“Do you want a logotype or logomark?” It’s one of the first questions you need to ask yourself when looking for a logo, because it has huge ramifications on branding, but it’s also a question that tends to stump people. After all, what’s the difference, aren’t they both just logos? You might as well choose between a diffendoofer or a grickily gructus.
If you don’t know the difference between a logotype and a logomark, don’t feel bad. Plenty of people are just as confused as you—enough folks to justify us writing an entire article about it! If you’re planning a logo design or logo redesign, take a quick glance below to see if your brand would benefit more from a logotype or logomark, and why.
What’s the difference between a logotype and logomark?
A logotype is a logo centered around a company name or initials, while a logomark is a logo centered around a symbolic image or icon. The general term logo refers to all marks that represent a brand. So, when a designer asks whether you want a logotype or a logomark, they’re really asking if you want a text logo or a picture logo. Logotypes are also often referred to as wordmarks or lettermarks, while logomarks are also known as pictorial logos or logo symbols.
Examples for logotypes include Visa, Coca Cola or Google. The name can be designed in a picturesque or stylistic font, but at its heart it’s still just text.
Examples for logomarks (or pictorial marks) are the Apple logo, the Twitter bird or Target’s target.
Where it gets confusing is when the lines between them blur. A lot of logos have both text and a picture. Some logos have text that forms a picture. In fact, logo trends seem to favor experimental hybrids that can’t be pigeon-holed as one or the other. So really, there’s three choices. It’s not just logotype vs. logomark, it’s more like logotype vs. logomark vs. a combination.
It’s also worth noting that recently companies are using more than one logo. A trend known as variable or responsive logo design recommends having different logo variations depending on where they’re located. For example, the same company might use a logotype for their email letterhead, a logomark for the corner of their mobile website and a combination for a giant street billboard. By having multiple logos, you can select the best one for wherever you put them.
So, to sum it up, when you see “logotype” think “text,” when you see “logomark” think “picture,” and don’t forget that they can be combined. And when asked which one you want, remember you can choose more than one, depending on where and how you plan to use your logo.
Now that we cleared up the difference between logotypes and logomarks, let’s get into the nitty-gritty: the pros and cons of each, which kinds of brands should use them, and how to design them best.
What is a logotype?
Logotypes encompass all logos that involve text or letters, whether the company’s name, initials (monograms), or sometimes a person’s signature. A logotype tends to promote name recognition, and is associated with more traditional and formal approaches to branding.
The success of a logotype depends on how well the typographic style matches the brand’s identity. Black, bold letters suggest a strong and stable brand, but colorful, loopy cursive letters suggest a more fun and casual company.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking logotypes are “easier” than the other options. In fact, you could argue that they’re harder to design than logomarks: both require design choices like composition, sizing and color, but logotypes also have to deal with typographic choices on top of that.
The pros of logotypes:
- comes across as traditional and classic (so be sure that’s what you’re going for)
- ideal for name recognition
- ideal for brand awareness
- allows opportunity for puns and wordplay
- can provide information about the company
- no risk of brand confusion
The cons of logotypes:
- don’t fit every location—logomarks tend to be more compact
- less options creative designs; not as “fun” as logomarks
- doesn’t work as well for long or hard-to-pronounce brand names
- certain letters have more artistic opportunities than others
- font trends change over time, so stagnant logotypes may appear dated after a few years
What brands are logotypes recommended for?
- new brands that want people to learn their name
- brands whose name reveals some information about what they do (see Sapia Law Firm, above)
- brands that want to incorporate their slogan in their logo
- brands in formal industries like finance and law
- brands that want to leverage a famous name
- brands going for a sophisticated or historical approach (monograms work well here)
How to design the perfect logotype:
- Double down on your typography expertise. You need to understand concepts like kerning, strokes, leading and ligatures to learn how to use them most effectively.
- Test your logotype at different sizes to make sure it’s always legible.
- Create a version of your logotype that’s monochromatic. This will come in handy if you’re printing your logo on marketing swag or on paper.
What is a logomark?
To be iconic, you first need an icon. Logomarks depict certain concepts or ideals in the same way a stick figure depicts a person. In the right hands, a logomark can be a powerfully influential tool capable of reversing how people view your entire brand identity.
While logotypes have the force of language behind them, logomarks have to make the most out of visual communication. Different shapes convey different ideas: circles tend to come across as playful and casual, whereas squares denote stability and confidence. You can manipulate abstract shapes to create a new visual unique to your brand. The same goes for colors, size and use of negative space.
Alternatively, you can use a popular image as a shortcut to expressing your brand personality. Nothing says “wisdom” like an owl, or maybe you want to flaunt your environmental sensibilities with a leaf like Uprooted, below. The freedom of using pictures can also help explain what your business does, with an illustration to broadcast your services.
The pros of logomarks:
- highly personalized and unique (if designed well)
- unbridled creativity
- the right image can capture and convey complex ideas—a picture is worth 1,000 words
- very flexible in how it can be applied; great for depicting a variety of brand characteristics
- can be enlarged or compressed to fit a variety of locations
The cons of using a logomark:
- can slow down brand recognition for new brands
- requires graphic design expertise for the full effect
- runs the risk of creating an emblem that looks too similar to another logomark
What brands are logomarks recommended for?
- brands whose company name is an object or animal: Apple’s apple, Shell’s shell, Penguin’s penguin
- emerging brands seeking a radical rebranding
- brands whose service or products require explaining; a logomark’s image can demonstrate what a company does
- a popular icon or symbol already represents your brand identity, i.e., scales of justice for a law firm.
How to design the perfect logomark:
- Review popular icons and symbols to see if any “speak” to you or your brand. Your perfect logo may already exist as an Egyptian hieroglyphic for all you know.
- Consider creative combinations of images. For example, the Bluetooth logo combines the initials of Harold Bluetooth in Viking runes.
- Match an artistic style to your brand identity. A scratchy, hand-drawn logo conjures different emotions than a glossy, digital one.
Combining a logotype and logomark into a combination mark
If you’ve been reading along both entries for logotypes and logomarks, you might be asking yourself, why not both? In many cases, combining logotypes and logomarks into one creates a more effective logo than each on their own.
Basically, combining logotypes and logomarks gives you the best of both worlds, but sometimes you lose the advantage of one or the other. Don’t forget you can have multiple logos, so having one of each ensures you can always use the perfect choice for the perfect location.
The pros of combining a logotype and logomark:
- boosts name recognition for unknown brands that still want to use a logomark
- can be creatively combined for visual wordplay or a more meaningful message
- you get the benefits of of both
The cons of combining a logotype and logomark:
- by combining logomarks and logotypes, the result is usually bigger than each separately, making it harder to see and read at smaller sizes
- can seem clunky or obtrusive in more streamlined locations
What brands are a combined logotype and logomark recommended for?
- unknown brands who want to build recognition for their logomark
- established brands going through a rebranding
- brands who have a clever idea for how to combine logotypes and logomarks into a unified logo
How to effectively combine a logotype and logomark:
- Proactively look for ways to merge the two into one. Maybe one letter extends a stroke to become part of the logomark, or maybe the way the letters combine create a part of the logomark.
- Use consistent colors and styles to unify the two together.
- Experiment with how you “stack” them. Sometimes you’ll need a tall logo with the logomark above the logotype; sometimes you’ll need a wide logo, with the logomark and logotype in a horizontal line.
Choose the type of logo that fits your brand
When it comes to logos you have so many options to choose from. It’s crucial that you pick a logo that perfectly represents who you are as a brand. Still unsure what kind of logo is right for you? Take a look at our article on the different types of logos that takes you through all your options and how to use them.
Remember: you logo is your most important branding asset, so do everything you can to get it right. But don’t worry if you’re lacking design experience; working with a professional designer is your insurance policy for getting a great result. Want to learn more about creating a logo from scratch? Check out our article on how to design a logo.