Logo Symbols: How to Pick a Symbol for Your Brand

In many ways, your logo symbol is the center of your brand. It’s the central emblem of who you are, what you do, and what people will think of your company. But how should you use a symbol logo? Is it right for your brand? And how do you make sure you pick the right one?

We’ve outlined the basic principles behind effective logo symbolism and added famous real-world examples of what great logo symbols look like. By the end of this guide, you’ll be on your way to picking the perfect logo symbol for your brand.

Ready? Let’s get to it.

Logo symbols: How and when to use them

A symbol in your logo is not a prerequisite for a great brand identity. Plenty of household names use just standalone typography. If you’re just starting, a logo symbol can be a great way to capture brand equity.

Think of it this way: a logo symbol is like a magnet that attracts people’s attention and gathers all their emotional associations with your company. 

Renderforest uncovered that 75% of people recognize a brand by its logo, so there’s no doubting the power of a good symbol logo.

Looka’s logo maker has a logo symbol generator that instantly populates symbols based on keywords. It’s free to try!

Icon vs symbol

The terms “icon” and “symbol” are often used interchangeably in logo design terminology. While they both generally refer to the same thing, an icon usually depicts a literal thing, whereas a symbol can be more of an abstract visualization of that thing.

Icon vs symbol in logo

The Facebook messenger icon depicts the literal use of the app, whereas the TikTok symbol abstractly communicates the app’s purpose and brand persona.

Types of logo symbols

There are a ton of different types of logo symbols out there. They usually fall into one of these categories:

  1. Animals
  2. Mascots
  3. Abstracts & icons
  4. Interactive
  5. Wordmark
  6. Crests, trademarks, and emblems
  7. Monograms

Let’s dive into some examples of logo types to help you understand why they’re effective, and how you can use them in your brand.

1. Animal logo symbols

animal logo symbols with examples

Animals tap into deep instinctual structures in the brain, giving them an immediacy that requires almost no conscious abstraction.

As we’ve covered elsewhere, the Red Bull logo has a rich history that uses animal symbolism to convey a powerful brand message and refer to local history. It’s a great example of why animal symbolism works so well when you understand your target audience.

Think about how the bold image of the bullfight enhances the logo. Would it have the same impact if it were just the font? Definitely not.

Check out these animal symbol logos made with the Looka logo maker!

2. Mascot logo symbols

Mascot logos are another great way to sew the seeds for a unique brand story, particularly if there’s some background or tradition you’re referring to. 

mascot logo symbol examples

Mascots can create a powerful, personal connection that humanizes your business, such as the Celtics’ winking Leprechaun or Mr. Clean! They’re lovable characters that connect to a specific audience.

But, keep in mind that creating a mascot takes a lot of design and brand-building resources. 

3. Abstract & icon logo symbols

Perhaps one of the most common forms of logo symbols is the abstract, or icon. Out of an infinite possible list of shapes and objects you can choose to represent your business, the best abstract logo marks typically capture some core aspects of the brand itself.

abstract logo symbols with examples

Take Tinder, for instance. Given what the dating app offers, the simple flame app logo effortlessly captures the user experience. It’s obvious enough to be immediate, yet subtle enough to spark interest.

You can also use a monogram logo symbol, and keep it simple or add an abstract twist as PlayStation or Airbnb did above with their pictorial logo.

Abstract or icon logo symbols are a flexible way to capture specific ideas about your business—while leaving some room for the viewer’s interpretation.

Check out these abstract symbol logos made with the Looka logo maker!

4. Interactive logo symbols

Generally, you can pair logo symbols with text in one of two ways: static or dynamic:

  • Static pairings are straightforward and involve positioning the logo symbol next to the text, like the new Zapier logo below. 
  • Dynamic pairings of symbol and text rely on a direct interaction of the two, like the Amazon logo.

Zapier’s underscore redesign fills users with excitement about the possibilities Zapier can create. Thus the platform went an interactive, clean logo route that utilizes color trends.

Zapier logo symbol

While interactive logo symbols are a little harder to pull off, the result is often worth it. The Amazon logo symbol acts as both a friendly smile and a representation of the brand’s promise: to stock everything from A to Z. Smart, huh?

amazon logo

Tip: Whether you combine your logo symbol with text, or present the icon as a standalone image, keep the following in mind:

  • First, is your brand well-known enough to be recognized by an icon alone? Is the icon unique enough to stand out?
  • Second, if you opt for the paired option, does the icon work well with the logo font?

5. Wordmark logo symbol

wordmark logo symbols

Characterized by their emphasis on typography, wordmark logos, similar to a lettermark logo, allow brands to showcase their name. 

Prominent examples of wordmark logos include Coca-Cola, Tesla, and Volvo. Each of these brands use wordmark logos to create a memorable visual identity. For instance, Coca-Cola’s iconic cursive script has become synonymous with the brand’s heritage and global recognition. 

Wordmark logos are a great choice if your business name is unique or holds significant brand equity.

Check out these wordmark symbol logos made with the Looka logo maker!

6. Crests, trademarks, and emblems

emblem and trademark logo symbols

After a redesign, Bacardi brought out an edgy, vintage logo symbol that perfectly captured its brand. Drawing from over a century of heritage, the Bacardi logo transports the viewer back to the dusty streets of 1862 Santiago de Cuba.

Car logo symbols like Porsche, Lamborghini, and Ferrari all have emblems due to their historic family name and position as luxury car brands.

Similarly, crests, trademarks, and emblem logos can suggest a rich depth of character and history and are a great way to add some weight to your brand’s myth.

7. Monogram logo symbol

monogram logo symbol examples

Monogram logos consist of one to three letters, often the initials of a brand. Think brands like Chanel, Hewlett-Packard (HP), and General Electric.  

These symbol logos can evoke specific emotions through stylized fonts and minimalism.

Opt for monogram logos when your brand aligns with characteristics such as legacy and exclusivity, or if you aim to transform a longer business name into an easily recognizable symbol.

Check out these monogram logo symbols made with the Looka logo maker!

Hidden symbols in logo design

When creating logos, some companies have gone to the extent of even adding hidden symbols or easter eggs in their logo design. This not only makes your logo more memorable and meaningful, but it also acts as a marketing tactic to create buzz.

Let’s dive into a few examples!

1. FedEx

Fedex logo hidden meaning
Upon first glance, FedEx’s audience may see a clean, simple logo design. But as you look closely, you’ll see an arrow located between the “E” and “x”. This symbolizes the brand’s speed and precision.

2. Toblerone

toblerone logo hidden meaning
Have you ever noticed the bear within the iconic gold Toblerone mountain? This bear symbolizes Bern in Switzerland, known as the “City of Bears” which is where Toblerone originated!

3. Tostitos

Tostitos logo hidden meaning
The Tostitos logo is playful and when taking a closer look, you’ll find the middle “T”s create two people sharing a Tostito chip with some salsa! So cute!

AI-generated logos

An alternative to hiring a designer is to leverage AI-powered logo generators like Looka! Using AI-generated logos comes with numerous benefits, including: 

  1. Cost-effectiveness: AI logo generators are typically more affordable than hiring a designer or agency. 
  2. Speed and efficiency: These generators can produce logo options significantly faster than traditional design processes. 
  3. Ease of use: AI-powered logo generators are designed to be user-friendly, requiring no design experience. 
  4. Variety of design options: AI algorithms can generate a wide range of logo designs from a single input. 
  5. Data-driven design: AI logo generators stay up-to-date with current branding trends, ensuring logos are modern and visually appealing.

Using AI for logo symbol generation is not just common for logos but an overall trend in design that we’ll keep seeing throughout 2024. 

How to come up with a logo symbol:

Now, it’s time to design your symbol logo. Here’s a rough guide to the process.

Step one: start with a core vision

Generally, the simpler the idea, the better – think Microsoft’s Windows symbol, Apple’s apple, or Nike’s Swoosh. The secret of great logo symbols is that they act as a focal point for the whole brand. 

Brush up on some logo shapes and their associations to steer your design in the right direction. Think carefully about the brand personality and the meaning you want to get across.

Ask yourself, ‘Who are we?’, then list words that relate to this vision, such as: ‘reliable, dependable, and warm’, ‘rugged and exciting,’ and so on.
today logo symbol

The Today Show symbol logo is a great example of a simple yet captivating story.

  • First, the warm orange sunrise perfectly symbolizes the feeling you want at the start of a new day.
  • Second, the designers at Ferroconcrete have done a great job capturing the ‘broadcast’ nature of the show—like rays radiating out from the sun.

Step two: think about your industry

Once you know the visual identity you want to portray, make sure it relates to your industry. This can be achieved in two ways:

  • First, find a symbol that’s a direct visual metaphor for something related to your space
  • Second, focus on the specific characteristic you want to portray and what color combination you can use to enhance it

For example, Nike’s Swoosh doesn’t explicitly refer to sportswear or sports, but its story makes perfect sense here.

nike swoosh

Overall, your logo symbol should tell a story that lets your customers know what to expect practically, emotionally, or both.

Step three: throw some ideas down and explore

Typically, a professional designer starts by playing with symbol ideas on paper or online. 

Play around with letterforms (if you want to come up with a monogram logo), sketch inspiration for more general logo symbols, and explore visual representations for your brand on Pinterest or Behance.

With Looka’s logo maker, you can easily browse a library of symbol logos to see how they look in real-time:

logo Symbols on Looka

The benefit of using the Looka logo maker is that the symbols are already there. Start by simply typing in the kind of imagery you want to find, gathering groups of symbols, and exploring recommended variations.

Step four: consider concept and execution

When considering which symbol to choose, the two most important aspects to remember are concept and execution. For example, let’s say you run a bodybuilding gym called Dog Pound or a boutique dog-walking agency called Fluffies.

While the symbol idea for both of these brands is a ‘dog’, what’s important is the type of dog (i.e., the execution of the idea).

Case in point: Imagine someone at this bodybuilding gym busting out ten reps of 250 pounds on the bench, only to sit up and display the image to the left on their stringer vest.

Conversely, picture your customers when you turn up outside their condo to pick up their award-winning chihuahua, and you have the symbol on the right on the side of your car:

It needs to be obvious why you’ve picked a specific execution. Do the characteristics you want to convey come across? Work with different versions of your logo symbol to compare the effect of each.

Where to get logo icons?

There are plenty of spaces online to find free logo icons. Here’s a quick list: 

While downloading your logo icon might seem like an efficient option, we only recommend doing so if you have experience with design. If not, you’ll still have to hire a professional designer to put your logo together with your icon. 

Time to pick your logo symbol!

When picking a symbol logo, you won’t get it right the first time. But remember: picking a symbol for your logo is an ongoing process, and even the biggest names go through multiple revisions.

Here are some questions to ask when picking a logo symbol:

  • Is it simple?
  • Is the symbol industry-relevant (either directly or metaphorically)?
  • How is the story or concept-driven?
  • Is it well-executed?

After that, the rest comes down to your creative flair. Keep trying different iterations and get some advice from your friends and family if you’re unsure. Honest, objective feedback is a great way to find a symbol that resonates.

Other than that, good luck, have fun, and happy designing!

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