The 6* Types of Logos, and When to Choose Each.
In the competitive world of look-alike products, a distinctive company logotype is one if not the principal means of distinguishing one product from that of another. The value of the logotype, which is the company’s signature cannot be overestimated.
PAUL RAND, DESIGNER OF THE IBM LOGO
Your logo. It is the primary element of your visual identity. It’s usually the first glimpse the customer has into your brand. With that in mind, it’s important to thoughtfully consider what your logo “says” to your audience. A logo can be presented in an infinite number of ways to engender a greater connection with your brand - from simple shapes to lengthy names…from single color icons to multi-color crests. There is no single best form, and trying to follow the latest trend is short-sighted. While having a primary mark to represent your brand is important, many organizations use variations of the primary mark to identify themselves, depending on the medium.
So, what are the different types of logos? Well, there are generally 6 types, but depending on how specific you get, there may be from 5 to 8. They are: Wordmark, Lettermark (Monogram), Pictorial Mark, Abstract Mark (both often referred to as icons), Emblem, and Combination Mark.
A wordmark is a stylized typographic version of an organization’s name. Oftentimes, the wordmark is even an accepted shortened version of the official name. Logos like FedEx, Netflix, and Disney are good examples.
Wordmark logos are often used with organizations or products whose names are short; tie back to an individual’s name; or are neologisms (made-up). Wordmark typography is crucial to help convey your brand, especially when the logo is not accompanied by a descriptor line or tagline. Additionally, the typography must be customized to ensure the ability to trademark. .
2. Lettermarks (Monograms)
A Lettermark is a typographic representation of a brand, using its initials or acronym. Generally, the brand or organization is referred to by this acronym. We are all familiar with International Business Machines, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, but those names are a mouthful, so you see them as IBM and NASA. Logos like GE, Chanel, and VW are good examples
Rarely do you see a Lettermark consisting of more than 4 letters, as the objective is to maintain simplicity. However, distinctive typography will create a more memorable mark. This type of logo is also much more common for established organizations whose acronym may have become part of the lexicon. The simplicity also allows for consistent replication across a wide variety of media.
3. Pictorial Marks
A pictorial mark features a graphic image or icon that clearly represents something associated with the brand. That image may be a literal reference to the brand name, or a reference to the brand’s mission or values. Both Pictorial Marks and Abstract Marks (next) are generally icons separated from the signature, but often included as a part of a primary mark that includes the name. Logos like Apple, Shell, and WWF are good examples.
Pictorial Marks and Abstract Marks almost always represent organizations or products that already have strong brand recognition, or with deep advertising pockets. One of the biggest considerations is whether to choose a literal symbol or a metaphorical symbol…and then being aware of the potential unintended connotations of that symbol. Closely related to Pictorial marks, and often seen as a separate category are Mascots.
4. Abstract Marks
An Abstract Mark is very similar in function to a Pictorial Mark, but it is one that conveys an idea or aspiration or values in a conceptual form, as opposed to a more realistic icon. Logos like Nike, Pepsi, and Sprint are good examples.
The benefits of an Abstract Mark are many. A brand can convey an idea or feeling, without having to worry about the negative connotations of a specific image. Additionally, the conceptual nature allows large brands to strategically manage disparate sub-brands under a single parent mark. These types of marks are more commonly seen with service-centric brands, or larger corporations. One major challenge is the viewer often seeks meaning in the logo, and a abstract mark may create confusion.
An Emblem is a logo that generally uses typography and/or graphics in a contained shape, like a shield or some geometric form. What defines them most is that, 1) the typography and the symbol/shape are interconnected, and 2) the product or brand name is generally presented in its complete form. Logos like Porsche, Starbucks, and Harley Davidson are good examples.
These types of logos often try to convey quality, or craftsmanship and are commonly found in the auto industry, colleges and universities, and athletic clubs. The NFL shield is a hybrid lettermark-emblem. Reproduction of emblems at smaller sizes can be a challenge. Simplified, secondary versions are often designed to account for this
6. Combination Marks
A Combination Mark is the type of logo that we see most commonly. As the name implies, it combines a Wordmark with an icon (Pictorial or Abstract Mark). These elements can be side-by-side, stacked, or interconnected in some way. That versatility is why this type of logo appeals to so many types of organizations. Virtually all brand identity systems, even those that rely on just an icon or Wordmark as the primary logo, incorporate some form of a Combination Mark into their accepted usages. Logos like YouTube, Rolex, and Slack are good examples.
*Additionally, most brands include a signature into their brand guidelines. A signature is when an organization’s name, icon, and tagline are presented together. Symbol + Wordmark + Tagline = Signature. Often, identity guidelines account for both vertical and horizontal options of the signature, depending on application. Some may accommodate signatures that allow the mark and the logotype to be separated. This is where the distinction between the types of logos can get a little muddy, depending on which is the primary mark, and how prominently a brand decides to use a secondary version or split version of the logo.
So, which one is right for your organization?
There is no simple answer that applies to all organizations. We’ve tried to highlight some of the benefits and disadvantages of each, but the specifics of your industry, organizational history and mission, your audience, and your intended media usage will all factor into the design process. Remember, a good logo is the foundation of your visual branding. Working with a professional designer can help make sure you’re on solid ground.
If you’d like to talk about a new logo, rebranding, or a complete brand strategy for your organization, please call or email us.