People logos are all around us. And the reason is obvious—we’re people! So of course, brands show who they’re for and who they’re focused on by featuring human (and humanoid) figures in their logos.
For lack of a better term, this kind of logo humanizes a brand. That means it makes the brand easier for consumers to relate to and interpret as an individual with goals, values and a personality, rather than some faceless corporation.
No two logos are the same, and among logos featuring people (and human-like figures), each is unique. Some have a very literal art style, depicting a human face, hands or figure realistically. Others go the abstract or cartoon-like route. The right art style for your logo depends on your brand, and with people logos, it’s often easier to translate your brand persona into an effective image than it would be through a wordmark, lettermark or emblem logo.
Why use a person logo?
As we said in the intro, a person logo humanizes your brand. So any brand that wants to feel more human to their audience can do just that with a person logo.
But that feels a bit broad, doesn’t it? Most brands—maybe even all brands—aim to take on humanlike personas and relate to their audiences as peers. Many do this perfectly without featuring people in their logos:
So why would a brand choose to include an image of a person in their logo instead of say, a wordmark or a picture of their product?
One reason is if the brand’s product benefits people’s bodies in some way. For example, a chiropractor might choose a person standing tall or running in their logo to signal that their treatment can help a viewer stand taller and do physical activities. A gym might choose a person logo for more or less the same reason: to communicate that they’re in the business of helping people be in the best shape they can be.
Another, somewhat similar reason is if the brand wants to communicate that they help people socially, financially, politically or psychologically. A daily affirmations app might choose a logo showing a set of hands expressing gratitude or a politician might design a logo that features a range of diverse faces to show that they’re running to serve the whole population.
Any brand that wants to emphasize that they exist for people can do that through a person logo. As you’ll see below, there are a lot of different ways to design a person logo. If you’re considering a person logo, but not quite sure which artistic direction to take, read on to see inspiration in a few different art styles and learn more about the kinds of brands that choose each of them.
Abstract people logos
Abstract people logos are a great way to include a human figure in your logo without overwhelming it with details. You can use stick figures, faces or other body parts in negative space, suggestions of human figures or figures that fit into larger abstract patterns to communicate your person-focused brand values without boxing yourself in with a literal depiction.
To design an effective abstract person logo, follow the same design guidelines you’d use to design any other abstract logo. Determine which colors and shapes best communicate your brand’s values and use these to craft an abstract design. Remember, ‘abstract’ is a broad term… minimalist logos can be abstract, maximalist logos can be abstract, tight mathematical geometric patterns can be abstract, as can images with swishy and imperfect organic lines.
Cartoony people logos
When a person logo isn’t abstract, but also isn’t realistic, chances are it’s cartoony.
Just like abstract people logos, cartoon people logos is a broad category. Just look at all the different art styles in cartoons—any one of these can inspire your logo. For example, maybe an anime-inspired people logo like this one by Miniverso will appeal to your audience:
Or possibly something that feels yanked right out of the 1930s like:
If you want something more concrete than an abstract image for your logo, but your brand isn’t quite serious enough to be accurately represented by a realistic person logo, go with a cartoon logo that fits your brand’s personality. Cartoon logos can be cute, like this logo by BayuRIP:
Or more realistically proportioned, looking more like a book illustration than a TV cartoon character:
As you can see, cartoon people logos is a broad category. Pretty much any logo where the human figures don’t have realistic proportions can fit into this category. For our purposes, we separated out the overtly abstract images and categorized them separately, focusing the cartoon category on logos that wouldn’t look out of place in a newspaper, comic book, tv cartoon or children’s book.
Sometimes, cartoon logos don’t fit neatly into one recognizable art style, like retro or anime-inspired. But they do look like cartoons. They’re often imperfect, asymmetrical or appear hand or line drawn. Often, they have their brand’s sense of humor about them.
Remember, people logos don’t always showcase a whole person. Check out this logo bo_rad designed for Nuts in your Mouth:
Realistically proportioned people logos
How do you create a serious person logo?
By creating a realistic person logo. Keep in mind that when we say “realistic people logos,” we don’t mean logos that use photos—though those certainly exist, they’re rare. What we mean are logos that feature realistically proportioned human figures and realistically depicted body parts, like the figures in the logo below by Brands by Sam:
If your brand is more serious or subdued, like an investing firm or a medical practice, you can communicate that your clients can expect professional person-focused care through this type of logo. Realistically proportioned people logos aren’t limited to these service-oriented fields, though. Any brand that wants to feature a person but doesn’t want to lean too far into the cartoony or abstract can do so with a logo that, while not necessarily being true-to-life, doesn’t exaggerate any features or feel like you need to piece the shapes together to see the outline of a face or find a figure in the negative space:
Personification in logos
Then, there’s logos that use personification. These logos don’t feature people—they feature personified objects and animals. Despite this, they communicate the same ideas that logos featuring humans do.
Personification is the artistic choice to depict a non-human with human-like characteristics. Often, this is used to emphasize a specific trait, like how Freshinnet used an image of a pig smoking a cigar to emphasize the smokiness of the brand’s pork.
Personification is not the same as anthropomorphization. Anthropomorphization refers to non-human characters that literally behave like humans, like Mickey Mouse and Spongebob Squarepants. Personification, on the other hand, is often a fleeting image used to communicate traits or ideas, rather than to craft a fleshed-out character.
In a logo, a personified object or animal is a way for a brand to emphasize who they are and what their values are by getting some mileage out of viewers’ cultural associations with the objects or animals used.
For example, a game company might use imagery of a dinosaur to link themes of fantasy, adventures and fun to their brand.
Outside this kind of association, a brand can also use a personified animal or object to illustrate what they offer or serve. Take a look at the personified screw in this logo on the left by Freshinnet:
Power to the people (logos)
If you’re a human-focused brand, work with an experienced logo designer to create a human-focused logo. It doesn’t matter if that logo is realistic or cartoony, abstract or even personification instead of a literal person…whichever you choose, you’re choosing to express that your brand is for people and actively makes people’s lives better.
This article was originally written by Matthew Price and published in 2017. It has been updated with new examples and information.