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The 4th article in the series of Branding 101 lists some basics of logo design. This follows from the second in the series: What’s in a Name?.

A logo is an integral part of a company’s branding efforts even though a brand is much more than just a logo. It is a quick visual representation of the company and its brand message as set forth by your brand manager, and can be adapted to fit a variety of different mediums. A logo is the most versatile tool you have in your marketing arsenal, so it would be a good idea to learn as much about it as you can.

Logo Types

There are three main types of logos, each with their own design considerations and advantages:

Graphic. Logos may incorporate abstract shapes, lines, and colors in order to evoke certain emotions or impressions. Literal images may be used as well, such as stylized drawings of characters or objects. These visual elements can be used to symbolize things like significant history and the nature of the product, in addition to the brand’s value proposition.

Logotype. Some brands opt to use stylized depictions of their name as a logo. They either utilize a combination of existing fonts and unique color usage, or develop their own proprietary font, which can also be used in other marketing materials. Companies with long names may have to resort to abbreviations or initials to keep the logos usable.

Mixed. Brands can also opt to insert both elements into their logo, so that they can get the best of both worlds: their name prominently displayed for easy recall and recognition, and graphical elements for their symbolic significance and/or visual impact.

Note that brands are not restricted to using one type of logo. In fact, many brands choose to have different logo variations for various purposes. One might have a mixed-typed logo on their company website, for example, and only use the graphical elements to mark their products.

Main Elements

A logo can be composed of four main elements. While not all of them may be present at the same time, there will always be one element in use. But you should also ensure you logo is practical.

Color. For centuries, artists have used color to evoke certain emotions and impressions in the viewer, which helps set the tone for a particular brand message. Red, for instance, can invoke a sense of danger and urgency, which is why it is prominently used by emergency services. Learn more about color theory.

Typography. Brand names and taglines often make use of stylized letters for a unique look, and to express certain themes beyond what the logo actually says. Italicized lettering, for example, can help express speed if presented in a certain way. Flowing cursive script can give the impression of luxury and comfort.

Shapes. Many logos use abstract shapes and lines in order to symbolize certain points in a company’s brand message or history, or to develop a unique look. Nike’s stylized swoosh, for example, expresses motion that can easily be related to the athletes that use the brand’s sports footwear and apparel.

Images / Drawings. Companies may choose to have an actual image or drawing incorporated into their logo. These drawings could be of characters/mascots, objects, or landmarks depending on a company’s brand message. Dynamic logos allow for different variations of an image depending on the context in which the logo is used. Ads released during the holidays, for example, can incorporate seasonal elements like snow or a Santa hat into the drawing.

Proper Logo Usage

When you create a logo, you have to know how it’s going to be used. Are you going to be stamping it on your products? Will you be using it on your company website and email signatures? Will you be printing it on company shirts and caps and key chains?

Every application of the logo has different design considerations. A wide logo may not fit on something as small as a key chain, for example. For that, you may need to rearrange the elements and dimensions of the logo so that it fits better. Complex line drawings of a company mascot may be great for a billboard advertisement, but on smaller items like shirts and business cards, the logo will be so small that all the detail will be lost.

You don’t have to think of every way the logo could be used, but be open to making some revisions when the need arises.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.