Many branding agencies, including us, will tell you that your brand is much more than a logo.
But that doesn’t mean your logo isn’t important. In fact, it can be a central component to building your brand. Why? Because it’s usually the first expression of your brand that a person will see.
So, a logo can be powerful and instrumental in establishing your mark in the business world.
However, when it comes to logo design, there is one huge problem we see consistently in the entrepreneurial space… Many times, entrepreneurs place ALL the pressure and responsibility of their branding on their logos, thinking that the image must communicate every aspect of their business.
A strategic approach to logo design is to determine how literal versus abstract do you need the logo to be, and to reduce complexities to be easily memorable while also communicating major messaging about the brand.
Here’s a high-level overview of different types of logos along this spectrum.
Allow me to explain each of the 5 categories along this spectrum. I will also provide a few examples of big brands AND small businesses brands (using some of our clients as examples).
This is probably the most simplest approach to logo design. Many luxury retailers use this approach, as do many Fortune 500 companies. However, there are five considerations to help make this type of logo distinct and professional:
- The kerning, which is defined by the space between each letter. There are design principles and psychology involved when it comes to letters being condensed or spaced out (expanded).
- The leading, which is defined by the space between each line. This is relevant when it comes to stacked logos. Note: You can look at the BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE logo as an example. We’ve tightened both the kerning and leading of each letter and word to create the unique shape.
- Use of color. Sometimes you can get away with just a black logo. Other times, it might be useful to have a dynamic color system in your logo. The choice is ultimately part of a larger design conversation. But, for now, simply know that you can use color to differentiate your logo from your competitors.
- Choice in typeface. Now, here’s a tricky part: In a previous blog, we talk about typefaces having a distinct personality. We recommend using typefaces that are appropriate for your industry or your target audiences. Creating a logotype isn’t as simple as using ‘Times New Roman’ or ‘Comic Sans’ and spelling your company name. There’s a bit more design thinking involved in creating a logo.
This type of logo is also a simple and straightforward approach but it is often a method of logo design that allows for creativity of expression within a set of parameters (meaning the letters of your company name). Here’s where color and typesetting come into play. For example, color is an integral part of the Coca Cola and Google wordmark. Consider the following examples:
Pitfalls to avoid when getting creative with wordmarks:
- Don’t compromise legibility with creativity. Adding too many graphics, colors or flying objects can impact a person’s ability to read the name of your brand.
- Don’t get creative just for the sake of it. The question to ask yourself is: “How does treating the wordmark in a creative way help to tell a story about your company and brand?”
3. Marks including letterforms
Check out the Dell and Amazon example. Clearly, they are using more of a wordmark treatment. However, something interesting in happening.
Designed by the brand consulting firm Siegel+Gale ( many of my followers know that I worked briefly for this company in Dubai, UAE), the Dell logo shows a slanted ‘e’. This graphic treatment represents Michael Dell’s vision to “turn the world on its ear”.
Another famous logo: Amazon. Well, the Amazon logo has an arrow pointing from A to Z, which signals to the world that they sell everything from A to Z. Interestingly, this treatment also forms the shape of a smile. Quite clever!
4. Character / Pictorial
Characters and pictorials are an excellent way to create a mark for your business. However, it’s important to ask the question: “Why do I need a pictorial?” or “What kind of symbol should I visualize?”
Symbols are the result of all logo designs that have come before them! They are the most refined of all logo styles. Symbols tend to be simple, memorable and conceptual. Sometimes they start off as a complex symbol, such as the Starbucks logo until they eventually get polished into a more sophisticated version
Brands that use symbols all have something in common. They intend for the symbol to be easily and immediately recognizable with or without any words or other supporting graphics.
One word of caution when creating a logo with a symbol. Try not to get too fancy with the typeface that’s paired with the symbol. Why? Because it will compete too much with the symbol itself. Again, going back to not trying to put all the pressure on the logo to communicate EVERYTHING, the idea here is sophisticated and design thinking. Make sure that the typeface complements the symbol, but doesn’t take energy away from it.
5. Abstract / Symbolic
The fifth and last type of logo is abstract or symbolic. Now, this can be an aspiration for many entrepreneurs. We all wish we could have some type of Nike swoosh. But, remember, as a small business or entrepreneur, it takes a lot of marketing dollars to create strong awareness and recognition of your company with something abstract.
Unless you’re heavily active in your marketing efforts, I tend to advise our clients to meet somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of too literal vs. too conceptual. It’s always good to aspire for something bigger. Something abstract. But, depending on your market and your business, this may pose more of a challenge than an opportunity.
I hope that you gained value in this article. Please do me a favor and share your comments below.