For small business owners, nailing down the right logo is a crucial step in the entrepreneurial journey, signaling the transition from an idea on paper to an up-and-running company.
Naturally, you might feel a lot of pressure to create the perfect logo, but we’re here to help dissolve some of that stress and guide you through a few different types of logos to consider, including:
- Wordmark logos
- Monogram logos
- Combination logos
- Brandmark logos
- Emblem logos
While a logo is only one part of the larger branding picture, having an idea of what you want before going down the design path will ensure you’re creating something that serves you, your business, and your target audience.
But first…what is a logo?
The term “logo” is often used as a catchall to define any emblem a company has designed to visually represent their brand.
But there are two main categories when it comes to logo design:
- Logos that only consist of type — denoting the name or initials of a company
- Logos containing both text and a symbol
Within the two overarching categories, there are five main types of logos, each with their own strengths and unique design characteristics. One style might work better for you over others, depending on a variety of factors: the length of your company’s name, your industry, and your potential customers.
Each type of logo can serve a different purpose, but certain styles have surged in popularity in recent years, especially with more businesses operating exclusively online.
“Most of the time, logos operate on a sliding scale between the purely verbal and the purely visual: a word with a letter that makes a visual pun, for example, or a symbol containing a company name,” writes Michael Evamy in Logo: The Reference Guide to Symbols and Logotypes.
With that, let’s get into each type of logo in more detail.
The most classic and pure form of a logo is the wordmark, sometimes referred to as a logotype.
The text-only treatment hinges on the name of the company. It’s more common for companies with short names to opt for a wordmark logo design (one word or hyphenated/combination names are ideal). If a company name has two words, they can be stacked to save space.
Without symbols or illustrations, typography becomes the centerpiece, and the stylized company name becomes a visual landmark of the brand. Think of famous examples like Coca-Cola, Google, and The New York Times.
But even without imagery, there’s plenty of room for artistic flair when it comes to choosing the typeface, color, character features, spacing, and shapes.
The style of the words elicit meaning and evoke the personality of the brand, whether that’s playful, artistic, educational, or serious. The nice thing about wordmark logos is that they’re easy to apply across mediums, and they boost name recognition by being clean and uncomplicated.
It’s common for companies to shorten their wordmark logo into an initial or monogram (think of Facebook, which uses its famous F in most of its applications). We’ll explain monogram logos next.
If your company’s name isn’t short, you’ll want to explore a monogram (or lettermark) logo or logo variation.
A monogram logo contains one to four letters, most commonly a company’s initials or first letter. It’s used instead of a traditional symbol, turning a company’s identity into an eye-catching visual.
Of course, the initials become the key part of the logo. In your design, they need to be legible but also memorable.
If you’re a new kid on the block, consider putting the full company name under the logo to build recognition — this tactic is common when brands are starting out.
Lettermarks and monograms are usually, by nature, more compact than logos that include an image, and they look good in small spaces, especially squares.
But because they rely on text alone, you’ll want to focus your energy on choosing the right typeface. Your logo should be easy to read, but distinctive and inviting. Think of HBO, the famous McDonald’s “M,” or the interlocking C’s in Chanel’s logo as notable examples.
And, as mentioned before, it’s not uncommon for a monogram or lettermark version of a wordmark logo to be used for smaller spaces like website favicons, apps, and social media profile images. You’ll want to make sure the typeface is the same in both versions to reinforce brand recognition.
A wordmark or lettermark with a symbol (often called a logomark) is what makes up a combination logo. It’s the most common type of logo design, in part due to its flexibility. You can use the symbol on its own (e.g. in social media profile photos or favicons), or just the wordmark or lettermark when you need it.
With a combination mark, a symbol can appear beside, on top, below or inside the text. It can even sometimes represent a letter in the company name.
The symbol is an identifying element of your brand, and it can be abstract or literal. Think of the iconic Nike swoosh—a smoothed checkmark that doesn’t have any connection to the name. Compare that to Apple’s logo — a symbol that directly references the company’s name.
Companies successful at developing a strong brand identity with a combination logo design might inevitably look to simplify their logo. This can be done by dropping the typeface to rely on the symbol to represent the brand — see the section on brandmark logos below.
But combination logos are a better choice for new businesses that need to build brand recognition. Ultimately, a combination mark is a surefire way to create an adaptable logo to use across mediums. Think of how huge companies like Adidas and Taco Bell use this format across channels.
Now that we’ve covered the three main types of logos (wordmark, monogram, and combination mark), we’ll talk about two less common types of logos.
A brandmark logo is a standalone image or symbol. The mark can be pictorial, representing a real-life object (again, think Apple), or an abstract shape.
This type of logo doesn’t include the company’s name, which is a big risk for a new business that wants its name to be visible. Brandmark logos are best for brand that have already built-up brand recognition.
And just like time spent coming up with a company name, the type of image that’s employed in the brandmark logo needs to be heavily considered. What does the image say about your company? Is it a direct reflection of the company name or something more abstract? Does it convey an emotion or meaning to a potential customer?
If you like the idea of a brandmark logo but aren’t sure it’s the right choice, consider designing a logo with a combination logo with a wordmark and a symbol. The symbol can be used as a standalone for certain applications, such as social media profile pictures or website favicons.
One of the oldest forms of a logo is the emblem. The elements of an emblem logo include vintage-style text inside of a container, (often a circle or other shape). Think of badges, seals or crests. Emblem logos are treated as a cohesive image, rather than typography.
The emblem can communicate prestige or finesse—often associated with brands that have a long history. But this type of logo is also less versatile, especially for online usage. Emblem logos are usually intricate, so they can be trickier to shrink down for use on social media or business cards.
Choosing the right type of logo
Remember: Your logo will live both digitally and physically. It will be scaled to different sizes, printed on paper, uploaded as a profile picture — the list goes on. That’s why it’s so common for brands to create designs with and without a symbol (or monogram) to have both at the ready.
This practice has become particularly popular in the age of social media, where a logo needs to be used across digital channels. If you have a longer company name, it won’t always work in a small space like a square profile photo; a monogram or symbol-only version can make your design more adaptable.
Whatever logo type you choose, your design should leave an impression of your brand. If it stands out from similar companies on the market, it’ll be easier to differentiate your product or service and build recognition with your target audience.