Logos are your company’s first impression on potential consumers. They are either an enticement to take a closer look at your products or services, or the reason why consumers pass by, taking their business elsewhere.
Then, if logos are so important, how can you go about crafting the most effective one? What components should be included? And what are your options? Now that we have discussed branding, color and typography, we’re ready to address the subject of logos. We’ll talk about how all of these should come together in a way that leaves customers with both an immediate and a lasting positive impression of what your company represents.
We’re going to cover this in two parts due to the amount of information and the importance of this subject. In this first part, we will talk about general logo types and how to choose the right one for your business. In part two, we will marry that with color, typography and your company’s values and mission, all of which should also be considered. We’ll also cover how you, as the client, can guide and contribute to the creation of your logo even while working with a graphic designer.
Logo types are generally divided into anywhere from four to seven categories. Let’s take a look at each of them first and then we will talk about which one(s) would be better options for a given company.
The first is often referred to as the “Wordmark” logo because it’s just exactly that: a word or combination of words. These are generally the company’s name, or a recognizable abbreviation of the company name (such as FedEx, short for Federal Express).
The second type is called a monogram logo and it is, as you would expect, the initials of the company name.
The third is essentially the company’s name or initials encapsulated within a symbol. Think of this one as either the wordmark logo or the monogram logo within a shape so that the two are inseparable. The two classic examples are Starbucks and Harley Davidson, but this type of logo is used for many other businesses as well.
Combination (or “Iconic”) Logo
The fourth logo type is a symbol, in conjunction with the company’s name or initials. As opposed to the emblem logo, which has the company’s name or initials embedded within a symbol, a combination logo places the company’s name next toa symbol. The two are often thought of in conjunction with one another, but they don’t have to be. For example, Lacoste often displays only its alligator symbol, rather than the entire logo, on its clothing products.
In this way, combination logos teach consumers to associate a given symbol with a company name so that the symbol can stand alone in the future.
Mascot logos are probably most closely identified with sports teams, but they’re actually used across many types of industries. The logos themselves are essentially a combination of the business name and a figure (human or animal) that is associated with that entity, often (but not necessarily) displayed within an emblem.
A pictorial logo is nothing more than a symbol, representing the company. It is important to note that many of these are second-generation logos and have been extracted from what was originally an emblem or combination logo. Whereas the company name may have originally been part of the logo, the symbol now exists alone. The most readily recognizable of these belongs to Apple.
The common element across all of these is that the logo is either a graphic illustration of the company name, as in the case of Apple and Shell, is closely linked with the company name, as the Twitter bird is, or is essentially an iconic element of the business itself, like the McDonald’s golden arches that were a part of the historical restaurants, or the Mercedes Benz steering wheel.
The NBC logo is actually a throw-back to the early days of television programming and was meant to emphasize the high color-quality of NBC’s broadcasting. Though much of that symbolism no longer means as much in our digital age, the logo still reflects an essential element of the company’s product.
An abstract logo is like a pictorial logo, but without the near symbolism. These types of logos come from established companies that originally used their name with the symbol but are now so well known, that the name does not need to be included. So, whereas Apple uses an apple as its logo, BP uses a flower-like logo. The symbolism is still present - BP’s green flower radiates out from a golden, sun-like core, representing both its presence in the energy industry and its environmentally sound impact. However, the symbolism is generally more removed from what we would see in the case of a pictorial logo.
These are often the hardest logos to create well. However, when they are, they can be particularly impactful.
Which Logo Type is Right for Your Business?
But which one is right for you? In truth, there will rarely be one right choice for any given business, and one type may simply be more appealing to you than another. However, there are also some considerations that make some types better or worse options for a given business.
Consideration #1: Brand Recognition
You likely noticed that pictorial and abstract logos were generally once combination or emblem logos. The symbolic element can exist alone now that the brand is widely recognizable. Thus, for new businesses, it is rarely advisable for the logo to consist of solely a graphic. This is even true in the case of a logo that uses an extremely representative item.
For example, assume that you’ve just opened “Betty & John’s Cupcakes on the Cape,” a cupcake bakery on Cape Cod. You may use a logo with a pink cupcake and brown sprinkles in the foreground, with a symbol of the ocean in the background. That’s a pretty close representation of the company’s name and business. However, if you were to advertise or place the logo on various items such as t-shirts, even residents in the local area would struggle to know what the business name is or how to find your store. Not ideal. And of course, you may want to expand at some point. Outside of Cape Cod this logo, because it’s solely a pictorial representation, would be particularly confusing for consumers.
It is better to begin with one of the other four types and then, when the brand is nationally or globally known, extract the symbol alone for a second-generation logo.
Consideration #2: Potential for Merchandising
Another thing to consider is how you plan to use the logo. If you’re a law firm, you are most likely not planning on selling sweatshirts, coffee mugs or key chains with your logo on them (or maybe you are?). But if you’re a sports team, or a micro-brewery, you very well may plan to offer all types of merchandise.
In that case, an emblem logo is one of the best options, followed closely by a mascot logo. Emblem logos in particular make excellent visual impacts on consumer products. Another item of consideration for embroidery on clothing or hats, the logo must have thick enough lines to be transferred from the machine to the item.
Consideration #3: Humanizing the Product or Appealing to the Spirit of Fun
You wouldn’t necessarily associate a roofing or air-conditioning company with light-heartedness, but two of our mascot logos demonstrate just that. If you want to present your business as more humane, or likeable, the mascot logo is the hands-down way to go.
KFC uses the Colonel as its mascot to appeal to consumers’ desire for down-home, old-fashioned food. Sports teams use their team mascot to symbolically refer to the fun of the game. Child-related businesses are also excellent instances in which a mascot logo can allude to the company’s playful products or services.
Consideration #4: Long-term & Social Media Uses
Even a new business should consider where it would like to be in five or ten years. Though it may not be as useful to have a pictorial or abstract logo when the company first opens, you may envision wanting a symbol that can stand alone in the long run. Or you may be starting a social media platform such as Instagram or Twitter.
In those cases, it would be wise to begin with either a combination or emblem logo. By using a symbol that you ultimately hope will stand alone, in conjunction with the company name, you may be able to extract the symbol at some point and still retain consumers’ brand recognition.
A pictorial logo is the most applicable in social media settings as they are the most scalable across mobile devices and for use in very small settings. If you are launching a social media platform or a company app, you will want to consider the visibility of your logo as a small button alongside website articles or pictures.
Consideration #5: Company Image
I’ve left this one for last even though it is definitely not the least of your concerns. Rather, it will segue nicely into what we are going to discuss next.
Depending on how you picture your brand, one logo type may seem more applicable than another. For example, businesses that want to be seen as classic, established and serious - law offices, accounting practices and medical associations - often use simply a wordmark or monogram logo. For those with particularly long names - such as Abelheim, Bechnel & Capulstein Partners in Law - a logo that is simply AB&C Law Practice will often be easier for the public to remember.
Mascot logos are often the most playful and fun. Emblem and combination logos span the spectrum from earthy to elegant to whimsical. Combination logos are the most flexible as the symbol itself can be anything from a diamond ring to a jackhammer.
Hopefully you have some thin to think about and have been able to narrow down your choices to one or two of these logo types, but keep in mind that this is just the starting point. In our next post we will discuss how we combine these considerations with color and typography and the company’s values.