Promo University

What is a Logo & What Are the Different Types?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: June 24th, 2021

If you grew up in the 80's or 90's, you might remember when the late great singer Prince changed his name to a symbol. This was both a way to assert his independence and an act of rebellion against his record label. While this move may have seemed extreme, it shows that Prince knew the value in a good logo!

Follow in his footsteps when it comes to running your business. You don't have to go as far as changing your name, but you should do whatever it takes to create a design that stands the test of time. You'll have a legion of fans singing your praises before you know it!

What is a Logo?

A logo is a wordmark, graphic image, abstract symbol, or combination of each that is used to visually identify an organization. It only becomes associated with a brand through consistent use and a ton of exposure.

Consumers need 5 to 7 impressions before they recognize a business's logo. That's why it's important to use your company logo everywhere, from billboards to t-shirts to product packaging. The more people who see your logo, the more memorable you'll be as a company.

Macbook Air Near Red Book
Macbook Air Near Red Book

What Does Your Logo Say About Your Company?

Your logo says something about your company's history, values, or personality. The colors, font, and type of design you use all have a psychological impact on your potential and existing customers.

What Are the 7 Types of Logos?

Every company is different, which is why there are many different logo types. It can be as simple as a company name written in a stylish font, or as complex as an abstract design that, at first glance, seems to have nothing to do with the brand.

The seven different types of logos include:

  • 1) Wordmark
  • 2) Lettermark (monogram)
  • 3) Letterform
  • 4) Brandmark
  • 5) Combination mark
  • 6) Emblem
  • 7) Mascot
Clear Light Bulb Placed on Chalkboard
Macbook Air Near Red Book

#1 Wordmark

A wordmark (also known as a logotype) is the company's name, usually written in a colorful, appealing font.


Examples of Wordmark Logos

Coca-Cola Logo History - Evolution of The Company Logo | Coca-Cola India

Coca-Cola

Disney Logo | Disney logo, Disney sticker, Popular logos

Disney

Google logo - Wikipedia

Google

FedEx Logo and Symbol Meaning – History and Evolution | Turbologo

FedEx

What to know about wordmark logos:

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Wordmarks are great if you're a new company that is just starting to get your name out there.

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This type of logo is best if your name is short and concise.

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The typography needs to be legible, so don't get too crazy.

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Choose a font that reflects your brand personality (as long as it isn't Comic Sans).

#2 Lettermark

Lettermarks are very similar to wordmarks as they also use text. The difference is these logos are monograms or abbreviations instead of the full, written out company name.


Examples of Lettermark Logos

HBO

HBO

Connor Schell, ESPN's Top Content Executive, to Depart by Year's End -  Variety

ESPN

CNN logo and symbol, meaning, history, PNG

CNN

BBC-logo-for-web

BBC


What to know about lettermark logos:

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Lettermarks are great for companies with long names that are difficult to memorize or pronounce.

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These logos are short and easy to print on a wide-range of advertising materials, from billboards to coffee mugs.

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In this digital world, lettermarks are great because they're easy to shrink down to tablet or mobile.

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Do you do a lot of international work? Lettermarks have global appeal and are easier to translate.

#3 Letterform

A letterform is very similar to a lettermark, but the difference is it's a one-letter logo instead of an abbreviation.


Examples of Letterform Logos

McDonalds

McDonald's

Wordpress

Wordpress

Netflix Logo - SVG | Letter n, Netflix, Letter logo

Netflix

PlayStation | Logopedia | Fandom

PlayStation

What to know about letterform logos:

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There are only 26 letters in the alphabet. Your design needs to be creative enough to stand apart.

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Be ready to change your logo in a few years to keep up with design trends. Letterforms can look outdated if they're not refreshed from time to time.

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Don't be too abstract. The letter should be easy to decipher at a quick glance.

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Letterforms are very scalable, which makes them easy to use across all advertising mediums both online and offline.

#4 Brandmark

You know what they say...a picture is worth a thousand words! Brandmarks, or pictorial logos, are a concrete or abstract image with no text.


Examples of Brandmark Logos

Who Made That Twitter Bird? - The New York Times

Twitter

Nike

Nike

Target

Target

Apple-logo – MHCI+D

Apple

What to know about brandmark logos:

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The brandmark should represent your brand's history or a service/value you have to offer.

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Consumers will form a psychological connection or emotional response to your brandmark.

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Your logo can be a concrete object (the Twitter bird) or an abstract symbol (Nike's swoosh).

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This type of logo design is not recommended for new companies who don't have brand recognition.

#5 Combination Mark

Are you having a hard time choosing between images and words? Go with a combination mark logo, which uses both!


Examples of Combination Mark Logos

Taco Bell

Taco Bell

Dove

Dove

Pepsi

Pepsi

Dunkin

Dunkin'

What to know about combination mark logos:

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Lay out the text and image in a way that is unique to your company, but still readable.

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Use color wisely, making sure the colors of the text are harmonious with the colors of the image.

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The text can be either a monogram or your full company name.

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This is the easiest type of logo to trademark if that's important to your company.

#6 Emblem

An emblem is very similar to a combination mark, the only difference is the image dominates the design. Picture it like a family crest or badge, with a professional, stylized appearance.


Examples of Emblem Logos

Starbucks Logo

Starbucks

Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson

Stella Artois - Wikipedia

Stella Artois

National Football League | American Football Wiki | Fandom

NFL

What to know about emblem logos:

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Emblems reflect professionalism and traditionalism, which is why they're often used by colleges and the government.

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The automotive industry is also a fan of emblems since they bring a classic appeal to the cars.

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Family-owned companies or those who have a long history benefit from using emblems.

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This type of logo tends to be less versatile than other designs. This makes it tricky to print the logo on small promotional materials like pens and business cards.

#7 Mascot

While not as common as other logo types, a mascot is a character used to represent a company. The mascot can stand on its own and still be recognized as belonging to a brand.


Examples of Mascot Logos

Mascot, Planters peanuts, Mr. peanut

Mr. Peanut

Wendy's logo

Wendy's

Kool-Aid History | Hastings Museum

Kool-Aid

Pillsbury Doughboy | Pillsbury doughboy, Pillsbury, Mascot

Pillsbury

What to know about mascot logos:

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A mascot is best for fun, energetic companies. Law firms, doctors, and other formal industries shouldn't use these cartoon characters!

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If your target audience is kids or families, a mascot can be a good branding opportunity.

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Mascots have the most offline appeal. They're not really effective on your website, but look great when used in commercials and printed on product packaging.

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Everyone wants to take pictures with a brand mascot, which could mean a lot of exposure on social media.

What Makes a Good Logo?

The type of logo you use is important, but there are other factors as well that will impact the success of your design. Color, font, scalability, and uniqueness are all important when it comes to creating a new logo for your business.

You'll hear a lot of advice and find complex articles about the psychology of design, but let's not overthink it. Ultimately, these are the qualities of a good logo:

  • Good color scheme
  • Legible font or typography
  • Clear, simple imagery
  • Unique & distinct appearance
  • Scalability
  • Timeless appeal

Good Color Scheme

Color Pencils

Color is everything when it comes to a good logo design. In fact, a colorful logo can increase brand recognition by up to 80%. Each hue is associated with certain personality traits or feelings, which in turn, will become connected with your brand.


  • Red - passionate, confident, energetic, bold
  • Orange - creative, rejuvenating, affordable, exciting
  • Yellow - joyful, enthusiastic, playful, friendly
  • Green - balanced, calm, reassuring, healthy
  • Blue - stable, trustworthy, loyal, reliable
  • Purple - glamorous, wise, luxurious, mysterious
  • Pink - fashionable, carefree, youthful, attractive
  • Brown - laidback, old-fashioned, dependable, approachable
  • White - simple, pure, clean, conservative
  • Gray - experienced, knowledgeable, stable, modern
  • Black - elegant, serious, exclusive, formal
Color Pencils

Legible Font or Typography

Scrabble pieces

If you have typography in your design, make sure that it's easy to read. Use a font that will work on the web and offline on items like promotional merchandise and packaging. Helvetica, Proxima Nova, Avenir, Garamond, and Sans scripts are all good choices.

Scrabble pieces

Clear, Simple Imagery

Calendar

People aren't going to study your logo like fine art in a museum. They will likely give it a passing glance as they go about their day and will then form a first impression of it in about 10 seconds. For that reason, it's important that your logo is clear and simple.

Calendar

Unique & Distinct Appearance

city

The average person sees about 5,000 ads per day. It's a world saturated with logos, so it's important that yours is memorable and stands apart. Find inspiration in a place that's unique to you, whether it's a funny story about your company's founder, or even cool imagery from the latest book you read.

city

Scalability

Woman on computer

Your logo is going to be everywhere - online, offline, starring on TV, in magazines, on packaging, on promotional swag...the list is endless. With that in mind, you need a design that can be enlarged or shrunk down without looking blurry or distorted.

Woman on computer

Timeless Appeal

Harley Davidson

Now's not the time to make a reference that's going to be outdated a year from now. Make sure that your logo is relevant for generations. It's the best way to establish your place in this competitive business world!

Harley Davidson

These are the building blocks of a good logo. Pay mind to each and every quality while creating your design. Soon enough, you will have a loyal following of customers who recognize your logo, and if you're lucky, maybe even seek it out when shopping.

What Makes a Bad Logo?

Now that you know what makes a good logo, let's talk about what makes for a bad logo. You don't want to be the laughing stock of the business world with an ugly or weird design.

A bad logo is one that is:

  • Overly artistic, detailed, or busy
  • Difficult on the eyes due to color or shape
  • Hard to read
  • Easy to misinterpret
  • Always changing
  • Too similar to another logo
  • Untrue to your brand

Overly Artistic, Detailed, or Busy

Brown Wooden Measuring Tool

The human brain is fickle. It likes to do as little work as possible to make sense of what you're seeing. A detailed or busy logo is less likely to stick in the mind than something simple. Plus, these logos tend to be more difficult to scale, which hurts you in the long run.

Brown Wooden Measuring Tool

Difficult on the Eyes

Low-angle Photography of Red Metal Tower

A bad color scheme or confusing jumble of geometric shapes could turn your logo into an eyesore. Aim to use a maximum of four colors and don't make the design too abstract.

Low-angle Photography of Red Metal Tower

Hard to Read

Man Wearing Black and White Stripe Shirt Looking at White Printer Papers on the Wall

Even if your font is super basic, it's better for it to be legible. You don't want a potential customer to be confused about whether or not your company name starts with a "G" when it's actually a "D." It's also a good idea to stick with one font and to use as few words as possible.

Man Wearing Black and White Stripe Shirt Looking at White Printer Papers on the Wall

Easy to Misinterpret

entrepreneur in casual wear sitting at table with netbook

The worst logo designs are so bad that you see them and immediately think of something inappropriate. While this is funny for memes, it doesn't do you any favors if you're trying to be taken seriously as a company.

entrepreneur in casual wear sitting at table with netbook

Always Changing

assorted-color lear hanging decor

While companies like Gap and Airbnb have done successful rebrands, it's much better to be consistent. Establish your history and stick in the public consciousness by using the same logo for years. If you do change it up, make sure it's inspired by your previous designs.

assorted-color lear hanging decor

Too Similar to Another Logo

Windows, Wall, House, Facade, Building, Symmetry

You're an original and shouldn't be confused with any other company. So even though you're a huge fan of Coca-Cola, you shouldn't copy their trademark design. Not only does this cause confusion for customers, but it also makes you liable to lawsuits!

Windows, Wall, House, Facade, Building, Symmetry

Untrue to Your Brand

Be True

Let's say you're a serious law firm. You have no business using a fuchsia unicorn as your logo! Do a pulse check and make sure the image, text, and colors you use are all in harmony with your brand's personality.

Be True

Be aware of these logo mistakes so you don’t find yourself with negative attention. It's always a good idea to get a second, third, and even fourth opinion before you settle on a final design.


What Are the Most Popular Logos?

It's no surprise that the most popular logos are associated with Fortune 500 companies. These brands have a ton of fans and are leaders in their respective industries.

The 10 most popular logos of all time include:


  • 1) Coca-Cola
  • 2) McDonald's
  • 3) Nike
  • 4) Starbucks
  • 5) Apple
  • 6) Disney
  • 7) Amazon
  • 8) Google
  • 9) Netflix
  • 10) Facebook
coca cola

#1: Coca-Cola

Year Created: 1887

Created By: Frank M. Robinson

Coca-Cola has one of the most famous wordmarks of all time. John Pemberton invented the soft drink in 1886, and the next year his bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, created a logo signature since he thought the two C's would look good in advertising. Boy, was he right! Today, over 90% of the global population recognizes the Coca-Cola logo.

McDonald's

#2: McDonald's

Year Created: 1961

Created By: Jim Schindler

The "Golden Arches" are recognizable from a mile away. In fact, 88% of people are able to identify the logo. However, it wasn't associated with the brand until a savvy entrepreneur named Ray Kroc bought McDonald's in 1961. The logo was created by the head of construction at McDonald's, Jim Schindler. He was asked to give the logo a "more corporate look."

Nike

#3: Nike

Year Created: 1971

Created By: Carolyn Davidson

The "swoosh" is one of the most recognized logos of all time. Carolyn Davidson was a student at Portland State University when she created the design for Nike, and surprisingly, she was only paid $35! While that wasn't going to do a lot to cover her student loans, she did help Nike establish its brand. Today, Nike is estimated to be worth $34.8 billion worldwide.

Starbucks

#4: Starbucks

Year Created: 1971

Created By: Terry Heckler

Mermaids don't have a lot to do with coffee, but that didn't stop Starbucks from using the mythical creature in their logo. It is said to represent "luring customers in," and since Starbucks was named after a character in "Moby Dick" and opened their first store near the port in Seattle, a nautical theme only made sense. Fans are obsessed with the logo, so much so that there's even a collector's market for their branded merchandise! Resale sites like Poshmark reported an over 100% increase for Starbucks drink tumblers and mugs since the COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020.

#5: Apple

Year Created: 1977

Created By: Rob Janoff

Apple has an apple as their logo. Makes sense, right? Well, there's actually more to the story than you may have originally thought. Steve Jobs wanted a logo that represented the "fruit of creation;" one that was in harmony with the sleek, modern appearance of his tech gadgets. Graphic designer Rob Janoff was hired to bring this vision into reality. Now there are 1.65 billion active Apple iPhones in use around the world, each one decorated with that iconic, once-bitten logo.

Disney

#6: Disney

Year Created: 1937

Created By: Justin Callaghan

Known as the "Waltograph," the Disney logo is a swirly signature based on the actual handwriting of Walt Disney. Sometimes this text is accompanied by the castle or Mickey Mouse brandmark, while other times it stands on its own. Sometimes it's written out "Walt Disney," while other times it's simply, "Disney." Whatever version you see, this well-loved logo has a loyal following. Not bad considering that Walt Disney Studios didn't have a logo for the first 48 years of their history!

Amazon

#7: Amazon

Year Created: 2012

Created By: Turner Duckworth

Amazon's logo may be simple, but it's also very effective. When the company first started in 1994, they only sold books through their online store. Now Amazon is an ecommerce behemoth with over 350 million items across all categories. The smile-shaped arrow, which goes from the letter "A" to the letter "Z" in Amazon's name, represents this evolution and influx of new products. They literally offer anything you can possibly want, from "A" to "Z."

Google

#8: Google

Year Created: 2015

Created By: Unknown

While Google has used a tetradic color scheme (blue, red, yellow, and green) since 1998, their new logo really takes things to a new level. As a company known for always changing their algorithm and being ahead of the curve with tech, they had to make sure their design evolved with the times as well. The "G" letterform is meant to look better on smartphone apps. This makes sense as 63% of Google's U.S. organic search traffic originates from mobile devices.

Netflix on an Imac

#9: Netflix

Year Created: 2014

Created By: Gretel, a design firm in New York

Netflix made the switch from a wordmark to a letterform. They even created a cool animation of their design that appears before their original programming! Like Google, the motivation behind this redesign was for the streaming platform to make their logo more mobile-friendly for those who like to watch on their phones. The move seemed to have worked as Netflix's subscribers grew to over 15.8 million in 2020.

Facebook

#10: Facebook

Year Created: 2015

Created By: Unknown

Mobile apps and letterform logos seem to go hand-in-hand. Take for instance Facebook who unveiled their first "F" logo in 2015. This design has since gone through 5 different versions, leading to the newest "F," which graces the screens of 2.8 billion monthly active users worldwide. While the "thumbs up" brandmark and "Facebook" wordmark are just as popular, there's something about the simple initial that's the most powerful.

Why is a Logo Important?

man standing on road infront of high-rise

The purpose of a logo is to make an organization easier to identify. The human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text, and it often takes about 13 nanoseconds. In this fast-paced world, people only have so much bandwidth, which is why it's important that your design is noticeable and makes a permanent impression.

Your logo builds recognition, which puts you in the minds of potential consumers. It also fosters loyalty, which keeps those consumers working with you going forward into the future. Case in point, 84% of U.S. adults claim they are loyal to their favorite brands and retailers.

To see this in action, look at companies like Coca-Cola, Nike, and Disney. People wear their logoed merchandise, camp out overnight to buy their products, and overall, are always keeping their fingers on the pulse of what's new and exciting with these popular brands. You don't get that kind of following without a truly awesome logo!

man standing on road infront of high-rise

Stats For Success

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60% of Fortune 500 companies use combination mark logos.

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A logo's color makes up to 90% of a consumer's first impression.

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42% of customers believe a logo effectively captures a brand's personality.

The Bottom Line

Think of a logo like a good marriage. Sure, some elements may change, but your design will ultimately be with you until death do you part. Keep it simple, choose a good color scheme, and get ready to say "I do" to the design of your dreams!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

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