As with most things underneath the umbrella of graphic design, there’s often more to a logo than meets the eye. Even the most simplistic looking final resolution can be the product of a long and complicated process of development, and most iconic brands have evolved their logos across their many years of operation.

Take Pepsi, for example. Taking a look at their logo evolution below, it is clear that they’ve used a variety of different logo types over the years.

A poster showing the evolution of the Pepsi logo

With that in mind, we thought it would be interesting to explore the 7 different types of logo, look at some well known examples, and investigate what each logo type may mean for your business.

Type #1 – Pictorial Mark

A pictorial logo, sometimes called a “logo symbol”, is most likely what springs into mind when you think of the word logo. Formed with an icon, symbol or image, a pictorial logo usually utilises a recognisable object and uses this to represent an element of brand identity – some, like Apple’s apple or Target’s target aim to simply reflect the brand name, others try and represent business activity or attempt to appeal emotionally to the audience like the World Wildlife Foundation’s panda icon.

Although reflective of real world objects, pictorial logos are usually carefully stylised to balance simplicity with visual interest. A great example of this would be Twitter’s bird logo.

A black and white photograph of the apple logo on the side of an office building

What are the considerations?

As these logos consist of a single icon/image, it can be hard for start-ups and those without such strong brand awareness/recognition to use effectively. It can take significant time and investment before customers start to connect your logo and brand together, and thus many start-ups or smaller businesses tend to opt for combination logos (see below) whilst they are growing and developing.

The largest consideration when designing a pictorial logo is the image itself – the icon you choose to represent your brand needs to avoid current trends and aim to be timeless, and will have to represent some element of your brand or core business.

It is also worth thinking about the future of your business. If you are likely to change your service offering or heavily evolve your product range, having a logo mark that represents your business now may not be so relevant a few years down the line.

So, who is a pictorial logo suitable for?

Although pictorial logos are absolutely at their most effective when you already have an established brand, there are instances where they make perfect sense to utilise.

A logo symbol works great for those with long trading names as it can depict what your business does graphically rather than having to contend with sprawling text; in the same vein, those that trade globally can avoid having to translate their logo across multiple languages if they lean on a graphical representation instead.

Type #2 – Mascot

A mascot logo is an illustrated character designed to represent your company and act as an ambassador for your brand. They can be the colourful, engaging and fun face of your business and go a long way to developing a wholesome family appeal to your service or product.

As humans, it makes sense that we connect more readily to anthropomorphic characters than we do to abstract images. For this reason, a well designed and deployed mascot can be a fantastic way of forging deeper emotional connections between customer and brand.

A man wearing a KFC sweatshirt holding a KFC bucket of fried chicken

When do mascot logos work best?

It’s likely you’re not going to have much luck selling luxury handmade Italian suits with a cartoon mascot splashed across your branding. Mascot logos are very effective for companies aiming at younger aged audiences or those that are attempting to appeal to families, like KFC’s Colonel Sanders or Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger.

That isn’t to say that they can’t be used for any brand relating to adults, as Michelin’s eponymous Michelin Man proves perfectly, but generally mascot logos are much more readily utilised by those that want to be seen as approachable, fun and playful – and a lot of companies looking to do this have targeted their service/product towards children.

Are there any other benefits?

An effective mascot logo is a marketeer’s dream. By positioning the logo as a “friend” to the audience, and encouraging engagement through this playful appeal, mascots can have wondrous results when used in marketing campaigns across social media and are seemingly at their most powerful when trying to foster user-generated content. They can be just as effective in physical marketing spaces too, like banners or mascot stands at conventions.

What else do I need to know about mascot logos?

As touched on above, it can be very hard to use a mascot effectively if you are trying to establish your brand for an older or more refined audience. It is also worth remembering that mascot designs are often much more complicated than icon logos and due to this added detail may not operate well at all in smaller dimension designs.

Type #3 – Combination Logo

This logo type does what it says on the tin, combining images with words – it doesn’t matter if the image and text are situated beside one another, on top of one another or combined into one image, if it combines letters or words with an image, it’s a combination logo.

One of the most popular logo types, combination marks are used throughout all sectors/industries and suit small businesses just as well as large multinationals.

A marketing banner for Lacoste showing an old woman and young man both dressed in pink Lacoste tops

What is the appeal?

The main appeal for combination logos is their versatility. You can design and implement different variations of a logo to suit different contexts/modalities, all whilst maintaining a consistent brand identity. A fantastic example of this would be Lacoste – their combination mark features throughout their e-commerce store and media campaigns, yet a majority of their products utilise only the image element of their logo – the famous crocodile.

How do they work for small businesses?

Combination logos can really help small businesses build up brand awareness/recognition. If you start out promoting the logo with both text and image elements combined, you should reach a point where you have earned the freedom of choice between the two whilst remaining just as recognisable to your audience. They’re also much, much easier to legally protect through trademarks as the combination of a symbol and text forms a much more unique image than either one alone.

Type #4  – Abstract Mark

Similar in kind to the pictorial logo, an abstract mark logo centres on an image, albeit one that uses much more of an abstract form. This means that rather than depict a tangible real world object, like Apple’s apple logo, they represent your brand with visual metaphors.

The nike tick logo installed on the side of a building

Why would I use something so abstract?

Creating an abstract logo might seem like a strange option, but there’s a reason that they’re so popular with giant brands like Nike, Adidas and Pepsi. As they are not reliant on real world objects, there are an infinite amount of design directions to pursue and this gives your brand the chance to create something completely unique.

That isn’t to say an abstract logo should be random in any way – a truly great abstract logo conveys your brand’s core values and generates a real, tangible response in its audience. Think about Nike’s famous “Swoosh” design – this abstract shape looks perfectly simple, yet it conveys speed, movement, and even represents the wing of the greek Goddess that is Nike’s namesake.

Abstract designs also mean you and your company don’t have to rely on cultural implications of a real-world image or have to translate across different languages too.

Type #5 – Monogram Logos / Lettermarks

Imagine you are tasked with designing a logo for the International Business Machines Corporation. That’s quite a lengthy name to have to design around and print on a business card isn’t it? That’s where monogram logos come in. These are typographic logos that are created using a brand’s initials, and are often referred to as such – think NASA, HBO and CNN.

A photograph of the NASA worm logo on the side of a metal vessel

So it’s just letters?

Yes and no. As with everything logo related, the simple is never really that simple. There are many considerations when looking at monogram logo types, yet due to the nature of their design, a lot rides on the font used within the logo. Selecting a font or creating a custom typeface that represents your brand perfectly is no easy feat, and there are many small details taken into consideration during this process, right down to the spacing between letters (kerning).

So, if your business name is a bit of a mouthful, it’s definitely worth looking into lettermarks when designing your logo.

Type #6 – Emblem

An emblem logo or badge logo consists of text situated within a symbol; often ornate and harkening back to traditional designs, emblems are worn with pride by sports teams, represent some of the world’s most prestigious universities, and also adorn the Starbuck’s coffee cup. Badges, seals and crests are all part of the emblem family.

A photograph of three Harvard Emblems hanging from the Harvard building above a crowd

Is an emblem right for me?

Whilst it might not always be the most obvious answer for businesses, organisations that are related to education, community and heritage are the most likely candidates to be suitable for emblems to represent their brand. We’ve had the privilege of designing emblems for football teams, religious groups and school academies, yet don’t find ourselves leaning towards emblems for many private businesses.

What are the Pros & Cons of an Emblem Logo?

What makes an emblem so attractive for those institutions is the sense of traditional appeal that these designs lend themselves to, as well as the availability of space to reflect slogans and intricate details that can be packed with symbolic meaning. However, the very same qualities that may make it appealing to some mean that it is less than ideal for others, as all that intricate detail can remove versatility from the logo and make it ineffective on smaller scales, like business cards or embroidered on merchandise.

This is why a more contemporary take on the emblem is starting to gain popularity – these more minimal designs tread the line between tradition and practicality, with cleaner, less complicated designs for you to work with.

Type #7- Wordmark

Finally, we come to the wordmark. This is a logo that turns its attention to the name of your business, and that alone. Our own logo is a wordmark, as are some of the most famous logos of all time: Google, Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, eBay, the list goes on.

Like the lettermark, similar considerations must be given to the font selected during the logo design process. Coca-cola, for example, have created their own custom typeface, whilst a lot of more modern wordmark designs seem to feature sleek sans serif fonts.

The Coca Cola wordmark logo in white on a red background

Is my name suitable for a wordmark?

Wordmarks work best when they’re applied to a business name that is catchy, distinct and succinct – Google is a great example of this. If your name is too long, then it might be that other logo types are more suitable – you may want to abbreviate and look at creating a lettermark!

What needs to be considered?

Aside from the typography/font, there are plenty of considerations for a wordmark that will all have an impact on how much the design suits your brand – do you want to use all caps? No caps? A mix? What about colours? How will the text be weighted – heavy to promote qualities of safety and trust or more light and elegant?

If you’ve got a catchy name and strong sense of what you want to convey as a brand, wordmarks are the perfect choice!

I want to design a logo, what now?

We consider ourselves logo design specialists and nothing makes us happier than helping a small business create the perfect logo for their brand. If you’d like to chat to us further about logo design, please get in touch, or head to our portfolio of logo projects for some inspiration

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