There are 6 types of logo designs: which is best for you?

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There are 6 types of logo designs: but which type of logo is right for you?

Logos are a part of everyday life. You see them on your fridge when you make breakfast, on your car when you drive to work, on your computer when you sit down at your desk. When something’s that ubiquitous, you might not give it a ton of thought. But logos (and logo design) are actually more intricate than most people realize. There are six categories of logos. Each type has unique advantages, so it’s worth taking the time to consider what kind of logo you want or is most suitable for your business.

1. Emblems

Emblems are just about the oldest form of logo. Also known as seals or crests, people have been using them since at least the middle ages, if not before. An emblem is the type of logo that includes text inside of a symbol. It’s a classic look that gives your logo a traditional quality. That’s why you’ll often see them used by schools and government agencies — they make everything feel nice and official. Emblems are often more detailed than other types of logos, and include fine linework and small, detailed imagery. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, however. The Harley Davidson logo is a very simple emblem, with simple sans serif text nested inside a crest.

Why should you choose an emblem?
  • Your brand wants to convey a sense of tradition and/or longevity.
  • You are looking for your logo to convey a sense of gravitas.
Why might you avoid an emblem?
  • Your logo needs to scale. Emblems don’t look great shrunk down really small (like to favicon size on a website), and don’t read well from far away (like on a billboard).

2. Logotypes

Also known as a “wordmark,” logotypes are logos which are built entirely of the word or words that make up the company’s name. The main focus here is typography, obviously. This style of logo strongly ties a brand’s visual identity to the name of the company. Because of this, you’ll have to choose, or create, your font carefully. The shape, style and color of the words convey almost as much meaning as the words themselves. This is even more important if your company’s name is a nonsense word, like so many are these days — Google, for a very prominent example. The Google logotype is impactful because the font is simple and elegant — like their products — but made up of many colors. The different colors represent the multitude of results you get when searching on Google and the diversity of their product lineup. The bright colors are fun and accessible, which makes sense when you consider Google wants their products to be used universally and to not intimidate new users.

Why should you choose a logotype?
  • You’re a new company that wants to get your name out there.
  • Your brand has a short name that won’t feel overwhelming when plastered everywhere as a logo.
  • Your name is your brand (e.g. you’re a photographer). Logotypes help reinforce the tie between visual memory and name recognition.
Why might you avoid a logotype?
  • You don’t want to update your logo regularly. Fonts follow trends. Helvetica may be all the rage these days, but in a few years it may feel as dated as the neon bubble letters of the 80s. Even Google and Coca Cola need to update their iconic wordmarks to stay fresh.
  • Your company name is really long.

3. Monogram logos

Monograms aren’t just for towels anymore! Whether it’s because the initials make a cool word, like TASER, or the name is just ungainly, like Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (more commonly known as 3M), it’s easy to think of reasons why your company would go by its initialism or acronym. If this sounds like your company, a monogram probably makes more sense than a logotype. This style of logo focuses the name down to the memorable (and pronounceable) parts. You probably refer to HBO as HBO, rather than Home Box Office. If that’s something you’re looking to achieve, the monogram is a no-brainer for your brand. Again, the typography and font are key with monograms (also known as lettermarks). You can get even more creative with the styling of the letters, since legibility is less of an issue than with logotypes. The fewer letters there are, the less likely someone will read them incorrectly. Many fashion brands use the monogram logo (think Louis Vuitton, Chanel, or Gucci) and it is an immediately recognizable symbol of their brand.

Why should you choose a monogram?
  • You want the tie between your name and visual identity, but have a really long name.
  • You work in an industry where shortening your name to initials is common (looking at you, law firms!)
Why might you avoid a monogram?
  • You’re a new company and aren’t yet established. In this case you can still use a letter-form, but may wish to include your full name below until you develop a reputation.

4. Brand marks

As we progress down this list of the types of logos, you may notice that we’re getting further and further away from the use of words. You can think of this like the ever increasing difficulty in a video game — the further you get away from explicit text, the more weight the actual image will have to carry. This brings us to the brand mark (also called a “pictorial mark”). The imagery you choose for your company logo has to be incredibly iconic for the average customer to recognize and identify it. Often, these logos evolve over time from one of the above types. Think of how the Starbucks logo began as an emblem, but is now simply a drawing of a mermaid. That’s why it can be challenging for a new company to utilize a brand mark exclusively. However, pictorial marks are just so fun! I wouldn’t want to discourage you from choosing one just because you’re new. Just keep in mind you will need a wordmark associated with your image for a while before you can drop it entirely.

Why should you choose a pictorial mark?
  • Your brand name lends itself to be being drawn literally. The Apple logo, for example, is a clear example of a brand name being drawn literally. It makes more sense for their brand to use a pictorial mark than a wordmark or emblem.
  • You want to create a sense of brand personality with an image that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to with just your name.
Why might you avoid a pictorial mark?
  • You want to be seen as traditional and serious. It’s not impossible to use a pictorial mark if you do, but selecting the right image is more of a challenge.
  • You’re still nailing down your product or service. Picking an image too early could lock you into a particular way of branding your company. You may want to start with something more versatile and adapt a brandmark at a later date.

5. Abstract logo marks

Sticking with pictures, but moving away from literal representation, we have the abstract logo. This logo type is used when you want to use an image, but don’t want to be constrained by a literal representation. You can create an abstract logo that evokes a feeling more than a thought. These can be difficult, as not everyone will interpret an image the same way. What’s great about these types of logos is, once you’ve got your brand out there, no one else (hopefully) has a logo quite like yours. You’ll be well on your way to differentiating your brand from the rest of the market from the start. The Nike Swoosh: it’s fast, dynamic, and conveys a sense of movement and energy. You don’t need to see the word Nike to know the brand behind the product or advertisement. And even if you’re unfamiliar with the brand, you get a pretty good idea of what they stand for. This is where abstract logos thrive — immediate and distinct recognition.

Why should you choose an abstract mark?
  • You want a pictorial element to your logo, but want to create a more serious tone than most literal pictorial logos create.
  • You want something truly unique.
Why might you avoid an abstract mark?
  • You haven’t totally solidified your brand identity. Since abstract marks convey feelings, you need to know what kind of emotions you’re trying to create in your customers before developing imagery that does that.

6. Combination marks

Not everything in the world is black and white. You don’t have to choose just one type of logo. You can combine any or all of the above ideas.You can combine a mascot with a wordmark, or embed your monogram into an abstract logo. A brand mark can be supported by a logotype, and both aspects of the brand can be separated and used for different scenarios. Think about Dove — the brand uses both a brand mark (the dove) and the wordmark (Dove) together, while just the brand mark imprinted on its products. Combination marks are really the “have your cake and eat it too” of the logo world. Is the combination mark the right choice for your brand? If you’re leaning toward imagery but feel like you need the support of text to describe or share what your brand is, then yes! If you want a flexible logo that can be adapted for different situations, yes. A great aspect of combination marks is that they’re adaptable. You can keep your mascot and abandon your wordmark or lose your monogram and keep your abstract logo, based on how your brand evolves. We think the combination mark is a great option for new brands as they embark on their logo design process.

Why should you choose a combination mark?
  • You want the best of several worlds.
  • You want a future-proof logo that can adapt and change with your business.
Why might you avoid a combination mark?
  • Your brand is focused on simplicity; combination marks can get busy and be more complicated to use. (Do you put the whole logo on your business card or just the wordmark? Where is it appropriate to use your mascot vs. monogram? etc.)

Conclusion:

The one hard and fast rule of logo design is that there are no hard and fast rules in logo design. Hopefully the above examples give you an idea of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of logo, but each and every brand is different. I’ve seen serious financial brands rock a mascot, and children’s clothing companies totally make a sophisticated logotype work. With design, it’s all about the details and the execution. Remember: getting a logo is one of the most fun parts of starting a business. Look at lots of pretty pictures. Let your creativity go crazy. Always get a second (and third and fourth) opinion before finalizing everything. And get excited to see your brand really come to life!

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