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A Simple Question That Will Streamline Your Logo Design Process

by Russ Henneberry

Design can be very subjective. It can be tricky — sometimes even scary. Often, designers must make decisions based on what they feel is the best direction to go, not one which they know is the best direction. The ubiquity of the Nike “swish” logo, for example. It wasn’t the result of an objective formula that existed before the earth was formed. It was born in the mind of a designer one morning.

Design isn’t math. Math is easier. 2 + 2 = 4. There is no arguing that. It’s a fact.

Design isn’t like that. It’s interpretable. It’s feelings and emotions and sensations. You know … the whole “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” thing.

As a result, there’s nothing more nerve racking than hitting the send button on an email to your client that contains design concepts. What will the beholder’s eye think of these designs? You think it looks stunning. The client might think you’re crazy.

Logo design is particularly difficult. It’s very subjective. It’s also very high stakes. It’ll likely be the first and last thing about your brand that a customer will experience.

Ask this question early

There are a number of questions you can ask yourself to make sure that you’re close to what your client wants before you lay the designs out to review.

Do you have a color scheme you’d like to use? Do you have examples of logos you like? Inspiration? Are you looking for something playful or professional? Simple or complex? The possibilities are literally endless.

But there is no question more important than this one:

“What type of logo are you looking for?”

We’ll be covering six different logo types and providing examples for each in this post. I would recommend that you pose this question to your logo design clients and provide examples to ensure that your initial concepts are at least in the ballpark of what they want.

6 Logo Types

The following are broad logo categories. They’re different logo types that your client can choose from. They may choose from more than one but getting them pinned down to a couple of these categories will make your life (and the life of your client) a lot easier.

Text Logo

A “text” logo is the simplest form of logo. You just take the name of the company and stylize it a bit. With a “text” logo, there’s no icon or “mark” in the logo. It’s just, well, text.

It’s a popular logo type and many well known brands use it. Coca-Cola, Dell and IBM come to mind.

Here are some popular examples of text logos:

Examples of text-based logos

Examples of text-based logos

Pictoral Icon Logos

A pictorial icon can include the business name in text. The icon is a non-abstract design that is easily recognizable. Brands like Post-it and Shell come to mind.

Here are some great examples of pictorial icon logos including our own Crazy Egg logo:

Examples of pictorial logos

Examples of pictorial logos

Abstract Icon Logos

This is a popular logo type. It can incorporate the business name in a font. The icon is abstract and not easily recognized by itself as a standalone “mark.” Adidas and Toyota are good examples of these.

These are some example abstract icon logos:

Examples of abstract logos

Examples of abstract logos

Letter Icon Logos

Letters from the name of your business or the initials can be used to create a logo. Logos for McDonald’s and the New York Yankees epitomize this style of design.

Here are some great examples of letter icon logos:

Examples of letter logos

Examples of letter logos

Emblem Logos

An emblem is an pictorial icon and text logo all rolled into one. Mastercard and Harley-Davidson do a good job of this.

Here are some classic examples of emblem logos:

Examples of emblem logos

Examples of emblem logos

Mascot or Character

With a “mascot” logo, a character (usually a person or animal) is used to represent the business in the logo. Who doesn’t love Freddie the cute chimp of MailChimp fame? And, how can there be a Panda Express without a cuddly panda as part of your brand?

Examples of mascot logos

Examples of mascot logos

Remember, the easiest way to sink hours of work into a logo only to get raised eyebrows from your client is to fail to ask this question:

What type of logo are you looking for?

Imagine designing six Abstract Icon Logo concepts and then finding out your client is looking for a Mascot or Character Logo.

Not good.

Ask this question early on in your logo design process. You’ll be glad you did.

13 Comments

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Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, Salesforce.com and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.

13 COMMENTS

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  1. sang clark says:
    July 18, 2013 at 3:44 am

    I must say thanks 🙂
    Glad to read this informative post.

  2. Jenny Kay Pollock says:
    April 11, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. I will definatly be refrencing these 6 logo types form now on!

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      April 11, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Thanks Jenny! Glad you got something out of this post!

  3. Ed says:
    March 29, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Would you say negative space ads are another type?

    FedEx, USA Network, Girl Scouts for examples

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      March 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      @Ed, fantastic. Thanks for adding that!

  4. Steven says:
    March 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Sorry, when you said “2 + 2 = 4. There is no arguing that. It’s a fact. But design is interpretable.” I just had to interject that 2 + 2 can also read as 22 and whether you agree or not is simply down to interpretation.

    So remember, math is subjective too.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      March 29, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      @Steven — Touché! Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Chipp says:
    March 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Another good idea is to explain the difference between a logotype and a logomark.

    Also, some design companies still insist on using printed logo comps for Internet based companies. I cannot stress enough how wrong this is. Reviewing a logo comp 4″ tall on a stark white presentation board at 1200 dpi IS MUCH different than looking at it in an iPhone browser! C’mon designers, use your noggins when presenting your designs!

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      March 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      @Chipp — Great stuff Chipp! Thanks for adding this.

  6. Ramesh Nair says:
    March 29, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    This process may help only small or medium businesses where logo is mostly just a beautiful graphic image. For bigger brands, it is best not to ask clients to choose the logo type. It is the brand consultant/designer who needs to advice clients on what logo type will work best for their business.

    Ramesh
    http://www.niyati.com

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      March 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      Good point Ramesh!

  7. Navigator Multimedia says:
    March 29, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Great set of types to bring into the production meeting with examples. The question “what type of logo are you looking for?” will only be as effectively answered as the degree by which the client understands their “options”. Oftentimes, a client can visualize the logo design in their mind, but cannot articulate the specifics for the designer to understand. Bringing in examples of “types” makes perfect sense.
    Thanks for the article!
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      March 29, 2012 at 11:56 am

      Thanks Sarah! Glad you find it helpful!

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