Logos come in all shapes, sizes, and formats. Use this quick guide to master logo terminology and learn about the most common logo forms.
A wordmark is the custom design of a brand name. It includes the exact typeface, color, letter spacing, and arrangement of a word. The whole design is wrapped up in the typography, the nuanced handling of the letters only without additional symbols or graphics. Wordmarks can also be called logotypes, emphasis on type.
The benefit of a wordmark is that it features the full name of your company or organization so it cultivates clear brand recognition. This can be especially important for small businesses and nonprofit organizations that haven’t yet built a large following. But using a wordmark as your primary logo can be difficult if you have a particularly long or difficult to pronounce business name.
A brandmark is a symbol that represents a brand without the accompanying name. The world’s most recognizable companies use brandmarks because they’re so well-known that a symbol is sufficient. You don’t need to read a company name of the back of your Mac to know it’s an Apple product. That oh-so-sleek nibbled fruit tells you all you need to know.
Brandmarks, also called iconic logos or logomarks, are useful for small business, too. Sometimes space just isn’t available for your full wordmark. Brandmarks are also useful for internal communications or when you want to be subtler with your branding. Many companies use a brandmark as one part of a greater logo family.
A lettermark is like a logo’s monogram. It’s the design of a brand’s initials only. Sports teams often use lettermarks as part of their greater branding systems. Think of the Yankees and the classic NY on their hats. Universities are referred to by their initials more often than their full names, so these institutions also need a recognizable lettermark.
A lettermark can be useful if you have a long name or are more commonly known as an acronym. International House of Pancakes is quite a mouthful when you’re discussing where to grab stuffed French toast at 2 a.m. By using a lettermark logo, the 24-hour breakfast chain found a place in our hearts and bellies as IHOP. Most people don’t know HBO stands for “Home Box Office,” so it would be silly for the movie channel to use that full name in its primary logo.
While a wordmarks, brandmarks, and lettermarks can operate separately, they can also appear “locked together” as a lockup. This is the exact arrangement of the individual pieces to create a new whole. Lockups can also be made from a main logo and a department name or a logo and slogan.
Businesses often use a lockup, sometimes called a combination logo, as their primary identifying mark. The trick is to find the best combination of visual appeal and clear communication while meeting the restrictions of any specific application.
What type of logo do I need?
Deciding on a logo format is all about the application. Will you be printing your logo on bumper stickers? Creating billboards? Starting a viral marketing campaign? Do you need to communicate more with external customers or internal employees and volunteers? You may need a collection of wordmark, brandmark, lettermark, and various lockups to meet your needs.