9 types of logos and how to pick the right one for your brand

Take a look around you and note the number of logos you see. Is there a familiar icon on your desktop computer, a board game on a nearby shelf, a brand name on your TV? In just that quick minute, you’ve observed several types of logos.

There are many ways to tackle a logo. As you’re exploring logo design options for your new venture, it’s good to understand each type of logo, its purpose, and why it may be a good fit for your business’s branding goals. Before you create your own logo, read up on the nine types of logos below.

The nine types of logos you’ll encounter

Every logo you see out in the world falls into one of nine categories, each of which is explained below with some famous examples.

Wordmarks

  • What are they? Also known as a logotype, wordmarks are logos focused on the name of your business. They don’t incorporate symbols or mascots: The name of your business stands alone in this type of logo.
  • How are they used? Wordmarks are particularly great for entrepreneurs who are trying to get their business name out there and are not yet associated with brand colors, a symbol, or a mascot that can stand in place of the name. They also leave no room for guesswork: There’s no questioning what your business is when a wordmark is used.
  • Examples
    • Coca-Cola: Among some of the most famous examples of wordmarks, Coca-Cola leans on the strength of its name and the uniqueness of its trademark cursive font as the logo.
    • FedEx: This wordmark is also one of the most famous uses of utilizing negative space as part of the branding. FedEx famously hides an arrow between the “E” and the “X” in its wordmark, playing on its package delivery service offerings. FedEx is also often used as a dynamic logo (more on that below), with color changes made to the second half of the logo.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Lettermarks

  • What are they? Lettermarks are the stylized abbreviations of a company made into a logo. This typography-based logo typically only features a few characters, which take center stage in the design. These logos take special care in choosing an identifiable font that can be immediately connected back to their brand. However, these logos also include little touches that help it stand apart aside from simply typing out some letters.
  • How are they used? Lettermarks are a good option if your business has a lengthy name that will be too difficult or unwieldy to fit into a logo. They are well liked for their simplicity and their ability to scale up or down across multiple use cases.
  • Examples:
    • HBO: Instead of spelling out “Home Box Office,” HBO has simplified its logo over time to just be the lettermark that’s been in use since 1975. When the brand first launched in 1972, its logo spelled out “Home Box Office” inside three dotted rings, with the depiction of a movie theater ticket inside. Talk about simplifying your logo!
    • RCA: Standing in for “Radio Corporation of America,” RCA has been using its lettermark for nearly 100 years. The first iteration of the company’s logo spelled out the name in its entirety, along with a globe and lightning bolts to demonstrate worldwide reach.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Letterforms

  • What are they? Similar to lettermarks, letterforms utilize the initials or first letter of a brand and turn that into the brand’s logo. These logos are meant to be bold, to stand out, and to be used across multiple use cases, such as on social media and screen-printed onto a product.
  • How are they used? Letterforms often work as stand-ins for a longer (and recognizable) brand name, which makes them an excellent option for scalability. They draw from the brand’s colors, fonts, and style guide to combine all these identifiable elements into a single icon. They are a great way to hearken back to your business without spelling out the entire name.
  • Examples
    • Yahoo!: Long identified by the capital Y and the exclamation point, the Yahoo! letterform distills these two elements into an instantly recognizable symbol used across this platform’s products. Combined with the brand’s purple shade, there’s no mistaking what this letterform stands for.
    • Beats by Dre: The lettermark for this eponymous headphones brand not only looks like the profile of a headphone, but uses the single “B” to mark each product as its own without spelling out “Beats.”

Photo by Adam Birkett on Unsplash

Dynamic marks

  • What are they? Dynamic marks adapt to their context without changing some of their core values. This could be a color change or shape change surrounding the wordmark or lettermark, which is the one element that remains consistent. 
  • How are they used? Dynamic marks allow for adaptation without greatly changing key brand values or identifiable marks. This gives you more freedom to use your logo in different, varying contexts without straying far from the brand.
  • Examples
    • Nickelodeon: The wordmark of this kid-friendly brand can be found in varying orange shapes depending on the context. The wordmark and the color never change, but the shapes do. You can find the Nickelodeon wordmark in the brand’s famed orange blimp, a “splat,” a dog bone shape, and many more.
    • AOL: The internet provider was well known for using its word mark within different supporting images and shapes that reflected the brand’s heritage as a search engine and a way to discover new things.

Character marks

  • What are they? Character marks, also called mascots, use a depiction of a person, animal, or object with anthropomorphic qualities to represent a brand. They often act as the “ambassador” for your brand.
  • How are they used? Character marks are typically utilized as a way to appeal to children and families. They can successfully tap into certain emotions and help create a strong bond between the customer and a brand. You’ll even find collectors of mascot merchandise among the most beloved mascots, like Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes and Mr. Peanut for Planters. They are also often used as a way to make a brand appear friendly and inviting. However, they are typically not associated with a brand out the gate and can only be used alongside a brand once it’s earned its standalone reputation.
  • Examples
    • Wendy’s: The fast food chain’s logo has always utilized some version of a depiction of Melinda Lou Thomas, founder Dave Thomas’ daughter who was nicknamed Wendy. While the brand has undergone revisions over the decades, Wendy’s red pigtails and sweet smile never changed.
    • StarKist: The tuna brand has long been represented by Charlie the Tuna, an anthropomorphic fish that has adorned the can, and endless streams of merchandise, since his introduction in the early 1960s.

Photo by Batu Gezer on Unsplash

Brand marks (symbols)

  • What are they? Brand marks, also called symbols, are graphic-based logos that are heavily linked with a brand. Over time, these symbols become visual representations of the brand, with customers linking the image with the wordmark that’s often paired with this symbol.
  • How are they used? Brand marks are among the easiest to remember. With no words to memorize, the simplicity of a brand mark can help your customers remember who you are and what you offer. It also identifies varying elements across physical and digital mediums as yours without taking up all the space of a wordmark. 
  • Examples
    • Twitter: The little blue bird fits right alongside the Twitter wordmark. Currently, you’ll most likely see the Twitter bird stand alone, where it immediately links customers with the social media platform.
    • Target: The red and white bulls eye is synonymous with the beloved megastore. The Target, well, target is used across storefronts, flyers, digital properties like the Target app, and more to immediately identify its assets with the brand without needing the wordmark alongside it.

Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

Abstract logo marks

  • What are they? Abstract logo marks utilize shapes that are not immediately associated with a particular thing, but instead come to be associated with your brand over time. Instead of utilizing the Twitter bird or the Target target referenced above, an abstract logo mark may be in the vague shape of a sunburst, leaf, series of lines and curves, or a similar logo shape that doesn’t specifically hearken to the brand’s core offerings. 
  • How are they used? Abstract logo marks are uniquely connected to your brand. Because they are not common shapes like a coffee cup or a house, they come to stand for only one thing: your brand. Eventually, this abstract logo mark can stand on its own, but it will take some time before it can be immediately recognized and associated with your brand.
  • Examples
    • Pepsi: Unlike its main competitor referenced above, which embraces its name as its logo, Pepsi created its own tri-color circle that stands for the brand on cans, ads, cups, social media, and any other place it may appear. Nothing about the mark says “soda,” which is what makes it abstract
    • Microsoft: Unlike its fruit-inspired competitor, Microsoft has utilized a four-square pattern, loosely inspired by the name of the Windows software it manufactures and sells. This abstract logo was introduced in 2012 and has since represented the brand’s products and services without literally drawing a window, making this a great example of an abstract logo mark.

Photo by Ja San Miguel on Unsplash

Combination marks

  • What are they? Combination marks are just as they sound. This type of logo places wordmarks or lettermarks alongside a brand mark, character mark, or abstract logo mark. This can be tackled in a number of ways: Some logos may put the character mark alongside the wordmark, while others may incorporate the lettermark or wordmark directly within the brand mark.
  • How are they used? Combination marks can be particularly effective as logos because they combine the powerful symbolism of imagery with the clear-cut ambiguity of a wordmark. If you’re a brand new entity and interested in pursuing the power of a brand mark or abstract mark, a combination mark may be just the way to do it.
  • Examples
    • Doritos: These iconic triangular chips take center stage in the current iteration of the Doritos logo. The wordmark leaves no room for guesses as to what the logo represents, but the bold lines of the triangle design smack in the center indicate the big flavors the chips are best known for.
    • Toblerone: This chocolate bar is renowned for its triangular, mountainous peaks, and the logo calls back to that by incorporating mountain imagery atop the wordmark. You know right away that the logo stands for the chocolate brand, with a wink and a nod to why the chocolate bar is so beloved in the first place.

Photo by Safwan C K on Unsplash

Emblems

  • What are they? Emblems are symbols and words styled in an icon. Often representing the regal nature of seals, family crests, and institutions, emblems are highly sought after for the sophistication they invoke. They are striking yet traditional, often used by academic and government institutions. In addition to a brand name, they may include a motto or tagline.
  • How are they used? Emblems are all about reputation. They invoke tradition, quality, history, and timelessness. Brands that want to establish authority, legacy, and authenticity may look to an emblem as the best way to convey those qualities. 
  • Examples
    • Starbucks: This brand makes it no secret that it wants to be — and in some ways is — the world’s largest purveyor of good coffee. An emblem is an excellent way to convey that kind of authority and authenticity.
    • Stella Artois: The famous beer brand, with a legacy that stretches back nearly 100 years, utilizes an emblem-style logo to convey its status in the brewery world.

Photo by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels

What’s the right type of logo for your business?

It’s all about intent when choosing the right type of logo for your business. What do you want your business to stand for? What do you want people to know and remember about your brand? These are important questions to answer before starting to design your logo.

Just like logo colors can evoke certain moods and logo shapes can stand for certain values, the logo type can shape the direction of your entire brand. A tech company, for example, may not jive with the old-school authority invoked by an emblem. On the flipside, there are natural selections to make depending on your audience. For example, if your brand appeals to children, you may want to go the mascot route.

Before you get started creating your logo, have a strong idea of your brand identity and what you want people to feel when they see your brand. Do you want them to see you as an authority? Do you want them to connect emotionally to your brand? Do you want to simply get your point across with your name written as clear as day? With those questions answered, you can take your ideas to the Namecheap Logo Maker and begin playing with combinations of typefaces, shapes, and colors to create the logo that’s just right for your new venture. 
The Namecheap free business Logo Maker takes you through a guided process that helps you choose between differing logo elements to create the perfect result that conveys precisely what you need it to. Get started today by heading to the Namecheap free Logo Maker. Within minutes, you’ll have a ready-to-use logo that will take your business to the next level.


Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is a writer, photographer, and content marketer. He’s also the founder of BrainBoost Media, a boutique content and operations studio. With a wide range of interests, he enjoys reading and writing about sports, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.
More articles written by Nick.

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