Choosing among the different types of logos out there is no easy task, but the more you understand the placement and intentions of your business, the simpler the decision. Business owners know the importance of a logo when it comes to good branding, but not many truly take the time to learn about their visual branding options.
There is no one-size-fits-all principle here—different types of logos are suitable for varying situations. And you need to take a closer look into your brand to figure out which path is best suited for you.
The best part is that you don’t have to put yourself in a box for too long. If your business is growing in new directions, you can modify these branding elements with a logo redesign that suits your standing better than the previous one.
Don’t forget—your logo is almost always the first characteristic people notice about your brand, so a powerful and suitable visual can highly benefit your business. Luckily, in this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the different types of logos and which would be the perfect fit for your business model.
The 7 Different Types Of Logos
The seven different types of logos consist of abstract, combination, emblem, lettermark, mascot, pictorial, and wordmark. Read below to learn more about what they are, what they achieve, and when to use them (with pros and cons, too!).
1. Abstract Logos
Abstract logos are all about reading between the lines. They don’t typically make sense with a surface-level understanding, assuming you don’t know anything about the business. However, they are significant portrayals of deeper meanings and symbolisms. The answer lies in the subconscious.
Take Nike, for example. Nike is a company with a classic abstract logo. The ‘swoosh’ logo is one of the most famous logos in the world. But let’s say you didn’t know anything about Nike—would the ‘swoosh’ make sense?
Abstract logos rely on the audience to come up with their own cognitive understanding of the visual. The success point of abstract logos is when the audience conjures a unified understanding of the logo—and Nike did precisely that. The logo resembles a standard checkmark, which is a symbol of accomplishment and success.
Some brands are hesitant to go with abstracts as they provide no literal interpretation of the business. However, just because it doesn’t blatantly tell a story doesn’t mean that it doesn’t evoke a reaction. There’s a lot that can be achieved when you leave room for the imagination.
If you have space for people to develop their own understanding of the logo, it is more likely that they resonate with it.
More than that, businesses can be complex, and it doesn’t help to be constrained by a single message. Abstract logos allow for a world of interpretation, which ultimately helps you build connections between multiple narratives.
Take note—if you’re considering an abstract logo, your brand story cannot be random or insignificant. This is the logo choice for businesses with a substantial and meaningful story to tell. An abstract logo will only work if you have a powerful sense of brand identity.
Abstract logos are suitable for businesses that:
- Need a universal symbol between different diversities and cultures
- Have a unique and compelling brand story and identity
- Foresee that their business direction may change in a favorable path
- Anticipate that their business model will be transitioning soon
Why should you choose abstract logos?
Abstract logos convey to consumers that you are a creative and innovative business that does not require apparent interpretations to be successful. Your brand identity is clear as day, and people may resonate with it.
Why should you not choose abstract logos?
If you have not built a moderate following in your business, abstract logos may not be effective. Small companies or startups need more evident and literal branding elements at the start to establish recognizability.
2. Wordmark Logos
Speaking of obvious branding elements, wordmark logos fit the bill perfectly. Wordmarks are on the opposite end of the spectrum with abstract logos—they comprise only your business name and nothing more.
Don’t be fooled by its humble simplicity. This logo may just be word/s on a canvas, but it is the incomparable choice for businesses that need to boost their memorability. There are no other elements in the logo to feast your eyes on, just the business name. It’s more powerful than you think.
Wordmark logos bring on a sense of prominence to the business. Google is a perfect example of this. Google’s logo is a wordmark—it’s emphasized, easy to read, and colorful. Best of all, it conveys the only thing that people really need to know about the business: it’s Google!
As a business owner, what you want people to remember the most is your company name. How else are they going to find you? How else will they make the associations to your various other branding elements without knowing your name? This is exactly what wordmark logos do—they shine a light on the core of your business identity.
Wordmark logos are perfect for small businesses and startups to lead with. However, it is important to note that if you are considering a wordmark, you also need to put heavy consideration into its typeface. There are only so many characteristics in a wordmark logo, and they all revolve around the typography.
Choose a distinctive and suitable font for this logo—one that truly represents your business, its personality, and its goals. Oh, and ensure that it’s readable. You can have the prettiest wordmark logo in the world, but it won’t mean much if people don’t understand it.
Wordmark logos are suitable for businesses that:
- Have a short, memorable, and distinctive name
- Are just starting out and prioritizing recognizability in their industry
- Want their logo to be on various mediums, backgrounds, and channels
Why should you choose wordmark logos?
It is a substantial yet straightforward logo that circulates who you are across many different platforms. Businesses that need fast recognition would benefit the most from this choice. Not to mention, you still get to take creative control of the wordmark, applying your preferred style to the logo.
Why should you not choose wordmark logos?
This is not the best choice for businesses with a long name. A long business name defeats the purpose of a wordmark logo, which is supposed to concisely depict who you are in readable terms.
3. Lettermark Logos
So, you just read that long business names have no place as wordmarks—but all hope is not lost. If you have a lengthy business name, go for a lettermark logo.
If you have cable TV, then you likely know what HBO is, the channel that features various blockbuster movies on the daily. But even in its easy recognizability, do you know what HBO stands for? Not many people likely do because the extended version isn’t what’s plastered on TV and the media.
And that’s okay! Because that’s entirely the point of lettermark logos (and it’s Home Box Office, by the way). Lettermark logos take on a whole different identity. Instead of utilizing the full name, which can cause confusion and effort, the branding element specializes primarily in its abbreviation.
In HBO’s case, the business is not trying to make “Home Box Office” known among its audience—it’s too long and entails effort on their part to remember. But they can and will remember “HBO.”
Humans are simple creatures. The easier something is to remember, the more likely it will be remembered—it’s truly as simple as that. And lettermarks are strongholds for memorability. It’s a bite-sized version of your brand, condensing it and making it easier to talk about.
It’s a clear and straightforward solution in communicating a lengthy brand identity. In fact, this type of logo almost gives you two identities as a business. The more, the merrier, right?
Lettermark logos are suitable for businesses that:
- Need to condense their long company name
- Are okay with being known through an abbreviated title
- Want a quick boost of memorability from different channels
Why should you choose lettermark logos?
If you have a long business name, this logo choice is truly the most suitable option for you among the different types of logos. It’s easily digestible and takes minimal effort to remember.
Why should you not choose lettermark logos?
If you’re new in your industry, a lettermark may be confusing as people will not immediately grasp your identity from the get-go. You can get around this situation by including the full (and minimized) business title underneath the abbreviation.
4. Pictorial Logos
Pictorial logos don’t usually happen right away—they are a product of evolution and redesigns. This type of logo is a literal visual depiction of a brand, not always symbolizing what the business does, but more of a creative illustration that resonates with people.
The catch with pictorial logos is that they only really work when the business has a substantial brand presence, mainly because the image doesn’t always speak to the products/services. Instead, they display a unique and memorable expression of the business in symbolic or inspirational terms.
A great example of a business with a pictorial logo is Starbucks.
Starbucks sells coffee, tea, beverages, and cafe-centric products, and its logo is a detailed illustration of a double-tailed mermaid. What? It’s not hard to wonder about the connection (or lack thereof) between the two elements.
However, similar to abstract logos, pictorials rely heavily on the subconscious, in a different way, of course. Starbucks chose a mermaid because it represents a vast imagery of the sea, inspiring a subconscious desire within people for exploration and beauty.
This is the part that separates pictorials from the different types of logos: Starbucks had a strong start as a business. Relying heavily on expansion, it didn’t take long for the brand to reach heights of success.
Its founders have another reason for coming up with this logo—simply that they saw the woman in a maritime book and decided to portray her in their logo. They didn’t need a connection to build brand recognition because people already knew what Starbucks was.
Pictorial logos are like creative outlets that don’t always tell a brand story directly, but they have a vivacious spirit that subconsciously pulls people in.
To have a successful pictorial logo, take ordinary and recognizable objects and incorporate stylized elements to them that make your business unique. It can be a challenge, but the results can also be rewarding.
Pictorial logos are suitable for businesses that:
- Are highly recognized in their industry
- Want to modernize and simplify their identity and versatility
- Desire to convey a hidden narrative
Why should you choose pictorial logos?
Your brand can be expressed creatively through a symbol that tells a unique story about you. You get to incorporate meaningful ideas that you can’t describe or illustrate in words.
Why should you not choose pictorial logos?
If your business is new and you haven’t attained a solid following yet, you may want to consider something more precise to reach your target audience.
5. Emblem Logos
Emblem logos have been around for a long time. In fact, the origin of an emblem dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, who would use hieroglyphics and family crests to distinguish between noble families.
Some of the oldest logos globally are emblem logos that have undergone redesigns and transitions through the times. You can also find them on various organizations, universities, clans, dynasties, and yes, even businesses.
An emblem logo provides a formal and professional energy to your visual branding. It often includes several vital details that you may only notice if you carefully inspect and observe the visual. Every aspect of the logo has meaning.
These types of logos are starting to appear more in the food and beverage sector, which is a smart move as it provides an air of high-class products and services in an over-populated industry. And to be frank, the logo has a “hipster” feel, making it a popular choice among millennial business owners.
While opting for an emblem logo gives you a unique and stylish edge, the design process for this logo type is not for the weak. All the elements in the logo, even the tiniest characteristic, must have significance to it.
So go for emblem logos only if you have much to communicate about your business and the symbolisms to back them up in a unified visual. Otherwise, the logo may be overloaded with unnecessary elements that fail to tell a story.
Emblem logos are suitable for businesses that:
- Want a more traditional and professional look to their logo
- Have a compelling and detailed brand story
- Need a unique logo in a competitive industry
Why should you choose emblem logos?
Emblem logos will surely pass the test of time (it has for decades now). The distinction is also a huge plus, as it is doubtful that you’d find a logo similar to yours with all the personalized details in it.
Why should you not choose emblem logos?
It may be a powerful visual, but it will be a nightmare to scale. Emblem logos have many details in them, ranging in size from big to small. These logos are the least scalable from all the different types of logos, so if you’re planning to minimize the visual, it may not be understandable in the slightest.
6. Mascot Logos
Have you ever chanced upon Wendy’s logo? Who is that red-haired girl, and what does she have to do with Wendy’s? Or KFC—who is that smiling older man on all those buckets of chicken?
Well, they are the business’s mascots, and they play a significant role in their logos. A mascot logo comprises a character, person, or business spokesperson—usually someone with sentimental value.
Mascot logos are highly popular in the fast-food, sports, and entertainment sectors. This style of visual branding utilizes emotion as the defining factor in a business. It allows potential customers to bond and connect with the brand on a deep and personal level.
Plus, having an ambassador for your brand, especially in a logo, is a unique method of communication that mentally inspires business values—almost as if the audience is conversing directly with the mascot. It also expresses the business to be more meaningful, which resonates with people deeply.
For example, the little red-haired girl in Wendy’s logo, one of the most famous logos in the world, is a depiction of the founder’s daughter, Melinda Lou, also known as Wenda—she was the inspiration behind the food chain itself.
KFC’s logo is a cartoon image of Colonel Sanders, the founder of the restaurant.
Mascot logos typically have a personal story to tell, and they reach people easily with a narrative of a loved one or particular person. And that’s something most people can relate to.
Mascot logos are suitable for businesses that:
- Want to target families and communities
- Want to project a wholesome and sentimental feel to their brand
- Need ways to encourage people to communicate with the business
Why should you choose mascot logos?
If your business’s target market is families, mascot logos are the optimal choice. It’s a great way to establish a fun and friendly rapport with your audience.
Why should you not choose mascot logos?
If you’re going for serious professionalism, this may not be the best choice as it is the most light-hearted option among the different types of logos.
7. Combination Logos
The combination logo is perhaps the most common logo you see—it’s comprised of the typography (a wordmark or lettermark) and the visual element (a pictorial, emblem, abstract, or mascot).
The text and symbols work together to form a strong understanding of the brand. It’s the classic option as it achieves many of the former choices’ benefits into one visual. It may not be as recognizable as a wordmark, but it evens out the playing field by having an image. It may not be as symbolic as an abstract logo, but it levels out with direct wording.
Combination logos are the safest options as they hit many branding marks simultaneously. It’s highly suggested that businesses start out with a combination logo because it sets the tone and allows you to scale higher or lower depending on the brand’s direction.
It’s a highly versatile choice for any business, and it’s easy to modify, which saves time and effort in the long run. There’s a reason this logo is the most common—it’s the most practical choice for a business in any ground and placement.
Combination logos are suitable for businesses that:
- Want a unique and full logo
- Need a logo that’s easier to trademark
- Require brand versatility across many platforms
- Need instant brand recognition
Why should you choose combination logos?
If you anticipate movement in your business, combination logos are a great choice as they are easily adaptable and adjustable.
Why should you not choose combination logos?
If you’re going for a minimalistic and simplistic approach, this type of logo may overload your visual branding.
Understanding The 7 Different Types Of Logos
Learning about the different types of logos is a ton of insight into how you conduct your business. Your logo sets the scene for the connection that you intend to make with your audience. And so much of it has to do with a genuine understanding of your brand.
Introspect on the heart of your business, its core values, and how you want to project yourself to the world. Having a logo is one thing—but having a logo that genuinely reaches people is another.
And that’s the ultimate goal.