Logos give a clear impression of your company and help establish your brand by communicating consistent messages to potential customers. Before customers ever walk through your doors or visit your website, they’ve likely formed opinions about your company based solely on your logo.
As such, your company’s logo is a symbol that visually represents its mission, capabilities, and core values. It’s also a way to stir emotions in your customers and motivate them to make certain behavioral choices like purchasing your products.
With so much riding on this one image, companies must choose their logos wisely, taking into consideration how colors, text, typeface, and imagery intersect with the company’s goals. The stakes are high because, as Will Rogers famously noted, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Take a look at the infographic that accompanies this article, and read on to learn about how logos build brand awareness, various types of logos, and how to decide which logo style is best for your company.
Building Brand Awareness
The best logos are instrumental in building brand awareness. Through consistent use of the same logo (or variations that meet established brand guidelines), customers will begin to recognize the image associated with a particular company. Take a look at how three different styles of logos have earned a place in popular culture and the minds of consumers around the globe.
Think about iconic brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s. As seen in the infographic, each of these logos uses simple, bold designs and minimal color to communicate a visual image that represents each company. People around the world recognize the symbols and the companies they represent, regardless of their cultural background and native language.
In the case of Nike, the iconic check mark (or swoosh) resulted from a chance meeting between the company’s co-founder and Portland State University student Carolyn Davidson. She developed a simple, bold logo that has become recognizable worldwide. In fact, only 3 percent of the population is unable to recognize this brand mark-style logo.
Unlike the swoosh, the Coca-Cola logo focuses heavily on the company’s name, which is printed in recognizable waves and swirls. Thanks to its uncluttered look and its consistency since the company’s founding in 1886, 94 percent of the population recognizes the Coca-Cola logo.
The McDonald’s logo is so popular, some people even refer to the chain restaurant by using the description of the logo: the golden arches. This letter-style logo reinforces the restaurant’s name without spelling out the whole word. With 92 percent of the population recognizing its logo, McDonald’s demonstrates the effectiveness of this type of logo in building brand awareness.
Branding Options: Five Types of Logos
The type of logo you ultimately choose will have a huge impact on how your brand is formed and subsequently recognized. Review the five basic types of logos below and learn more about how they can help to shape your brand’s identity:
For some businesses, letter mark logos are the best option. Companies with long names or multiple words in their name are strong candidates for the letter mark style. The letter or letters become a recognizable symbol for the company name by making a strong impression in a compact logo.
To find examples of letter mark logos, look no further than familiar television brands such as HBO and CNN, or international fashion labels such as Louis Vuitton. The sports video game maker, Electronic Arts (also known simply as EA) uses the letters E and A in its logo, creating a tight, small logo that communicates the company’s longer name. From a cognitive standpoint, using two or three letters makes it easier for customers to internalize and recall your company’s name and brand. That brand awareness and identification are foundational to generating interest in and recognition of your company.
Putting text inside a symbol creates an iconic logo that can help to position the company as a market leader. Well-known companies and organizations that use the emblem logo style include Starbucks, Harley-Davidson, and Perrier. The National Football League has a long name and is a prime candidate for using the letter mark style. However, the organization instead uses an emblem with its initials, adding a football and stars set inside a badge-type graphic.
Because the elements of the logo have to stay together to ensure consistent branding, emblem logos are not as versatile as other styles. On the other hand, emblem logos have the advantage of being compact, making it easy to place them on small spaces.
When designers place text inside a shape, they have to think about the messages the shape sends. These messages prompt certain responses from the subconscious. Round shapes like ovals and circles imply inclusion, community, commitment, and love. Subsequently, positioning your company’s text inside a round shape helps create a positive emotional response.
Geometric shapes convey professionalism, competence, and strength. Some companies want to place text inside a rectangle or triangle, but need to soften the impact a bit. One way to do that is to create a logo that merges the preferred shape with exciting colors or slanted interior graphic elements (or text) to take the edge off the straight lines of the shape.
Beyond basic shapes, companies sometimes look to badges, shields, silhouettes of animals, and natural shapes such as seashells to hold their company’s name. Badges and shields suggest strength on a subconscious level, while animals and shapes from nature convey a sense of connectedness to the environment.
There’s one primary advantage of brand mark logos — because they use a single graphic or symbol and don’t incorporate the company’s name, they transcend language barriers. For this reason, many global companies use the brand mark style. Small- and medium-sized companies that have yet to establish themselves as a national brand or have no plans to expand internationally should shy away from brand mark logos, because they don’t include the company name. Companies and organizations with highly recognizable brand mark logos include Nike, Apple, and the Olympics.
Brand marks capitalize on the ability of human brains to translate images into ideas, which carry with them a series of emotions. In the case of the Nike swoosh, the line dips into a curve that then extends to the left and ends in a pointed line. This shape implies movement, a perfect impression for a company that makes running shoes.
For Apple, the use of an apple connects the technology company to an image traditionally associated with school, education, and teachers. The bite implies an absorption of the knowledge that is associated to the apple image. This message is a positive one for a brand that’s all about selling technology that people use in school, on the job, and at home. The logo has elevated the brand to such a level that a 2008 scholarly study found that people who saw the Apple logo acted in ways that were more creative than the control group that wasn’t shown the logo. This case study shows how a powerful logo has the ability to influence behavior.
Where brand mark logos are ideal for large, global brands, wordmark logos offer advantages for small and mid-size corporations. This style focuses attention on the company name to increase brand awareness. It’s best to choose this style when a company has a memorable, single-word name. By selecting the right typeface and font, you can create a logo that conveys a sense of sophistication and professionalism.
Plenty of large companies also use wordmark logos because of the advantages that come with building their logo around their name. Among the wordmark logos with the most recognition are Disney, Pinterest, FedEx, Visa, and Fender. Some of these logos use a single color, while others incorporate two colors to add a bit more visual styling. Varying the color can help to evoke an emotional response, and it’s one way for companies using wordmark logos to stay on brand while giving their logo a slightly different look.
Can’t decide whether you want to include a prominent graphic element or to focus on your company’s name? Perhaps the best option is to opt for the combo style of logo. These logos include both the company name and a graphic component. By using the company name, the combo logo style builds and reinforces the brand and adds visual punch with the help of a symbol. Coca-Cola, with its unique typeface and the single white ribbon underneath the brand name, is a well-known combo logo. Others include Pepsi, Walmart, and Pringles.
Be sure to choose an image for your combo logo to create the messages you want to send. As in the case of Adidas, the logo can pair the company name with a stylized shape. Some service-oriented companies, the use of a person in the logo helps emphasize the importance of the company’s employees in connecting with customers. Businesses that use a mascot character in their logo may be able to extend their brand by using the character as a kind of mascot. Mr. Peanut is a popular logo-turned-mascot who symbolizes the Planters snack-food company.
Asking the Right Questions: Which Logo Style is Right for Your Company?
As you’ll see in the infographic, there are certain questions that business owners need to ask themselves when selecting the kind of logo that’s best for brand awareness given their company’s goals and size.
Is your business well-established?
The first question you need to consider is how well-established your company is. If you’re a new company, your number one goal is to find a logo that builds awareness of your brand from the ground up. In most cases, a well-established company seeks primarily to reinforce its image and brand. However, there are instances when recognizable brands want to change the public’s perception of the company by creating a new logo. These companies may decide to go with a logo that’s merely a new version of their existing design, or they may want to break away completely with an altogether new look.
Is your company small and local or internationally known?
This next question helps you objectively to evaluate the size and reach of your company and brand. Some logo styles are optimal for large companies while different styles work best for small businesses.
For example, large companies may find the brand mark is a way to make an impression globally without using a single word. On the other hand, the wordmark focuses all attention on the company name, which is an important way to build the brand of a small company with a lesser-known name.
There’s one caveat, however, for small and mid-sized companies: If you have plans to expand and aspire to become an international brand, then you may want to use the brand mark logo style from the beginning. Even though you can switch later, you risk diluting some of your brand recognition during the transition.
Does your company have a long name?
For companies that do have long names, it’s best to consider the letter logo style that builds your brand around two or three letters. McDonald’s M-centric logo is a prime example of how successful this style logo can be. If your company name isn’t long or difficult to remember, think about using the emblem logo style to position the name inside a shape. Choose a shape based on the kind of message you want to convey. Think about the best typefaces to use for the text inside the shape. The best place to start in choosing typefaces is to consider what’s standard and popular for logos within your industry.
Does your company’s name contain a unique word?
If your company’s name contains a unique word that just rolls off the tongue, you may want to select the wordmark logo style. Typefaces and fonts convey different messages. Swirly and script-like typefaces imply a personal touch, while symmetrical and block-like letters suggest strength and professionalism.
If your company doesn’t contain a unique word, the combo logo style might be the most attractive option. It includes the name of your business and relies on the addition of a graphic element to improve the chances people will remember your brand. That final visual flourish increases the chances of brand awareness.
Putting it all Together for Your Company
Trust the professionals at The Logo Company to guide you through the important process of choosing your logo. The Logo Company design team knows the kind of logos that work best for your company based on its size, industry, and goals.
Whether you have an idea of what you want or need help brainstorming, the experienced staff offers an array of services to set you up with the ideal logo that reflects positively on your company. Place your order for a custom logo from The Logo Company.