Wordmarks, and symbols—what’s best?
This week we want to talk about wordmarks and symbols when developing and choosing a logo. You have almost unlimited options available regarding font, image, and color. But when it’s time to choose a wordmark, symbol or a combination—what factors should you consider?
We’ve talked about the spectrum of logo design, from literal, word-driven, and conceptually simple to symbolic, image-driven, and conceptually complex. On the literal side, recognizable names include Google, Netflix, and Coca-Cola. Brands with successful symbol logos include Target’s bullseye and Apple’s, well, apple.
Often when approaching logo design there’s a sense of “should”. I should have an image, I should be thinking of a future where my brand is recognizable by a symbol alone, I should use more than just words (or “more is better”). But those “shoulds” may keep you from making the best choice for your brand’s mission, vision, and purpose.
Here are some key points to think about when considering a wordmark, symbol, or a combination:
Start with your name.
Thinking about your brand’s name is the obvious beginning. A few key factors to consider:
- Is my name too long to be an effective wordmark?
- Is my brand’s name descriptive?
- Does the name need visual help conveying what we do?
- Do you have an international audience?
- Are you a relatively new brand with a goal of establishing name recognition?
If you have a very long name or one that doesn’t describe what your business does, a symbol can help differentiate you. Similarly, if your business is international, you may want to consider a symbol to help add meaning where there might be a language barrier. If you’re a newer brand and really want to build name recognition, repetition and visibility is a strategy to keep your name in the public imagination (you can always rebrand to a symbol later on).
Does your brand show or tell?
The way your logo functions can reflect your brand’s values as well. If your brand is one that promises action, you may be better able to convey this visually than verbally. If your brand is one that forefronts relationship-building, storytelling, community—a wordmark, in the right color and font, might be your best bet.
What does a symbol say that wordmark can’t?
What you want to focus on here is how a symbol or image can enhance your message. For instance, if you are a brand with a number of sub-brands, a symbol can help create a unified image. Imagery can help convey meaning, which is the key to picking the right logo for you.
Does a symbol say enough?
Sometimes simpler is better—and adding a symbol or image can actually add clutter or confuse your audience. A symbol by itself might be recognizable, but will it be enough to convey what you do and create name recognition? Consider taking a cue from high-end brands like Chanel or Louis Vuitton, for whom the name itself is elegant and front and center.
The takeaway is that you don’t want to add to a logo just for the sake of doing so—as with other branding decisions, the choice between a wordmark, symbol, or a combination is going to depend on what your brand needs to communicate to your audience.