Logo. Such a simple word. We all know what it means, right? Or do we?

We have found that personal definitions of what a logo is can be wildly different! So it might be helpful (and fun!) to delve a bit deeper into how logos differ. We realize that this topic may seem basic to some, but it can be a useful discussion tool for level-setting internal expectations when embarking on a logo design or redesign–and helping ensure that designers and clients can get on the same page.

From our point of view, there are three basic categories of logo design:


1. Wordmark

This is generally the most straightforward approach to designing a logo. A wordmark is, quite simply, a logo design that uses only type, and can be as basic as selecting a font and color. For a more unique wordmark, graphic designers will often design custom fonts, or adapt an existing font by modifying the letterforms to produce a more distinct wordmark. Another possible way to elevate a standard wordmark is to incorporate a graphic element, like the arrow formed by the whitespace within the “Ex” in FedEx’s wordmark.



2. Icon

An icon can be a singular, illustrated symbol that represents the brand (think the “P” in Playstation or the five rings that represent the Olympic Games). This is the most common interpretation of “logo” that we encounter in working with our clients.  An icon can also be less abstract and a more literal, visual shortcut to the brand name. An icon logo works really well when it clearly represents the name of the company and maps to the values and personality of the brand. Icon logos are often easily leveraged to apply across a wide array of applications, providing great flexibility and opportunities for marketing and promotions.


3. Combination

Some logos have components that live together but can also be split apart and still retain brand equity and recognition.


As noted above, there are several categories of logos and each serves brands differently. For example, if you have a global brand, an icon solution may help bridge language barriers. If your design budget is limited, a wordmark solution may be the most cost-effective approach to consider.

When embarking on a logo design project, start with an open dialogue with key internal decision makers and your brand agency partner to align on expectations and visions for the logo design. A good agency partner will be able to recommend the best strategic design approach for you based on the needs of your organization and audience, as well as your budget.

But first thing’s first: make sure you’re all envisioning the same thing when talking about your “logo.”