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5 Different Types of Logo Designs

Types of logo design
Designing a logo, types of logos

There are many different types of logos – a logo might be just a name set in a chosen typeface or a mark or both.

What are the different types of logos?

A logo can take form of almost infinite variety of shapes and personalities – from literal through symbolic, from word-driven to image-driven.

They’re all a combination of typography and images, and each type of logo gives your brand a different look & feel.

And since your logo is the first thing your audience will see – you want to get it right.

Which type of logo is best for a particular company?

Each type of logo design has its advantages and disadvantages.

In this article, I will explain the difference between logo designs on the example of some of the famous brands.

Before you decide on pursuing a particular type of logo design, check the pros and cons of each and when is best to use them.

If you don’t like to read, check my Youtube video of the same subject:

The 5 Types of Logos:

  1. Wordmark
    Word mark (aka logotype) is a freestanding acronym, company name, or product name that has been designed to convey a brand attribute or positioning.
  2. Letterform
    A unique design using one or more letterforms that act as a mnemonic device for a company name
  3. Emblem
    A mark in which the company name is inextricably connected to a pictorial element
  4. Pictorial mark
    An immediately recognizable literal image that has been simplified and stylized
  5. Abstract mark
    A symbol that conveys a big idea, and often embodies strategic ambiguity

Before I describe each one of them in more detail, let’s make this clear:

What is a signature?

Sometimes we see a mark alone and other times with the company’s name, and even with a tagline locked up together.

That lockup, it what we call a signature.

Signature example - Wallmart
Signature: symbol + wordmark + tagline.

A signature is the structured relationship between a symbol, a wordmark, and a tagline.

Some identity programs accommodate split signatures that allow the mark and the logotype to be separated, others don’t.

Identity Guidelines may include vertical and/or horizontal logo lockups that allows choices based on application need (logo lockups).


1. Wordmarks

A wordmark is a freestanding word or words. Logotypes are just uniquely styled text logos that spell out the company or brand name in a characteristic typeface.

Wordmark is a company name set in a stylized typeface.

Wordmark example
Types of Logos: Wordmark (Ebay)

The best wordmarks imbue a legible word with distinctive font characteristics, plus they can use a special typographic treatment.

In a recent study of logos belonging to the top 100 brands in the world, 37% of them consisted only of text, often stylized using a unique font.

The Ebay logo can be of an example:

When to use a wordmark?

Advantage:

Using the entire name sidesteps the problem of recognition when it comes to looking for a symbol that will be simple yet unique, like anything else.

Disadvantage:

If not done well, a wordmark alone may be generic and lack mnemonic value.


2. Letterforms

Lettermark is a symbol representing the company through the use of its initials or the brands first letter. These marks are exclusively typographic.

Letterform is a single letter used as a mnemonic device for the company name

Pictorial mark example - McDonald's
McDonald’s letterform

The Mcdonals’ logo  represents the ideal marriage of letterform and symbolism.

Originally, the real golden arches were part of the McDonald’s restaurant design.

When to use a letterform?

Advantage:

The use of letterforms simplifies complicated/long names. The letterforms fit better in a variety of space sizes.

Disadvantage:

Most letterforms depend on repeated viewing for recognition. If not designed skillfully, a letterform may not be legible.


3. Emblems

Emblem is a mark in which the company name is inextricably connected to a pictorial element. And what differentiates them from other types brandmarks is that the elements are never isolated.

Emblems look terrific as an embroidered patch on a uniform.

 

Emblem example - Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson emblem

As mobile devices continue to shrink, the emblem presents the biggest legibility challenge when miniaturized. That’s why starbucks dropped the emblem in favor of pictorial mark in it’s recent rebrand.

Emblems are often used to increase consumers’ feelings of brand quality, reliability, and longevity. For example, the Harley Davidson brandmark can be classified as emblem.

When to use an emblem?

Advantage:

Emblems look terrific as an embroidered patch on a uniform.

Disadvantage:

The emblem can sometimes present the biggest legibility challenge when miniaturized.


4. Pictorial marks

Pictorial mark is an image that is immediately recognizable and that has been simplified and stylized in order in a unique way.

Pictorial marks use literal and recognizable images.

Pictorial mark example - Apple
Apple pictorial mark

Pictorial marks are very popular because they communicate more about a brand than an abstract mark (next). A pictorial mark features a graphic image or illustration of something that clearly represents a specific company, product, or brand.

The image itself may allude to the name of the company or its mission (like Apple logo does), or it may be symbolic of a brand attribute.

When to use a pictorial mark?

Advantages:

Pictorial mark follows the idea ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’

Disadvantages:

Pictorial mark separated from the wordmark may be difficult to recognize without heavy advertising.


5. Abstract marks

Abstract mark is a symbol that conveys a big idea in an interesting shape. Abstract marks are highly conceptual. They might represent an idea or value rather than provide a direct message.

An abstract mark uses a distinctive visual form to convey a big idea or an attribute.

Abstract mark example - Chase
Chase abstract mark

These marks, by their nature, can provide strategic ambiguity, and work effectively for large companies with numerous and unrelated divisions.

Abstract marks are especially effective for service-based and technology companies; however, they are extremely difficult to design well.

Great abstract marks, such as Chase’s (designed by CGH), become a valuable asset over years of consistent use.

When to use an abstract mark

Advantages:

The abstract or symbolic mark works effectively for large companies with numerous and unrelated divisions.

Disadvantages:

Abstract marks are extremely difficult to design well. There is potential to create confusion in today’s oversaturated world.


6. Bonus: Combination marks

As the name suggest, a combination mark involves a combination of wordmark and brandmark. Some of the well-known examples would include logos for Adidas, Lacoste or McDonald’s.

Brands like Adidas became well-known, so that the word mark is unnecessary – the works with and without the name.

Combination mark
Combination marks

When is best to use different types of logos?

Deciding on a basic logo style should be one of the very first steps in developing a brand identity and I’ve described some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

There’s no “fast rule” to determine which one will work best for your type of business.

Is the designer’s process to examine a range of solutions based on both aspirational and functional criteria in order work out a design direction.

The designer, based on research and strategy, will determine which type of logo is best for you.

When designing a brandmark, it’s imperative to make sure that the logo will represent your business the right way.

Logo design is not about what one likes or dislikes – it’s about what works.

Once the decision on the type of logo was made, the next step would be to choose a color and typography for your brand.

What type of logo do you have? – leave a comment below.

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