A picture is worth more than a thousand words — sometimes, it’s worth a billion dollar company.
It’s impossible to say how many logos exist.
They’re used by coffee shops, design agencies, software companies, car manufacturers, clothing brands, magazines, public transportation providers, TV channels, and the list goes on.
It’s overwhelming, to say the least.
But did you know that there’s a method to the logo madness?
If you’re thinking about designing a logo for a client or for yourself, fear not! This article will help you narrow down your options as we look at the 3 types of logos and the pros and cons of using each kind.
When you're ready, you can surf through some of the logo design software and decide which one works best for what you're creating.
The 3 types of logos
Logos come in many forms.
You may recognize a logo belonging to a company because it’s simply the company’s name. In other cases, you can recognize a logo without any words at all. Of course, images and typography can always be combined to make a logo that’s unforgettable.
Some may think that a logo without an image is boring.
With special attention to kerning, shaping, and color, though, the text can become an image in itself.
There are a few directions you could take with a typographic logo.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Home Box Office. International Business Machines. British Broadcasting Corporation.
Are any of these ringing a bell?
A monogram logo uses the initials of a company’s name to abbreviate it and create an additional identity. Companies with long names that may not rest on the tip of your tongue use monograms to make their identity easier for us to recall.
The typography of a monogram should not only be aligned with the company’s brand, but also be legible. The letters are the only part of the logo — if they can’t be read, this popular way to be remembered will backfire. Don't look at the letters as letters; look at them as a design canvas. There are plenty of ways to take advantage of their design.
There are an abundance of companies that take advantage of this type of logo, and thank goodness they do. Could you imagine calling referring to NASA as National Aeronautics and Space Administration every day of your life? Whew!
Should you use a monogram?
Monograms are fantastic if the company you represent has a name that could be condensed in order to make it more memorable and easier to say. Monograms are very easy to replicate across marketing materials, from a platform as big as a billboard to a little business card design. Additionally, if shortening the name of your company to a monogram is common within your industry (tech, television), consider this option!
A monogram should not be used if it’s not necessary. If your company’s name is simple and easy to remember, take a look at the next option instead.
When designing a monogram, don’t leave it alone! Put a different angle on it to make the logo look like more than a couple of letters.
Wordmarks, or logotypes, are thought to be the most straightforward form of brand expression.
Similar to a monogram, wordmarks are logos solely made up of letters. Instead of initials, wordmarks use the full name of the company and use typography to make it stand out.
But that means designers really have to focus on the typography. Again, the fonts and colors chosen should align with the brand and, arguably more importantly, be legible.
There doesn’t have to be any hidden meaning or symbolism behind the logo, but if you’re feeling extra creative and dying to add a little something extra, it’s always a fun, trivial thing to include!
Should you use a wordmark?
Wordmarks are helpful in getting your company name recognized and are useful for companies with unique names to make them stand out even further. In addition, wordmarks are also easy to replicate across marketing materials, as long as they’re simple.
Something to remember with wordmarks is font relevance. If a company made their wordmark in Comic Sans, that might have been okay in 2001. But nobody likes Comic Sans now, and if nobody likes Comic Sans, nobody will like you.
RELATED: Have you seen Helvetica’s most recent facelift? Check out Helvetica Now.
Wordmarks should be avoided if the name of your company is a little long. If this is the case, see the above option or keep reading!
Icon and imagery logos
Sometimes, it’s best to let the pictures do the talking.
Pictorial marks (logo symbol, brand mark)
I’m not a mindreader by any means, but I can almost guarantee that this is the type of logo you think of when you see the word “logo”.
Pictorial marks, sometimes referred to as a logo symbol or a brand mark, are exclusively images, without any text, that often take on a literal representation of the brand they belong to. The icon is something that people can easily identify, such as an apple or a shell.
Should you use a pictorial mark?
If your company name is just begging for an icon, absolutely. Dove is an obvious example...how could you not take advantage of that? They’re also a strategic choice if you’re looking to push your brand personality a little further than just your name.
Pictorial marks should be used in combination with typographic logos if your company is not widely known. There are very few companies that can get away with exclusively using their pictorial logo, and those companies that can are usually enormous.
Finally, make sure that you’ve really established your brand before choosing a pictorial logo. Similar to saying “I love you”, deciding on a pictorial mark can really lock you down.
Some pictorial marks say what they mean. Abstract marks...don’t.
Abstract marks are a type of pictorial logo that are unrecognizable. While many pictorial marks represent things that we’re at least somewhat familiar with, abstract marks are made of geometric shapes and are completely conceptual.
Because of their uniqueness, they encourage immediate recognition.
Should you use an abstract mark?
Abstract marks work well if your company wants a logo a little less on-the-nose than the traditional pictorial mark. They’re completely unique to the company that they’ve been designed for and they’re a gravitational pull for enormous companies with branches across the world to come back to. Abstract marks don’t mean anything; the company gets to decide what it means to themselves and their customers.
Keep in mind that abstract marks can be extremely difficult to design. It’s like coming up with a brand-new color; an abstract mark is a one-of-a-kind. In today’s world, overpopulated with logos and symbols, it’s not so easy to pull one of these out of a hat.
Abstract marks also have the potential to cause a little confusion among an audience. If you haven’t solidified your brand identity, stay away from these. Abstract marks have no “real” meaning behind them, meaning that your brand gets to assign one to it. If you don’t know what your own brand stands for, you’re going to be making a lot of revisions, which doesn’t look great for the stability of your business.
They scare the heck out of little kids, but they work.
Mascots were originally used to bring entertainment and excitement to a company. Today, they’re used to further push the emotion that a brand wants to bring to their audience: strength, fun, trust, friendship, adventure, and so on.
Mascots often have a more complex design than a logo symbol or wordmark because they’re an entire character: human, animal, or otherwise (we’re looking at you, Michelin Man).
Should you use a mascot?
Mascots are a smart choice to make for your logo if you’re looking for something dynamic. Mascots can be 2D, animated, or, if you’re big into upgrading customer experience, a costume. Taking advantage of all of these forms can really help you begin to create a rapport with your customers and clients.
Just like people grow and change, mascots are an easy solution if your company desires a little flexibility when it comes to logo evolution.
Be wary of using a mascot as your only form of a logo. While fun and whimsical, there are times where your company will be better off setting a serious tone. Mascots can be a part of your marketing materials, but they should not be the only part. A mascot design is like the cherry on top of everything else.
Some companies will have a typographic logo. Some companies will have an icon logo. A lot of the time, these companies are the same. Often, typographic and icon logos go hand in hand for an exceptionally strong element. There are a few ways to execute this in a logo:
Emblems, simply put, are font within a symbol. This symbol could be a badge, a crest, or a seal. Emblems are a little old-fashioned and classic, making them a distinct option for a logo. They’re often seen representing schools, cars, and government organizations.
They emit elegance and style, but they’re not for everyone.
Should you use an emblem?
Emblems give off a traditional vibe, which is great if it matches your brand. They’re very easy for an audience to recognize, and they work well for patches on uniforms.
However, scalability becomes a problem with emblems. Work to design the emblem as simply as possible so that when shrunken down, everything is still readable.
Emblems are also not very versatile because the symbol and text are tied so closely together.
Combination marks are exactly what they sound like: wordmarks or lettermarks combined with pictorial marks, abstract marks, or mascots.
There are no rules for how to lay these out. Wordmarks can be stacked on top of pictorial marks, lettermarks can be placed to the left of an abstract mark, mascots can be positioned behind a wordmark. Mess around with it and find something that’s appealing to the eye and makes sense to everyone.
Should you use a combination mark?
Because combination marks are so specific to the brand they represent, they’re much easier to trademark. The combined elements create a strong and memorable image for the audience and, because they’re initially used in combination, these elements can later be separated and used independently of one another and still tie back to the same thing: your business.
Yet, if your business is one focused on simplicity, it may not be necessary to combine so many elements. Combination marks can become overwhelming and confusing for customers if there’s too much going on.
Which type of logo is right for you and your company?
A little symbol is a lot more complicated than we initially think! Creating a logo takes a lot of time, introspective thought, research, and patience for both the designer and the company. Don’t be discouraged by the process of trial and error.
Your logo is one that will be made available in both print and on the web. It will be printed on different materials, scaled to the size of a billboard, and used in social media. The more versatile your logo choices, the better.
Daniella Alscher is a Brand Designer for G2. When she's not reading or writing, she's spending time with her dog, watching a true crime documentary on Netflix, or trying to learn something completely new. (she/her/hers)