How To Choose The Right Logo For Your Company

Your logo is the literal symbol of your business. A good logo should only change slightly over the course of your business’ life. Like the Nike “swoosh” or Apple’s bitten apple, it should be something your clients recognize instantly when they see it. The right logo should become an icon of your business.

With that in mind, what kind of logo should your business use?

Generic, Stock Logos Are Everywhere

In a world with tremendous online resources to find a logo designer or tools to create your own logo, it’s amazing how little creativity there is, and how many pieces of generic clip art become company logos. There’s an epidemic, and it’s killing businesses everywhere.

The value of a unique logo can’t be understated. I’ve mentioned how many ripped-off logos I’ve seen before, and it surprises me still how often it happens. A bad logo, believe it or not, will hurt your brand and your business.

Logos Have A Couple Of Requirements

With so much importance placed on a logo, there are some important keys to remember when you decide on yours. As you either work to create your own or hire a designer, keep these points in mind:

  • Simple is better. A complex logo might look bad as embroidery or in small format.
  • Don’t rely too much on the color to convey the message. Sometimes your logo will need to be in greyscale.
  • Vectors ONLY. Your final output file should be in a vector-based format, like .AI or .EPS, so it can be reproduced on any scale with clarity.

Any designer worth his price knows the above and will create a logo that meets these. He’ll also give you great advice on what kind of logo will work best for your company.

There Are 7 Types Of Logos

As you look at the broad array of logos that companies use, you’ll notice many similarities. All logos fall in to one of 7 categories based on those similarities. Each category works differently for different types of businesses, so you’ll want to pick the right logo from the category that best works for you.

Let’s break them down, shall we?

The Lettermark

Think about your favorite TV channel. No, like, real TV. The kind before Netflix. Stations like HBO, CBS, NBC are all abbreviations for much longer company names. There are others that fall in as well. NASA, IBM, HP, and an army of others use great lettermarks for their logos.

Lettermarks are logos built on typography. Simple, right? The key to a lettermark, though, is that the logo represents just the company initials, not the whole name. Stylized and simplified, a lettermark can be a great way for any company with a long name (and sometimes even a short one) to have an instantly recognizable logo, even when they’re relatively unknown. Consider a lettermark as the right logo if your company name has more than two words in it (not counting descriptors of your services).

The Wordmark

Like the lettermark, a wordmark is typography based. Think Google, FedEx, and Disney. Their entire company name is spelled out in stylized lettering with simple coloring and easily translated to greyscale. Iconic, clean, and clear, the wordmark immediately identifies the company.

While many large companies opt for the wordmark, they’re great for businesses of all sizes. If your company’s name is simple or distinct, this is an especially good choice. However, just the name of your business in a stock font (Comic Sans much?) won’t be enough to make your logo stand out. If the right logo is a wordmark, hire a professional. Their eye for design will do your business wonders.

The Symbol

Also known as a pictoral mark, the symbol is a daring choice for a company. These logos, like the ones that Target, Shell, or Android use are recognizable shapes (a target, a shell, and an android) that accurately represent their company. The key factor is that the logo is only that symbol, and nothing else.

These types of logos can be risky for a new business, as the mega-brand recognition isn’t there yet. Remember that Target built a reputation before they removed their name from their logo, and Shell had many a design failure along the way, yet still incorporated their company name for 40 years of their 120-year history. Consider learning from these companies if you’re thinking about a symbol-based logo, other wise it might not be the right logo fop you.

The Abstract Logo

Much less specific and more symbolic than the pictoral, an abstract logo is a unique shape created specifically for your brand. Think about that ever famous Nike “swoosh”. Is it a check mark? Is it a racing stripe? No, it’s an abstract shape that represents movement and freedom.

More daring that the pictoral, this type of symbol will have nearly no immediate recognition for a small company. The long-term payoff, though, will be a symbol that will change little and be dramatically recognized. Like the pictoral, it’s best if this symbol gets associated with your company name before it stands alone.

*Note: Pictoral and Abstract logos might be the right logo for you when you’re a global business whose name doesn’t translate well. Just a thought.

The Mascot

With a dramatically different feel than any other logo, the mascot is a way to create a long-term impression that can be tied to your long-term marketing. Look at how Tony the Tiger, Chester the Cheetah, and Ronald McDonald had an impact on marketing their respective companies and products over the years. They’ve become pop-culture icons.

With great care, a mascot can be the right logo for your brand, especially if you want to convey an emotional reaction (like the World Wildlife Fund’s panda) or a feeling of fun. Be careful when choosing a mascot that you don’t create negative stereotypes though, especially in today’s world.

The Combomark

In my opinion, the combomark is the champion of all logos, and the right logo for any business. A mixture of a wordmark and/or lettermark and/or pictoral, abstract, or mascot, these logos offer instant recognition and work fantastic long term. Think McDonald’s, Amazon, or PlayStation. These logo combinations mix the company name or initial with a great image to create something totally recognizable and, along the way, represent some facet of the company.

A combomark literally works for any business at any level. Strongly consider this if you aspire to use a pictoral, abstract, or mascot logo over the long-term. A well-styled combomark will allow the symbol to be used sans the name without changing its impact.

The Emblem

On the rare occasion, an emblem may be the right logo. Emblems are usually the most complex logos. Often used by learning institutions, government agencies, and a few luxury automotive companies, like Ferrari, Alpha Romeo, and Rolls Royce, these logos give a more traditional feel, lending themselves well to brands that target intellectuals and the wealthy. Some companies, like Starbucks and Harley Davidson, have managed to modernize them effectively.

An emblem is usually the name of the organization, as well as a symbol, overtop some sort of badge or shield, and all integrated in to one image. As a result, they usually require a lot of detail, making them difficult to use for embroidery or small formats. Companies that use an emblem often have a style guide that includes a list of elements that can be removed or alternatively placed for these formats.

If your producing beer, food, or luxury items, or if you’re in the education field, an emblem might be the correct logo choice for your business or organization. Think carefully about what needs to be included in smaller formats so the message still gets across clear.

The Right Logo Makes All The Difference

It might be a little confusing, but the differences in your logo will impact your brand over the long run. Take the time to work with a great designer (or do lots of extra study yourself) if you want your logo to last. It will be worth the work.

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About the author:

Michael McNew
Web developer, marketing innovator, technology enthusiast, and founder of Visceral Concepts, Michael McNew has developed a passion for delivering value to small business, turning his creativity towards image and reputation building for small business owners.