There are seven categories of logos. Each type has unique advantages, so it’s worth taking the time to consider what kind of logo you want before you even begin designing the logo itself. Let’s look at each kind of logo out there to help determine what logo is the best fit for your brand.
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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.
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.
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.
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 Mining and Manufacturing (more commonly known as 2M), 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!)
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.
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.
A mascot is different than the above pictures and symbols in that it’s a drawing of a particular person (or, at least, an anthropomorphized character). As human beings, we’re visually attracted to seeing another human face (again, even if it’s “really” the face of a cutesy cartoon character). A mascot ties that positive feeling to your logo and brand.
Unlike a standard pictorial brand mark, mascots are also flexible; Mascots can have different expressions and representations depending on the context. Mascots are commonly used for sports teams, service companies, and food brands, as they are attempting to familiarize themselves with potential supporters, customers, and consumers.
The biggest danger with a mascot logo is that your logo can become TOO friendly, and border on saccharin. If you want your brand to be taken seriously, it may make more sense to consider a different kind of logo.
Why should you choose a mascot?
- You want to appeal to families or children.
- Your brand thrives on being fun, friendly and upbeat.
- You want something flexible that can grow with your company and be used in diverse ways.
7. 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.