7 Types of Logos, an Illustrated Guide

Logo types

When is a logo just a logo?

The short answer? Never.

Your logo is the visual embodiment of your brand; it will be used to advertise and promote your business to the world, and must be taken seriously. If you choose to compromise on the quality of your logo design, it is likely that your own business image will also end up looking unprofessional.

“If you compromise on the quality of your logo design, your business image may suffer.” >> Click to Tweet!

There are several distinct types of logos, each with its own purpose and advantages. Which type is right for you should be part of the conversation you have with your designer during the discovery phase.

Typographic Logo Design

Typographic logo designs are based on the words & letters that compose the business name. There are three sub-categories of the typographic logo: Logotype, Word Mark, and Letterform.

Logotype examples
What is logotype?
The logotype is the simplest form of logo design, incorporating only the use of words and letters. The logotype typically uses a commercial font, but may include custom letters.

Why use logotype?
Although simple, this type of logo is quickly recognizable and can be quite effective. This is often the most affordable option for a new business when strict limits are put on the design process, as it doesn’t include additional graphical elements.

Word Mark examples

What is a word mark?
A word mark logo uses the business name as the foundation for the logo design – similar to the logotype – but with the addition of some integrated graphical elements.(Note how the white space between the “E” and the “x” in FedEx forms an arrow, and the tail of the dog forms the letter “D” in 20 Dogs in a Bowl.)

Why use a word mark?
Word mark logos can effectively create a “mental picture” of a brand, improve brand recognition and aid in recall. They are often simplistic but still unique. Often the graphical element within the word mark can be used as an icon or brand mark as well.

Letterform logos
What is a letterform logo?
Very simply, letterform logos are created using one or more letters from the business name. They are often the initials of or an acronym relevant to the brand. The letters become the symbol, or icon, of the logo.

Why use letterform logo?
Letterform logos are good for reinforcing the business name.

Iconic Logo Design

Iconic logo design uses imagery to convey a literal or abstract representation of your business. The iconic logo design category can be further broken down into three distinct sub-categories: descriptive, illustrative, and abstract.

descriptive logos
What is a descriptive logo?
A descriptive logo mark uses recognizable imagery to represent the brand. It conveys a literal message related to the name, products/services or benefits of the company.

Why use a descriptive logo?
This literal translation of the logo mark is easy for the customer to interpret. It can encourage quick recognition of specific brand characteristics, speeding up initial trust and comfort levels.

illustrative logos
What is an illustrative logo?
Illustrative logo marks are very visually expressive. They are more detailed than a descriptive logo, and may include graphical elements such as characters, mascots, or icons.

Why use an illustrative logo?
The illustrative logo is particularly unique, and can express a great deal about the business for which it is designed. As part of a comprehensive visual marketing plan, it reinforces the brand identity through consistent use of designs elements.

Abstract logos
What is an abstract mark?
Deceptively difficult to design, abstract logos use graphic imagery to convey a non-descriptive message. It should be simple and easily recognizable, but not random.

Why use an abstract mark?
Because abstract logo marks are less common with small- to medium-size business than descriptive or illustrative marks, they can be particularly memorable and may help you to stand out from your competition. Abstract marks can trigger curiosity, encouraging people to stop and think about the meaning behind the logo. And getting people to think about your business is almost always a good thing.

Emblematic Logo Design

Also called “combination marks,” An emblematic logo is an all-in-one logo, combining iconic and typographic design into one badge- or seal-style graphic.
emblematic logos
What is an emblematic logo?
Emblematic logos are often quite detailed and may not scale well when used in a smaller size, so a simpler logotype version should be created as well.

Why use an emblematic logo?
Emblematic logos are especially good for packaging designs, but can be a fun and unique option for other brands as well: sports-related businesses, restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries are just a few examples.

Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

Danielle O'Malley-Johnson
Danielle has a BFA in Graphic Design from Central Washington University. When she isn't designing - or reading design books - she loves to decorate and spend time with her husband and two small children. Her favorite coffee order is a Chai Latte.
Danielle O'Malley-Johnson
Danielle O'Malley-Johnson
Danielle O'Malley-Johnson

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