When clients ask me to design a logo for their business I always start with this discussion of what kind of “logo” they need. A “logo” is often made of a logotype and a logomark. But not every business needs both.
A logotype stands for words or the name of a business that is designed in a customized way.
A logomark is an identifying mark or symbol that doesn’t contain the business name, like a drawing or image that represents the business.
Usually when using the word “logo” people are thinking of logotype. A logotype is the name of a company that is designed in a visually unique way for use by that company. It may be displayed in a preexisting font that is customized to some degree or another. Or it may be built from geometric shapes that abstract letters for a specific effect. There can be other specifications associated with the design of a logotype that are referred to more broadly as corporate identity elements. These include PMS colors and how much empty space is required around a logo.
It’s not necessarily needed to use a symbol or icon to effectively create a good logo, and that is the idea behind logotypes. When it is done correctly, using only typography to create a logo can be an extremely effective branding weapon. What normally happens is that this form of logo uses a special typeface and letter styling, which becomes associated with a brand.
A logomark or “symbol” does not generally contain the name of the company — it more abstractly represents that company. It may or may not always sit next to the logotype and there may be a few types of marks in the corporate identity system that get used in different contexts. These rules will be spelled out in a brand usage document.
Logomarks can be very useful, because they can enhance brand identity. It can help consumers identify what your business is about, especially if your logomark is a pictorial representation, such as a having camera for a photographer. They can be used as consistent graphic elements on marketing materials, wearables, and signage. A logomark can sometimes be more identifiable than a logotype, such as the apple symbol for Apple Inc.
Do I need a logomark?
How to decide if you need both a logotype and a logomark? It depends on how you will use your logo and what business sector you are in. Designing a logomark can add a significant cost to your brand development process so budget can be a factor too. Some new businesses will start simple and add a mark after the business grows and perhaps gains more (or sometimes less – meaning broader) focus.
It’s important for all logos to remain equally readable at each zoom/ scale level. You may not be buying a giant billboard but printing a logo a few inches across on a brochure is a much higher resolution environment than on a website.