascot logos are the least common logo type, but they can work extremely well for certain industries. A mascot personifies your company, acting as a spokesperson to help people connect with you in a more personal and casual format.
Benefits: Works great for family-friendly businesses that target young age groups. Think cereal companies and fast-food.
Drawbacks: Not as effective on older age groups or for serious companies, but there are always exceptions. Spec’s is an example of an adult brand using a mascot to communicate a friendly, casual experience.
Emblem logos incorporate traditional shapes to encapsulate your company name and imagery. They have evolved from a long tradition of royal seals and maker’s marks, and work well for companies offering artisan services or a brand based on classic looks and steeped in tradition.
Benefits: These can be more complex and detailed than any other type of logo, so you can convey richness and elegance or rustic appeal more easily.
Drawbacks: Too much detail can cause scale issues. Emblem logos also create a certain expectation of quality and value, so be sure your product or services fit the design.
Now you know!
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