The 8 Types of Logos and How to Use Them Effectively
You may not realize the extent to which logos are a part of our lives. Look around you - there’s one on the top corner of your screen, possibly one on your shoe and definitely plenty more in view.
These brand marks, whether appearing on the side of a bus or as tiny icons on our screens, are a crucial asset for every business. They’re used to represent a brand’s identity and to set them apart from their competitors. A good logo will not only accurately reflect the brand and its character, but will also be memorable and work well in diverse contexts.
When designing a logo, take into account the various forms a logo can take. From a lone visual symbol, to plain text or different combinations of the two, here are the eight different types of logos you’ll find, plus tips on how to use them to create a winning design:
The 8 types of logos
Logo symbols/brand marks/pictorial marks
Abstract logo marks
Wordmarks (a.k.a. logotypes) consist of the company’s name, written in a certain typeface. While this may sound very straightforward, as Steve Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex.” To successfully pull off a simple logo design, you need to pay extra attention to every little detail.
If you’re going for a wordmark, there are a few routes you can take. Some brands create a custom typeface especially for their logo, like Coca-Cola. However, this takes time and requires the skills of a professional designer. Alternatively, you can choose a logo font that reflects your brand’s vibe. Consider whether to go for all caps, small letters or a mix, as well as add any special characters or color to your logo.
A wordmark is a great choice for companies with catchy names, or those that want to get their name out into the world, as their logo will appear throughout all their marketing materials.
Examples: Wix, Coca-Cola, Subway, Google, Kellogg’s and eBay.
Letterforms are one-letter logos that only include the first letter of the company’s name. Often, brands will have an additional version of their logo that comprises their full business name (called a wordmark or logotype as explained above), to be used in different occasions.
As letterform logos are small, they’re easily scalable. This makes them ideal for app icons, favicons, and more. Even when used in miniscule dimensions, they’re likely to stay recognizable, especially if they have a fairly simple design without too many details.
Generally, letterform logos are a good choice for brands that are already reasonably well-known. Otherwise, it can be tricky getting people to know and remember your company’s name. They’re also beneficial for brands with long names.
Examples: Facebook, McDonald’s, Netflix and Pinterest.
03. Lettermarks/monogram logos
Lettermarks (a.k.a. monogram logos) are typography-based logos that are made up of the company’s initials. In most cases, businesses that have monogram logos are referred to by their abbreviated version when speaking, like IBM and NASA (when was the last time you heard someone say National Aeronautics and Space Administration?!).
Similarly to the logo types mentioned above, lettermarks can also be made using a custom typeface, or by finding a font that successfully conveys your brand identity. Make sure to take into account various typography parameters, like kerning (the spacing between letters), width, weight and style (such as bold or italic).
In certain industries, it’s commonplace for companies to use the abbreviated version of their name (law firms for example). If you’re operating within those, you may want to stick to the norm and create a lettermark logo. Lettermarks are also a common choice for businesses with long names that want to be more memorable with a shortened version.
Examples: HSBC, IBM, NASA, CNN, HP and IKEA.
04. Logo symbols/brand marks/pictorial marks
Logo symbols (a.k.a. brand marks or pictorial marks) are graphic icons, symbols or images that reflect the brand’s identity or activity. Normally, these logos represent an object from the real world, such as Shell’s iconic logo design or Instagram’s camera.
If you decide to go for a pictorial mark for your brand, consider what it is that you want your logo to symbolize. Do you want it to be a literal representation of your name, like Apple? It can also be used to subtly suggest your brand’s values or message. Notice, for example, how Twitter’s bird faces upwards, representing hope and freedom.
Finding the perfect image for your logo symbol can be a challenge, especially if you’re a fairly new brand. Not only are you likely to grow, change and add new products as time goes on, but it could also take time for customers to recognize your logo and connect it to your brand. In this case, consider incorporating your name into the logo (see combination marks below).
The plus side of logo symbols is that they help set a strong tone of voice. Once your company gains recognition, a well-designed logo symbol can become very memorable (think of Instagram, Apple and the likes).
Examples: Shell, Apple, Twitter, Target, Instagram and Snapchat.
05. Abstract logo marks
These are image-based logos that use abstract forms to reflect a company’s branding. Unlike pictorial marks that represent a real object, abstract logo marks are more metaphorical.
As they don’t depict a specific recognizable object, abstract logo marks give you the chance to create something highly unique. If you go for this option, pinpoint your brand’s core values. Experiment with reflecting them in a simple, geometric form that will evoke the right emotions and messages. For example, Airbnb’s logo is reminiscent of the familiar ‘location’ icon, as well as being an abstracted form of an upside down heart.
If you decide to create this type of logo for your brand, make sure you’ve solidified your brand identity and know exactly what it is that you want to convey to your audience. In addition, an abstract logo mark can be a good choice for global brands whose names don’t work well across different languages.
Examples: Airbnb, Chanel, Nike, Olympics, Google Drive, Adidas and Pepsi.
Mascot logos consist of illustrated characters that act as visual representations or “ambassadors” for a brand. They can be anything from fictitious creatures to real people, as long as they reflect the brand’s identity.
Mascots can be a good way of getting customers to connect to your brand, as people tend to naturally resonate with other humans or characters. You can also use a mascot to create a fun, playful vibe that will appeal to your audience, which explains why companies targeting children and families often use this type of logo. Consider whether your business suits having a mascot and if so, how you can use it to send the right message.
Due to their generally friendly, engaging nature, mascots can work well when designing for social media and marketing campaigns. However, take note that they’re often made up of more details than a standard logo, so may require a simplified version for small dimensions, like favicons or business cards.
Examples: Michelin Man by Michelin, Colonel Sanders by KFC, Cap’n Crunch, Tony the Tiger by Kellogg’s and Mr. Peanut by Planters.
Emblem logos are typically reminiscent of badges or crests. They combine text and symbolic imagery to form ornate designs with a traditional feel.
If you’re considering whether an emblem is right for your brand, think about the industry you’re in. While there are no rules, this type of logo is especially popular amongst universities, sports teams and coffee brands. A current logo trend is a contemporary take on the emblem, opting for a more minimal approach, which usually involves vector illustrations and clean lines.
Emblems can also give you the space you need to add a catchy slogan that reflects your brand’s message. When creating an emblem, take into account that due to their intricate details, this type of logo can be less versatile and doesn’t always work well on a smaller scale. In those cases, you can create a simpler alternative.
Examples: Starbucks, Stella Artois, Harley-Davidson and Manchester United.
08. Combination marks
This type of logo combines (surprise, surprise) images with words. For example, a combination logo could consist of an icon with a wordmark, or a mascot with a letterform and so on. Some brands have one main logo in the form of a combination mark, while occasionally splitting up the text and imagery to better suit various contexts.
Combination marks are very popular amongst brands from all industries, as they are extremely versatile. You can create a number of variations of your logo and use them for different purposes, while ensuring a clear and cohesive visual language throughout. For example, notice how Lacoste uses their combination mark on their website design, while most of their products only feature the much-loved and recognizable green crocodile.
For companies that are not yet well-known, combination marks can be a great starting point, helping you build brand recognition. With time, you’ll have the freedom to use just the text or just the icon, while remaining recognizable. Also, supporting the text with icons, symbols and other forms of imagery helps potential customers understand what your brand is all about.
Examples: Lacoste, Dunkin’ Donuts, MasterCard, Toblerone and Puma.
Text Dana Meir