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Emblem Logos: A Brief Introduction

Emblem logos are universal. They’re found across every industry around the world, from universities, sports teams, major car brands, state flags, and even the logo on your Starbucks coffee cup.

Once you’re familiar with what emblem logos look like, they’re pretty hard to miss. Here are a just few instantly-recognizable examples:

  • Harley Davidson
  • Volkswagen
  • BMW
  • Warner Brothers
  • Stella Artois
  • Superman’s shield

What are the four basic types of logos?

Before we delve any further into this very distinctive logo style, it helps to have a little background on what it’s up against. Here’s a brief rundown on the four main categories of logos.

1. Brandmark logos

Of the four logo-types, this is the most basic: you’re conveying your brand’s message and personality with a solitary graphic, usually an abstract symbol of some sort. Also known as a pictorial mark, there’s absolutely no text to be seen. This means the image you choose has to be strong enough to stand on its own as a representation of your entire business. This type of logo works great for global corporations, where the name of the company might get lost in translation.

Example of a brandmark logo: Apple’s iconic apple symbol.

2. Wordmark logos

This type of logo takes it to the other extreme: your logo is literally the name of your business. Sometimes this literalness is taken to the next level, with a tagline stating what your company does or when it was established. Because there’s no imagery, wordmark logos rely heavily on typography to stand out from the crowd. This logo style is very cost-effective for start-ups because there are fewer graphical elements. Furthermore, it can help establish name recognition.

Example of a wordmark logo: Walmart.

3. Lettermark logos

Like wordmark logos, this type of logo relies solely on typography — only this time the company’s initials are used exclusively to represent the brand. This logo style is minimalistic and scales down well, and it’s especially effective if a company’s full name is a mouthful. The drawback? Using just your initials to represent your brand can leave potential customers out of the loop.

Example of a lettermark logo: IBM.

4. Combination mark logos

This type of logo is exactly what it says it is: the combination of a brandmark and a wordmark, in one tidy package. You could argue this logo style gives you the best of both worlds. You get the clarity of text with the eye-catching appeal of an image.

Example of a combination mark logo: Mastercard.

So what is an emblem logo, exactly?

Similar to combination mark logos, emblem logos combine images with text. The difference? Emblem logos encapsulate these design features within a frame or border, whereas combination logos do not. Emblem logos also rarely use a mascot. Any imagery is instead more symbolic, and it often fuses seamlessly with the text.

Businesses often choose emblem logos to give off a decidedly vintage vibe, and there’s a reason it works so well: the design replicates the old school method of branding, which involved pressing circular rubber stamps into wax seals.

Many emblem logos are also based on old-world family or institutional crests — think Harvard, or even Hogwarts.

hogwarts emblem logo

With the weight of history baked right into its design, it’s no wonder that this type of logo translates as timeless to consumers.

What is the difference between symbols and emblems?

Though both are often used interchangeably, there are several key differences between the two terms.

  • A symbol is a glyph or character that stands in as a concrete representation of an object, idea or relationship.
  • An emblem is a more abstract representation, either of an individual (like a king), a group of individuals (like a sports team), or an idea (like a moral truth). Often, emblems are worn as badges or are sewn onto clothing to show affiliation.

You frequently see symbols incorporated into the design of an emblem logo to convey a message. For example, a skull and crossbones on its own is obviously a symbol for poison. When it appears somewhere on an emblem, its meaning becomes less literal: it implies an association with danger or rebelliousness.

When to choose an emblem logo

Emblem logos are an excellent choice for modern businesses that want to give a nod to time-honored tradition, with just a hint of whimsy. This type of logo taps right into consumers’ love of nostalgia, while at the same time communicating confidence, heritage, and prestige.

Go with an emblem logo if:

  • You want to link your company or industry to its historic roots.
  • You want to convey a sense of established authority with a legacy behind it — think police badges. (This can be especially helpful if your business is relatively new on the scene.)
  • You want to add a distinguished and/or intellectual flavor to your brand, with or without a sense of playful irony.
  • You want to make your consumers feel like they’re connected to a certain community of like-minded people. (The emblems of British soccer teams are an excellent example of this.)

Don’t go with an emblem logo if:

You want to convey an ultra-modern, futuristic vibe. Emblem logos are among the most traditional types of logos, so they aren’t the best representation of cutting edge or high-tech companies.

How do I create my own emblem logo?

Envisioning the perfect emblem logo for your business doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, you can create one yourself right now, no design experience required. Our logo maker makes it easy.

Try designing your own emblem logo for free!

Emblem logo design tips

There’s no getting around the fact that your logo is vitally important to the success of your business. It gives potential customers immediate insight into who you are and what you can offer them. Emblem logos, in particular, are great at conveying a very unique message about your brand at first glance.

If you’re ready to bring your emblem logo to life, here are a few tips that will help you get started:

Pick the right container shape

The all-encompassing shape you fit your emblem logo design into is literally what holds it all together. For that reason, the container is just as important as the design itself.

  • Circle-shaped emblem logos are classic. The stamps used on wax seals that inspire the designs of today were circular, and indeed, a large number of emblem logos are round. Along these lines, you can also go oval. (Look at Ford’s logo for a textbook example.)
  • Crest-shaped logos hearken back to the heraldic days of yore when family names were proudly emblazoned across ornate shields. The crest conveys an established heritage, perhaps more than any other shape.
  • Squares and rectangles are solid selections too, conveying a sense of stability, efficiency, and professionalism. However, you could just as easily think outside the box and try an unexpected shape — like the triangle.
    Make sure it’s scalable

Emblem logos are all about the details — but more often than not, those details end up being their biggest downfall. It doesn’t matter how elegant your design is — if it doesn’t scale properly, it will end up looking like a muddled mess at small sizes. Intricate flourishes, fanciful etch marks and flowing fonts might pack a punch on a T-shirt, but they often become illegible as soon as the logo is scaled down to smartphone screen size. This unfortunate dilemma can severely limit your branding options.

The solution? Keep your design and color scheme as simple and scalable as possible while still preserving the classic emblem look. Make sure you create your file in vector format. Then, test your logo at different sizes and on different mockups.

nfl emblem logo

The NFL logo is an excellent example of a scalable emblem. It’s instantly recognizable — and readable — at any size.

Avoid adding a slogan

When it comes to adding words or slogans to emblem logos, less is more. Space is at a premium within those container walls. Those little extras that appear on so many logos, like “year established”, often shrink to oblivion when the logo is scaled down. For a perfect example of this, look at the official seals of US states. The words on them are almost impossible to read below a certain size.

You’ll notice that most major brands stick to their company name (or its acronym) only.

Consider your colors carefully

While bold, high-drama colors are great for grabbing extra eyeballs, you hardly ever see them used in emblem logos. A subtle color scheme with muted or neutral tones better suits the timeless sophistication of this logo style. Emblem logos also tend to be more intricate than most, so fewer shades mean less chance of information overload. You don’t want your message to get lost in a mishmash of color.

Remember your audience

You might have made the most beautiful emblem logo in the world, but if your design doesn’t align with your brand or connect with your consumers, it will fade into the background. Although you no doubt have impeccable taste, you’re designing for your audience, not you.

Remove yourself from the design altogether, and focus instead on the traits of your company’s target demographic. Better yet, take it a step further and look to your competitors for inspiration, and see what’s working for them. Are there certain colors that keep cropping up? What are some typical typefaces? Your established industry peers have likely spent top dollar on market research, so following their lead will help you make better decisions in your own logo design process.

Emblem logos have outsized personalities that extend beyond their shapely borders. Using an emblem logo for your business is an all-around great way to make your mark!

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