The 7 types of logos (and how to use them)

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

A logo is an image that symbolises your business. But did you know there are 7 different types of logos?

Though they’re all a combination of typography and images, each type of logo gives your brand a different feel. And since your logo is the first thing new customers will see, you want to make sure you get it right.

Want to learn more about logo design and know how to choose the best logo type for your business? Check out our video below or read on!

Here are the 7 types of logos you need to know about:

  1. Monogram (or lettermark) logos
  2. Wordmark logos
  3. Pictorial mark logos
  4. Abstract logo marks
  5. Mascot logos
  6. The combination mark
  7. The emblem

1. Monogram logos (or lettermarks)

Monogram logos or lettermarks are logos that consist of letters, usually brand initials. IBM, CNN, HP, HBO… Noticing a pattern yet? They’re the initials of a few famous businesses with rather lengthy names. With two or three words to remember, they’ve each turned to using their initials for brand identification. So it makes perfect sense for them to use monograms – sometimes called lettermark logos – to represent their organisations.

A lettermark is a typography-based logo that’s comprised of a few letters, usually a company’s initials. The lettermark logo is all about simplicity. By using just a few letters, these logos are effective at streamlining any company brand with a long name. For example, how much easier is it to say (and remember) NASA versus the National Aeronautics and Space Administration?

Because the focus is on initials, the font you choose (or create) is very important to make sure your logo is not only on-theme with what your company does, but also legible when you print on business cards. Also, if you’re not an established business already you may want to add your full business name below the logo so people can begin to learn who you are right away.

>> Get inspired by some amazing monogram logos

2. Wordmarks (or logotypes)

Similar to a lettermark, a wordmark or logotype is a font-based logo that focuses on a business’ name alone. Think Visa and Coca-Cola. Wordmark logos work really well when a company has a succinct and distinct name. Google’s logo is a great example of this. The name itself is catchy and memorable, and when combined with strong typography, the logo helps create strong brand recognition.

Like with a lettermark logo, typography will be an important decision. Since the focus will be on your name, you’ll want to pick a font – or create a font – that captures the essence of what your business does. For example, fashion labels tend to use clean, elegant fonts that feel high-end, while legal or government agencies almost always stick to traditional, “heavier” text that feels secure.

When to use lettermark and wordmark logos:

  • Consider a lettermark logo if your business has a long name. Condensing the business name into initials will help simplify your design and likewise, customers will have an easier time recalling your business and your logo.
  • A wordmark is a good decision if you’re a new business and need to get your name out there. Just make sure that the name is short enough to take advantage of the design. Anything too long can look cluttered.
  • A wordmark logo is a good idea if you have a distinct business name that will stick in customers’ minds. Having your name in a well-designed font will make your brand all the more memorable.
  • Both lettermark and wordmark logos are easy to replicate across marketing materials and branding, thus making them highly adaptable options for a new and developing business.
  • Remember that you’ll want to be scrupulous when creating a lettermark or a wordmark. Your business name in a font alone likely won’t be distinct enough to capture the nuance of your brand. So make sure you hire a professional who’ll have an eye for detail.

>> Check out some typographic logos

3. Pictorial marks (or logo symbols)

A pictorial mark (sometimes called a brand mark or logo symbol) is an icon or graphic-based logo. It’s probably the image that comes to mind when you think of the logo. For example, the iconic Apple logo, the Twitter bird (now known as X) and the Target bullseye. Each of these companies’ logos is so emblematic, and each brand so established, that the mark alone is instantly recognisable. A true brand mark is only an image. Because of this, it can be a tricky logo type for new companies or those without strong brand recognition to use.

The biggest thing to consider when deciding to go with a pictorial mark is what image to choose. This is something that will stick with your company its entire existence. You need to think about the broader implications of the image you choose: do you want to play on your name like John Deere does with its deer logo? Or are you looking to create deeper meaning (think how the Snapchat ghost tells us what the product does)? Or do you want to evoke an emotion, as the World Wildlife Foundation does with its stylised image of a panda – an adorable and endangered species?

>> Check out some amazing iconographic logos

4. Abstract logo marks

An abstract mark is a specific type of pictorial logo. Instead of being a recognisable image – like an apple or a bird – it’s an abstract geometric form that represents your business. A few famous examples include the BP starburst logo, the Pepsi divided circle and the stripy Adidas flower. Like all logo symbols, abstract marks work really well because they condense your brand into a single image. However, instead of being restricted to a picture of something recognisable, abstract logos allow you to create something truly unique to represent your brand.

The benefit of an abstract mark is that you’re able to convey what your company does symbolically, without relying on the cultural meaning and implications of a specific image. Through colour and form, you can attribute meaning and cultivate emotion around your brand. For example, consider how the Nike swoosh implies movement and freedom.

>> Check out some abstract logos

5. Mascots

Mascot logos are logos that have an illustrated character. Often colourful, sometimes cartoonish, and most always fun, the mascot logo is a great way to create your very own brand spokesperson.

Think of them as the ambassadors for your business. Famous mascots include the Kool-Aid Man, KFC’s Colonel and Planter’s Mr. Peanut.

Mascots are great for companies that want to create a wholesome atmosphere by appealing to families and children. Think of all those mascots at sporting events and the great dynamic they create by getting involved with the audience!

>> Check out some fun mascot logos

When to use picture and symbol logos:

  • pictorial mark alone can be tricky. It’s effective if you already have an established brand, but that’s not a hard and strict rule. You can use brandmarks to your advantage to convey what your business does graphically if your name is too long, and they can also be used effectively to convey a desired idea or emotion.
  • Pictorial and abstract marks also work quite well for global commerce if, for example, a business name doesn’t lend itself well to translation.
  • A pictorial mark, however, may not be the best idea if you anticipate changes to your business model in the future. You may start off selling pizzas and use a pizza in your logo but what happens when you start selling sandwiches, burgers or even produce?
  • Abstract marks allow you to create a completely unique image for your business but are best left to design professionals who understand how colour, shape and structure combine to create meaning.
  • Think about creating a mascot if you are trying to appeal to young children or families. One big benefit of a mascot logo is it can encourage customer interaction, so it’s a great tool for social media marketing as well as real-world marketing events.
  • Remember that a mascot is only one part of a successful logo and brand, and you may not be able to use it across all your marketing material. For example, a highly detailed illustration may not print well on a business card. So put some consideration in the next type of logo design below, the combination mark.

6. The combination mark

A combination mark is a logo comprised of a combined wordmark or lettermark and a pictorial mark, abstract mark or mascot. The picture and text can be laid out side-by-side, stacked on top of each other or integrated together to create an image. Some well-known combination mark logos include Doritos, Burger King and Lacoste.

Because a name is associated with the image, a combination mark is a versatile choice, with both the text and icon or mascot working together to reinforce your brand. With a combination mark, people will also begin to associate your name with your pictorial mark or mascot! In the future, you may be able to rely exclusively on a logo symbol and not have to always include your name. Also, because the combination of a symbol and text creates a distinct image together, this type of logo is usually easier to trademark than a pictorial mark alone.

7. The emblem

An emblem logo consists of a font inside a symbol or an icon; think badges, seals and crests. These logos tend to have a traditional appearance about them that can make a striking impact. Thus they are often the go-to choice for many schools, organisations or government agencies. The auto industry is also very fond of emblem logos. While they have a classic style, some companies have effectively modernised the traditional emblem look with logo designs fit for the 21st century (think of Starbucks’ iconic mermaid emblem or Harley-Davidson’s famous crest).

But because of their lean toward detail and the fact that the name and symbol are rigidly entwined, they can be less versatile than the other types of logos. An intricate emblem design won’t be easy to replicate across all branding. For business cards, a busy emblem may shrink so small that it becomes too difficult to read. Also, if you plan on embroidering this type of logo on hats or shirts, then you’ll really have to create a design that is on the simple side or it just won’t be possible. So, as a rule, keep your design uncomplicated and you’ll walk away with a strong, bold look that’ll last for years.

>> Check out some fantastic emblem logos

When to use a combination mark or emblem logos:

  • A combination mark is a great choice for pretty much any business out there. It’s versatile, usually highly unique, and the most popular choice of logo among prominent companies. 
  • An emblem’s traditional look might be favoured by many public agencies and schools, but it can also serve any up-and-coming private business quite well, especially those in the food and beverage industry: think beer labels and coffee cups (Starbucks!). But remember to play it safe when it comes to detail. You still want a design you’ll be able to print neatly across all of your marketing material.

There you have it. A breakdown of all the types of logos out there.

Author: Kelly Morr

This article was originally written by Hilda Morones and published in 2016. It’s been updated with new information and examples.