Logos may be small but they hold a lot of power. Even logos designed with simplicity and minimalism in mind carry a lot of weight on their shoulders.
You see, logos are far more than just familiar, identifying squiggles. They’re the true, recognisable face of your brand. Therefore, a lot of thought needs to go into creating a logo that fits your whole brand’s ethos like a glove.
There are a lot of decisions to be made during this tailoring process. Today, we’ll explore just one of these decisions: does my brand need a logomark, a logotype, or a combination of the two?
So let’s learn the difference between them and understand their individual pros and cons – but first, we need to start from the very beginning…
What is a Logo?
A logo is a graphical symbol that is used to represent an organisation, entity, or product. Logos are used to graphically identify a brand and promote its ongoing recognition.
Logos need to be instantly recognisable, distinct from other competing brands (especially in hyper-competitive markets), and convey the brand’s strengths, personality, and desirable characteristics visually. The psychology that goes into visual communication is immense, so a lot of careful, calculated thought needs to go into logo design; the incredible difference that a colour choice makes to our perception of a brand is just one such example.
Related Reading: Why High-Quality Logo Design Services are Worth the Investment
What is a Logotype?
A logotype is a logo that predominantly consists of text – generally the brand’s name or initials, presented in a stylised fashion. This is rarely just a case of typing your organisation or product name in a specific font – far from it! The designer will still need to carefully choose the colours; design the typography; add typographic flairs like strokes, kerning and ligatures; and balance the whole piece for visual appeal, legibility, and memorability. Logotypes are sometimes also called wordmarks or lettermarks.
A close cousin to the logotype is the letter mark or monogram – a distinctive initialism of the brand in question to form a snappy typographic logomark. Examples include Adobe’s A; Volkswagen’s monogram; tech brands like IBM and HP; McDonald’s’ golden arches; Google’s G icon; and the new BT logo.
Advantages of a Logotype
- Ideal for the Underdog – Typographic logos are great for lesser known brands as you’re literally putting your name out there in lights for all to see.
- Works with Your Uniqueness – If you have a very distinctive name or your acronymised name is quite catchy, a wordmark puts that originality on a pedestal.
- Logotypes aid name recognition – If you want your name to be known well verbally and texually, then putting it front and centre may be a better option than a more abstract logomark.
- Less to misinterpret – Because you’re wearing your name and design style on your sleeve, there’s much less to leave to viewer interpretation. The viewer may understand more readily what your brand is all about.
Disadvantages of a Logotype
- It needs to be legible – Logotypes can sometimes be a bit limiting as their whole appeal depends on them being legible. If you shrink them too small or present them poorly, that recognition can be lost.
- More than “just a font” – True design skill is needed to turn “just your brand’s name in font x” into something unique, characteristic, and expressive.
- Longer names cause headaches – If your brand name is longer, you may wish to include it in full within your logo to aid memorability. However, it’s harder to design around longer names and still make them distinctive. If it works, you might consider switching to an abbreviation or initialism, but that’s a bit of a rebranding jump to make!
- Localisation may be tougher – As with any typographic design, it may be difficult to adapt a successful logotype for languages with different writing systems. (However it’s not impossible, as evidenced by this distinctive Bulgarian Cyrillic Coca-Cola bottle.)
What is a Logomark?
A logomark is a completely pictorial brand logo – one that doesn’t contain any text like the business or product name. It’s purely visual.
Logomarks can run the gamut from highly illustrative to totally abstract. At the more explanatory end of the spectrum, we have illustrative logos like Ralph Lauren’s polo player or WWF’s panda. They clearly depict something highly related to their brand – with distinctive design flair that makes them unique and recognisable.
As things get a little more abstract, we get more minimalistic, clean, less specific logos like the Twitter bird icon and Apple’s… well… apple. Things get even more abstract when you look at Deutsche Bank’s square with an oblique line in the middle; BP’s “Helios” or sun-like logo; or even Mitsubishi’s distinctive “three-diamond mark”.
Advantages of a Logomark
- The sky’s the limit! – In terms of design possibilities, a logomark gives you carte blanche to express yourself, untethered from typographic or other design sensibilities.
- Visuals are more memorable – We’re inherently very visual creatures, and our visual memory is very strong. Great for brands who want to make a lasting mental impression!
- Simplify to your heart’s content – Brands are sometimes criticised for hopping on the “blanding” trend but a simple, pictographic logo can be scaled up or down far easier than one that contains text.
- Great for tech brands – Tech-oriented brands often need to think about logo treatment with relation to app iconography, mobile website optimisation, and favicons. Purely graphical logomarks are ideal for this.
- Localisation-friendly – For a brand looking to go global, there is little to no linguistic localisation to worry about when using a completely graphical logo (though some imagery may have cultural connotations to consider).
Disadvantages of a Logomark
- Less intuitive – Purely pictorial logos are better for established, well-known brands rather than newbies because their use assumes some level of brand recognition – unless it is paired with the brand name of course.
- Sometimes, less is less – With a minimal, purely graphical logo, it can be hard to convey the right feel, tone, and ethos of the brand in question.
- Open to interpretation – Graphics alone leave the onus of interpretation with the viewer, who may not see the same patterns that you see. The backlash associated with AirBnB’s Belo logo is a perfect example of this.
What’s the Difference Between a Logotype and a Logomark?
A logomark is a purely graphical identifying brand mark, whereas a logotype or wordmark is an identifying mark that consists purely of text. Mercedes-Benz’s three-pointed star is a logomark, but ebay’s logo with its colourful letters is a logotype.
What is a Combination Mark?
A combination mark is a logo that incorporates both the brand’s name and some sort of purely visual element together in the same logo graphic.
This can be achieved in two ways. The first is to present a logo where the text and design are somewhat indivisible from each other (think Doritos, Harley Davidson, Burger King, or Starbucks’ ‘90s-2000s logo). If you were to remove the text from those logos, you would definitely tell something was missing but chances are that you could still name the brand.
The second method is much more common: presenting a logomark and a coordinating logotype together. This helps to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation that may be encountered when simply using the logomark on its own, whilst also being stylistically sound.
Some good examples of combination logo treatments come from clothing brands. High fashion brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel commonly lean on the logotype element of their logo for signage and the web (sometimes with the exception of social media). This lets the graphical marks do the heavy lifting when appearing on the brands’ actual apparel. Adidas also gets an honourable mention here – whether they display their mountain logo or their trefoil leaf, it’s commonly paired with their stylistic “adidas” wordmark (and that’s before we get onto the branding genius of their three stripes).
Vehicle brands also commonly rely on combination marks, either the “indivisible” type, such as Ford, Land Rover, BMW, and Volvo’s pre-2020 treatment; or as the combined logotype and logomark variety – consider Vauxhall, Jaguar, Mazda, and Mitsubishi. However, Audi recently removed the wordmark element of their logo, leaving just the 4 rings as a logomark.
Advantages of a Combination Mark
- Best of both worlds – Combination marks give you the opportunity to clearly state your name and to be a bit creative with graphics too. You get the benefit of recognisability across both your name and your brand’s graphical style.
- Freedom begets cleverness – Having the freedom to play with both graphics and text can open the door to playful design, such as visual puns.
Disadvantages of a Combination Mark
- Can get cluttered – Having to balance both text and graphics can be difficult and can lead to a cluttered, crowded design if the designer isn’t careful.
- Localisation Blues – When your name and graphics are so tightly bound together, any logo that includes your name may need to be redesigned to accommodate other writing systems if you want to grow abroad.
Which Sort of Logo Should I Choose?
As you can see, there’s a lot to weigh up when deciding on a logo. So let’s wrap up by briefly investigating each one in turn.
Logomarks are great for predominantly online brands and tech-adjacent businesses – especially where mobile app icons, progressive web apps, and favicons are concerned. However that doesn’t mean that a textual element can’t be introduced where you have more space to play around with, creating a combination mark. Logomarks require significant pre-existing brand awareness, so if you don’t currently have a lot of brand awareness, a logotype or combination mark will likely be your best bet, unless you have a viral campaign in mind to become well-known very quickly.
Logotypes or wordmarks are great for name recognition, but don’t always shrink down so well on smaller packaging or products. They may also cause problems for companies with longer names – a longer name means a longer logo which may not always be practical. However, logotypes do arguably present the safest, most sensible bet for a new company.
Combination marks give you the best of both worlds in terms of creativity and design. After all, why pick between a logomark and a logotype when you can have both? Though anything textual doesn’t always fare well when scaled down or presented in a certain way, you can always take the route of a logomark and a logotype that can be used together, or separately.
Unsure which type of logo is best for your brand? Simply get in touch with the logo design team here at OLCO Design! Book your free discovery call with our management team today.