Logos are one of the most important elements of a compelling corporate image. Your logo will appear on nearly all your marketing items, from your web page to your employee uniforms. When you’re designing a logo, there are five basic options for you to choose from. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses that will appeal to different industries. Some companies and organizations may even benefit from a package with multiple logos, so there’s a clean image on hand for every need.
Brand Mark: For Iconic Images
Fundamentally, a brand mark is a logo that doesn’t use words. There’s no need to spell out the name of your company with a good brand mark. You should strive for simplicity when you’re working with this type of logo, because the image itself serves as the singular icon for your company. Avoid anything with intricate artwork, a plethora of colors, or small fine lines.
There are several approaches that you can take when approaching a brand mark. One is to use an image that visually represents what your company does. The World Wildlife Federation uses a panda, which is representative of its mission to protect endangered species. The Ghostbusters brand mark is a ghost trapped behind a prohibition symbol (a red circle with a slash through it), clearly indicating what this franchise is all about.
Another way to approach your brand mark is to look for an image that will bring the name of your company to mind. The Apple logo is simple, monotone, and globally recognizable. You see an apple, and you think of Apple – mission accomplished. Target’s logo works the same way with its red and white target. The Shell logo is a stylized shell in bold red and yellow, giving a simple image big impact with a bright color palette.
Since a brand mark doesn’t include the company name, it’s important that the logo evokes the right reaction from customers and makes it clear what your company does. If your business isn’t well-established yet, you may want to stick with a logo that still contains the business name (possibly a word mark). Exceptions include companies with lengthy names, or those that do the majority of their business overseas, where breaking a language barrier with visual elements is important.
As you’ll see later, a brand mark can also play a valuable role in a more complex logo. You may want to have a brand mark that accompanies a more complex logo for the majority of your marketing campaigns, yet retain the singular mark for certain uses, like your website’s favicon, or a sleeve mark on a company tee-shirt.
Word Mark: For Name Recognition
A word mark, as the name implies, is a logo that uses one or more words. In this type of logo, the name of your company or organization is completely spelled out. A word mark is very efficient when it comes to spreading the name of your company, because the word you want your customers to remember is spelled out in front of them.
In nearly all word marks, it’s important to choose a font that’s easily readable. Only one notable company has successfully flouted this rule. The Disney logo is notoriously difficult to read with a “D” that looks like a backward “G,” and a “y” that could easily pass for “p.” Disney got away with their iconic image that mimics the signature of the late great Walt, but few other companies could achieve this kind of success with an unreadable font.
Typography is king with your word mark, so take the time to check out all your options to make sure the letters successfully convey your brand message. Coca-Cola uses a timeless script that works well for a product that uses nostalgia as a major selling point. The Facebook logo is sleek and simple, with a sans serif font, making it an ideal choice for an online leader. Sharpie’s logo features a script typography that makes it look as though the word were written in – what else? – a Sharpie marker.
Keep in mind that word mark focuses on the word itself, but can easily include other subtle images. The FedEx logo features an arrow between the “E” and “x” that gives it a subtle sense of forward motion. Subway uses arrows as well, with one off the “S” and one at the top of the “Y.” Don’t be afraid of little extras like this, particularly when they add to your brand message. Typographic logos that include subtle meanings in their design elements are a powerful choice.
Finally, color is supremely important in a word mark. Changing the color can have an even bigger impact than changing the typography. Just try to imagine the Dell logo in red, or Virgin in blue. Over time, your customers will come to associate a certain palette with your brand. Different colors incite different psychological responses from viewers, ranging from excitement with red to efficiency with blue. Research your color choices thoroughly to make sure you pick the right shades for your company.
Letter Mark: For Catchy Abbreviations
A letter mark will give the viewer a little nudge toward the company’s name, but may not spell it out completely. Letter marks are particularly efficient for companies that are referred to by this abbreviation anyway. Many viewers probably don’t even know that CNN stand for Cable News Network, or that The CW is a combination of CBS and Warner Brothers.
If your customers refer to your company by an abbreviation, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t use this to your advantage in your logo. A letter mark is the perfect solution. It’s compact, concise, highly visual, and easy for people to process. Letter marks are particularly popular with television stations, but you’ll also see them used by companies like 3M, EA, and HP.
The fashion industry also uses letter marks with great success. Consider the logo for Louis Vuitton, which is a prominent part of the product line, with this iconic mark repeated all over its bags and accessories. Chanel’s letter mark is elegant and easily recognizable as well. Letter marks can convey a sense of sophistication and luxury when carefully designed. In the fashion world, these logos typically show up in black for marketing materials, but may appear in many other colors on products and packaging depending on the trend of the day.
While most companies who use letter marks are often referred to by these letters, the fashion industry prominently displays the exception to this rule. After all, Louis Vuitton isn’t referred to as “LV” and no one calls Chanel “CC.” The lesson here is to know your industry. Understand how people will refer to your business or organization in everyday conversation, and how they will interact with your logo. Design a mark that works for all its uses.
Although the letter mark is very versatile, there are some cases when it will not work. If your company’s initials spell out an undesirable word, you probably should avoid this type of logo. Always read your letter mark as though it’s a word, and say the letters aloud singly as well. Analyze it from all angles so you’ll understand how it looks to a new customer.
Certain abbreviations just beg for the brain to fill in the blanks and turn it into a word. If you see LSH, you probably try to sound it out, and soon hear it as “lush.” ODD actually spells the word “odd,” and may subconsciously give your business undesirable associations. A three-letter limit usually makes for a good rule of thumb when it comes to letter marks. A few big players can get away with four, like ESPN or NASA. You don’t want to confuse your audience with too many nonsensical letters, though.
You also should avoid a letter mark if your business initials are the same as a more recognizable company. Electronic Arts has the monopoly on “EA,” so don’t go for a letter mark if your company is named Exceptional Athletics. It’s important that your letter mark distinguishes you, so opt for this path only if you have original letters that represent your company well.
Combo Mark: For a Bit of Everything
A combo mark contains both letters and imagery. There are many different ways to create a combo mark. It may feature a brand mark with the full name of your company, or it may use a brand mark and letter mark. Depending on your business, you may want a combo mark in your arsenal along with other types of logos. The Reebok logo is recognizable on a shoe without the company’s name, but the combo mark (including both the logo and the word) is a better choice for marketing campaigns.
Most big companies use combo marks for their logos. It’s the most popular choice for good reason. It offers the opportunity for creative expression through imagery while still incorporating the business or organization name so newcomers to the brand don’t miss out on any part of the message.
Hawaiian Airlines uses a beautiful combo mark that features a woman’s face silhouetted against a palm leaf. A hibiscus flower in her hair immediately puts the viewer in mind of a tropical holiday. The sleek, simple “Hawaiian Airlines” brand beneath the image is a subtle complement to a logo that’s sure to grab your attention and leave you craving an island escape.
Jearbear yields a lot of results when typed into a search engine, and the first one is not a web page for the company, but rather a page from Urban Dictionary. Including the guitar-holding bear logo instantly transforms the message for this company and makes it easier to find the music store.
Many companies have fused their combo mark so tightly that the name and image go hand in hand in the minds of consumers. The Pringles logo instantly brings the company’s mascot to mind. Pizza Hut’s logo looks incomplete without the red roof, and it’s hard to see John Deere and not think of the recognizable yellow and green square with the leaping deer.
A combo mark can work for nearly any type of business. While this is one of the most complex design options, it’s important that you still keep things simple. Stick with two or three colors, and keep the typography and font particularly simple if you’re including an image alongside the lettering. Keep the logo compact and consider where you’ll use it. The rectangular Quaker Oats combo mark is perfect for product packaging. NASA’s circular mark looks professional on a patch or plaque. Consider your business’s needs carefully, and you can come up with a combo mark that suits it perfectly.
Emblem – For Compact Imagery
An emblem is very similar to a combo mark in that it may include a brand mark, word mark, or letter mark. It may even include a combo mark in its design. The easiest way to understand the difference between an emblem and a combo mark is to check out some examples.
Recognizable emblem logos include Starbucks Coffee, UPS, TGI Fridays, and the NBA. Emblems are enclosed in a single shape, often a circle or shield. An emblem is ideal for embroidered patches or engravings. Car companies like Ford and BMW use emblems because they’re easy to emboss on vehicles. In an emblem, the text is included within the design, rather than beside, above, or beneath it, as is usually the case with a combo logo. Without the green circle, the Starbucks logo would be more of a combo logo, with the woman in the center and the words “Starbucks Coffee” surrounding it. With the green circle, however, the design becomes an emblem.
Emblems are more intricate than other logos, but when they’re done right, they’re a striking choice that’s ideal for many professional applications.
Whether you’re putting together marketing materials for a new start-up or rebranding an existing company, you can get a lot of traction from a fresh new logo. Use this guide and our infographic to help decide which one is right for your needs. Order a custom logo from The Logo Company, and you’ll be well on your way to a bold, eye-catching new image.