A well-designed logo is a unique combination of business and art. With an assortment of well-chosen variables, it conveys the type of business, as well as the corporate philosophy, and is often the first and most essential element of any branding initiative. Why? Because it’s the first thing your consumer sees. And it either grabs their attention or it doesn’t.
There are three main types of logos: typographic, symbol or a selective combination of the two. And these design choices have a tremendous impact on brand identity. As a result, they represent the starting point for the creation of any effective logo design. But the elements you select are largely determined by the specifics of your organization.
Using Typographic Logos
As the name implies, a typographic logo is comprised solely of letters, numerals or similar font-based characters. Vastly different than type appearing in standard print, these characters are formatted to serve as graphic elements that stand on their own by varying size, color and typeface.
Most often, a typographic logo is used to impart the brand name of an organization. Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Google and Levi’s would be prime examples. But to use this type of logo effectively, the company’s name should ideally be short and self-explanatory. In these instances, typographic logos are extremely helpful when trying to establish a memorable brand name.
Using Symbolic Logos
The first thing to understand when considering a symbolic logo is the nature of an image. Symbols are used to convey a complex idea in a direct, instantly-translatable way. Often created by mixing graphic images, a symbol can be constructed from basic shapes or specific conceptual representations. For example, you’d be hard-pressed to find people in the world who were unable to describe and instantly replicate the Nike “swoop.”
But as with typographic logos, symbols by themselves are not suited to every organization. Typically reserved for companies with brand names that are long, complex or difficult to pronounce, graphics work extremely well to differentiate those products or services in the marketplace. In the same way, symbols can be used to distinguish brands that have a common sounding name or unite a broad portfolio of sub-brands under a single banner, as is the case with Nike.
Image from Jordan Metcalf’s “Nike – 2010″ project on Behance
The one catch with using a symbol is that it requires a larger marketing investment to educate the consumer, defining its specific meaning and, more importantly, fostering a favorable impression.
Combining Typographic and Symbolic
One of the basic requirements for creating an effective logo is simplicity. And this is especially crucial when combining typography and symbols. Ideal for new businesses, this style of logo includes concise text – often boiled down to one or two words – and is paired with a simple, ordinary image or basic shape. But ‘basic’ doesn’t mean ‘plain’. The choice of image has to be strong enough to single out the brand among its competitors.
A great example is the Puma logo. Including the brand name and the trademark cat leaping over the typographic elements, this logo is unique in that it’s become a known commodity, allowing the logo itself to appear as any of the three types: plain type, symbol or a combination of the two.