There are literally billions of logos out there. For anything and everything.
And therein lies a little problem. It SEEMS like the choice is infinite when choosing one for your brand and business.
But I’m gonna make it a little easier for you. Because no-one deserves to turn into a dribbling mess over logos. There are plenty of other things in life that have that honour. Kids for one.
Every single logo can be put into 6 main categories, and I’m gonna take you through each of them here.
I’m gonna tell you what they are. Who uses them. Good points. Bad points. And which would be most suitable for your business.
Right, let’s get started. We’re gonna look at wordmarks, lettermarks, submarks, brandmarks, combination marks and emblems.
Brandmarks come in a little meatier than the rest, so we’re also gonna split them down into abstract, pictorial and mascot.
Nice and simple this one. It’s literally just the business name. Written out. As a logo.
37% of the world’s top 100 brands use this type of logo, so a very popular choice, and for good reason. It’s great for getting a business name out there.
If you’re a startup or small business and you’re building your brand and authority, then this is a great route to go down to do so.
A few things to keep in mind however – this type of logo works best when the business name is short, catchy and entertaining. The name is the star, so you’ll need to make it something special in the first place for the wordmark to really shine.
It’s also heavily dependent on font choice. You’re gonna need to go with something that matches your business personality and values. That’s where a healthy understanding of font psychology comes in.
The best logos of this type work the design around the name – playing on the words and meaning. There are plenty of well-known businesses that use these – Google, Canon, Disney, Microsoft, Coca Cola, Dell, Subway, Virgin, Fedex etc., but I wanna show you some amazing examples with great design merit:
Got a long business name? Something that’s not easy to pronounce? A full on mouthful?
That’s a problem in itself really, but when the name can’t easily be changed, it’s usually abbreviated. And that’s exactly what a lettermark is – a logo made up of the first letter of each word in a business name.
Think of every single acronym around – IBM, CNN, HBO, BBC, NASA, AOL, KFC, EA, ESPN, JVC etc.
Like the wordmark, the lettermark is heavily dependent on font choice. So make sure it aligns with the essence of your business.
Lettermarks are great because they’re short and space-saving. They also place the same visual weight on each letter/word of the business name.
This type of logo has its uses, but to be honest, if you’ve chosen your business name correctly, you won’t need to abbreviate it.
Kind of logo band aid option really, but here are a few decent ones:
Now if you take a little bit of the wordmark and mix it with a little bit of the lettermark, you get…the submark.
Submarks include an element of the full name, usually a few letters within a shape, and are very good for icon usage.
Think of the app icons for Facebook and LinkedIn.
These are best used when you have a wordmark logo and you want to shorten it into a graphical element that can be used for buttons, app icons or favicons on your website.
If you already have a brandmark (we’ll come onto this next), then a submark becomes a little redundant.
So let’s move onto the submark’s bigger and more handsome brother…
Now here’s where everything gets interesting! A brandmark is an overall term that includes symbols, pictures and icons.
They can range from minimal to complex, from realistic to abstract. As long as it’s an image of some kind, then it’s a brandmark.
Images can sometimes express ideas much better than text in a much smaller space, so can be great for getting the feel of your business across. They also work across languages and cultures, so are very useful if you have a global audience.
Where they do run into a bit of difficulty is for small businesses and startups. At the end of the day, a brandmark is just an image. No text. That means unless people know what the logo stands for beforehand, they’ll have no idea what it’s for and how it relates to your business and what you offer.
Think about Apple. Let’s say you’d never heard of them before and didn’t know what they do. You saw their logo. Would you know from that, that they sold designer/lifestyle technology? No. You wouldn’t even know their name. You could guess. But that’s not really what you want your audience to be doing!
A brandmark is more of a reaffirmation of brand recognition. Think of them as brand shorthand. Once people know about you and your business, they don’t need to keep seeing your name everywhere – they already know it! They just need a reminder of you. A recognisable stamp. A seal of approval and authenticity.
Let’s go through a few of the brandmark options to give you more of an idea about what they are and when/when not to use them.
First up, the pictorial. Kind of does what it says on the tin. These are icons that are in the recognisable shapes of things. Objects, animals, people etc. Their style can range from illustrated and cartoony, to geometric with lots of negative space love.
Pictorial brandmarks are good as they are instantly recognisable by anyone in the world. Their meaning and ‘feel’ are clear from the get go. Be a little careful however as there are probably a number of brandmarks based on apples, cameras or lions etc. You really need to make sure the style is unique and captivating – wholly based on your business essence.
Check out these for some great examples:
Next up, abstract. Brandmarks that are more based on a concept rather than an actual thing. One great point to them is that they are instantly unique and much easier to trademark if you wish to. However their meaning can get a little lost in translation. What you may see may be completely different to what your audience sees. It’s more a matter of interpretation.
The simpler, the better. You want to give people an idea. To make them feel something about your brand. Don’t expect people to tell you what it IS, aim for them to tell you what it SAYS TO THEM.
Here are a few to have a gander over. As you go through, think about what they say to you. How they make you feel. Is it a company you’d trust and be enticed to do business with?
Time to mix and match!
Combination marks are just that – a brandmark or submark added to a wordmark or lettermark. They’re the fusion of text and imagery. Typography and symbolism. And funnily enough, offer businesses the best of both worlds.
For startups and small businesses that are serious about the brand image and are willing to dedicate the money needed for a great logo, this would be the way to go.
Combination marks not only manage to spread the name of your business, they also spread your brand’s personality and feel.
It doesn’t matter if the two elements are side-by-side or on top of eachother. As long as it has both the name of your business and a symbolic representation, you’re all set.
The beauty of it also is that because each element is separate, they can be split apart. Just wanna use your brand name somewhere, take the wordmark. Need an icon for your new app? The brandmark is all ready for you.
This route is definitely the most flexible and is exactly what I chose for BRANDSNACK.
You’ll also notice that the majority of brands have the same. They’ll have brandmark or submark that they use separately sometimes, a wordmark that‘ll appear here and there, and then the entire combination mark in its full glory for maximum impact.
Feast your eyes on this mix. Abstract, wordmarks, lettermarks and pictures – all living happily ever after.
Finally, we come onto the last category. The emblem.
Now these share some similarities to the combination mark – brand name and imagery together, but that’s where it ends.
Whereas the makeup of the combination mark leads it to be an incredibly flexible logo asset, the emblem encases everything inside a ‘badge’. So much so, that it’s usually very difficult to separate the elements.
Now this ain’t to good when you have limited space. App icons are a great example. Logos on pens (if you really wanna go down that route…). Website favicons.
Reduce the detail too much in an emblem and it’ll all merge down to nonsense.
A good point to the emblem style logo is that it does a very good job of displaying trust, authority and officialdom. That probably goes some way to explaining why the majority of businesses that use them are government departments, schools and universities or sports teams. And Starbucks. Go figure.
If you’re not one of them, I would steer clear. Especially in the digital space where flexibility and display size are key!
Even so, here are some to quickly glance over before you forget all about them:
I’m gonna say it again.
Flexibility is key.
You need to have a logo option no matter the size, space, social platform, web page, background etc.
As a small or startup business, you need to get your name out there. A wordmark element is key. And also your first port of call if you’re a little strapped for cash initially.
To build your brand, have true flexibility in placement and deliver tribal recognition, you’re gonna need a symbol. Something that makes people feel something about your business – even before they know what you do.
We are inherently visual creatures. If we see a form factor, a shape, a style that we like, we’re drawn to it.
A combination mark is the best way to go if you really want to build an impactful, useful and sustainable brand.
And remember, no matter what logo type you decide to go down for your business, it must always be done at the end of everything. Your strategy must be solid and complete. Your brand identity all laid out.
Your logo is the sum of all your different parts.
It should be the last thing you do and the first thing people see.
Have you chosen a logo for your business? If so what and why? Are you thinking of re-branding? Which style of logo are you looking to go with? Grab your cuppa and come on in to the Facebook group and let’s have chat.