Logos come in many flavours but have a single function: to represent your business with an image that symbolises it and reinforces a brand association. They are made from combining typography with images to form a graphical representation. Here are the main forms of logo:
Monograms, also known as lettermarks
These are logos made up of letters, most commonly the business’s initials. Examples are BBC, NASA, IBM etc. When a company has a long name with several words, for compactness and ease of recognition, using its initials alone makes sense. Those initials become the brand identifier.
Font choice is very important with monogram logos because those initials must be easily read. Not only does the logo have to convey the right feel, but when scaled down on to a business card, it’s still got to be easily legible. Monograms work well for famous companies but if you’re new, then it might be worth considering adding your full business name underneath until the public become familiar with your brand.
Wordmarks, also known as logo types.
Much like the lettermark, the wordmark focusses on the companies name, but the whole name rather than purely initial letters. This works well for companies with a shorter, snappier name. A lot of the heavy lifting is done by choosing the right font, that really speaks for the business. A bridal outfitters might want something elegant and flowing, while a bank or government agency will tend to use something solid and heavier, implying weight, importance, dependability.
A wordmark is a good way, to go if your company is new. You need to get recognised in the marketplace. If your company name is short succinct, this could work well for you, but a long name could look too overcrowded with letters. If your business name is original, a well-designed wordmark will help to make it very memorable. Wordmarks and lettermarks are easily adapted to a range of business marketing materials, so they are ideal for the ‘new kids on the block’ or developing companies. A prime example of a wordmark is the Google logo; the name is quirky and easy to remember, so in combination with playful typography, they have created an instantly recognisable brand.
Pictorial marks also known as logo symbols or brand marks
This type of logo is the classic graphic with no words, in the form of an icon. The image is usually a representation of the company name in some recognisable form. Examples would be the Apple logo, which is clearly an apple with a bite taken out. No words anywhere. The social media giant Twitter has a friendly little white bird on a blue background because friendly little songbirds twitter away in our gardens. Again, not a piece of text in sight! This is obviously a good way to go for companies that are massive brands, but for a new company, or one with less recognisable brand than those titans, it might not be the best option.
Very careful consideration needs to be made in the choice of pictorial mark because this is meant to be a lifetime commitment for most companies: you could get stuck with it. Imagery can invoke a lot of meaning to people and the broader implications need careful consideration – what might seem cool to one cohort or culture, might offend another! If your business name is rather long you might find a pictorial brand mark a good solution. They also work well at conveying an emotion or feeling without recourse to words.
Abstract marks and logos
Unlike the pictorial mark which represents something recognisable, the abstract mark, is just that, it’s generally a pleasing geometrical design. A good example is Virgin Media’s sideways figure of eight symbol, which is actually an ‘infinity’ symbol. This is implying they see no limits to what they can achieve. Often the abstraction is not immediately obvious, but it nonetheless provides something unique for brand identification. The essence of the brand becomes distilled within the complete image.
The abstract mark stands apart from any specific cultural message, but conveys through symbolism the company’s mission. Here it is the form and colour that do the work, conveying the feeling or emotion of the brand. Both abstract and pictorial marks work quite well for global commerce, especially if your brand name doesn’t translate so effectively. Pictorial marks are probably more flexible in the event of a business expanding or switching markets. Below we have Pepsi, Nike and Spotify.
The mascot logo is usually a fun character in the form of an illustration. Garish and colourful more often than not, and usually cartoon characters, they form a friendly greeting smile to speak for your brand. Mascot logos work well for companies with families, and especially children, as their target audience. Colonel Saunders does a wonderful job of this at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Mascot logos do a great job of promoting a wholesome image to families.
Mascot logos are good for marketing events and social media because they encourage customer interaction with their larger-than-life fun characters. Mascot designs tend to be quite detailed and might not work so well in your smaller marketing material, where the detail becomes too condensed. Below we have the Michelin Man, the Pringles mascot and the Android logo.
The combination mark logo type is very much like its name implies. You can combine a typographic wordmark or lettermark with one of the graphical marks: pictorial, abstract or mascot (see Pringles logo above). The arrangement of the two can vary: sometimes they are adjacent to one-another; sometimes stacked over each other, or fused into one single graphical design.
With the combination mark you have two elements, image and text, working together to drive home your brand identity. They reinforce each other. The combination mark is very versatile. An obvious advantage is with your name in there, people will be able to associate the image with your brand from the start, which is ideal for a new business. The unique combination of image and words makes trademark acceptance more likely too.
There’s a degree of future-proofing too: should your brand really take off, at a later date you might be able to drop the wording and have a pictorial logo instead! However, you will need to consider the intricacy of the graphic element so that it can scale down without becoming too condensed. The combination mark could work for most businesses.
Probably one of the oldest and most traditional forms of logo type is the emblem. Popular with clubs, schools, societies and establishments, the emblem consists of embellished lettering inside or around an image. In general, they have quite a classic look to them. They imply traditional values, history, longevity and establishment. The automobile industry employs their use very effectively. Many UK football clubs use emblems dating back to their foundation, and emblems have lent a very established look to many British breweries or their beers, and food manufactures.
The wording and imagery tend to be very integrated in emblems, which to some degree, can limit their versatility. The detail is usually quite intricate too, so they don’t necessarily work well on all media, particularly on smaller business stationary like cards, where the emblem can lose detail at smaller scale. Also, for clubs that plan to embroider their logo on to merchandise, keeping the design as simple as possible is important. Get it right, and you have a really strong winner!
Food For Thought!
What you’ve seen here are the various basic forms of logo. Designing a logo requires skill, and new innovations are taking place all the time. In practice logo designs don’t always fit neatly into just one category or another; things are not always quite so ‘cut and dried’. This is just intended as a guide.
So there it is! I hope this article has provided you with some ‘food for thought’, and given you a few pointers towards the best way to approach designing a logo for your business.