The wordmark (or logotype)
Probably the most commonly used type of logo, a wordmark is the brand name styled as a logo—think Google and Coca-Cola.
The benefit of having a wordmark is the fact that it immediately associates a business name with its visual identity, which helps create strong brand recognition. This makes it a great logo style for new businesses.
Wordmark logos work well when a company has a catchy and memorable name or a name that describes the type of business.
Since there are no graphic elements in this type of logo, the wordmark alone will need to capture the essence of what the business does. Therefore, the typography will be a crucial decision. Often the chosen typeface is custom-made or uses unique typographic treatments to express the brand’s identity.
The lettermark (or monogram logo)
Like a wordmark, a lettermark is entirely text, but it’s comprised of a few letters only, usually the company’s initials.
Lettermark logos are all about simplicity. Since the focus is on the initials, the font choice is fundamental to ensure the logo is legible, and its look and feel reflects what the company does. New businesses opting for monogram logos often add the full business name below the logo, so people can begin to learn the company’s name.
Lettermarks can be a simple monogram (which uses the initial letters of the company’s full name, like CNN) or an anagram (drawing on the first few letters of each word of the corporate name, as in FedEx, which stands for Federal Express).
Businesses with rather long names often use monogram logos for brand identification purposes—IBM and NASA are examples.
Lettermarks are also great when you need to create a visual link between subsidiaries and parent companies.
The brandmark (also called pictorial mark or logomark)
The iconic Apple logo and the Twitter bird are probably the first images that come to mind when you think ‘logo’—and they belong to the brandmark category. A brandmark symbol is an icon—which is often an abstract geometric form (think Pepsi’s logo) and don’t usually include the name of the company.
The symbol depicted can be a play on the name, highlight an aspect of the product or service the business sells, or evoke an emotion.
This types of logotypes allow you to create something truly unique and can be very effective for global brands in areas where a company’s name may not translate well. They are most appropriate for established brands with strong brand recognition.
The combination mark
A combination mark is a logo comprised of a wordmark or lettermark and an icon.
Combination marks are perfect for startups and small businesses whose name may be distinctive but not yet widely recognised.
This format offers the flexibility of using the standalone mark in some of its applications, and it might allow for the logotype to be dropped further down the line once the brand has gained traction.
Its elements—the icon and text—can be laid out side-by-side, stacked on top of each other, or integrated together to create an image. Burger King, Adidas, Airbnb and McDonald are examples of iconic logotypes. Combination marks are usually easier to trademark than a pictorial mark alone.
An emblem logo consists of the company’s name embedded within a symbol or an icon. It can have a classic style and convey traditional appearance—think government agencies seals, universities crests and car manufacturer’s logos as some examples.
Because the name and symbol are rigidly entwined, and the format often carries more intricacy of detail, emblem logos can be less versatile than the types mentioned above.
Some companies, however, have effectively created modernised versions of emblems for their logo design to fit the 21st century—Starbucks’ iconic badge is an excellent example of emblem logo that works well in the modern age and can adapt to different scales and applications.