Amenemhat makes clay pots. Little does he know it, he’s also one of the first logo designers in history, and a decent one at that — sure, it’s not much to marvel at, but it’s functional and delivers the message, the message being that these are the great clay pots by Amenemhat, and not those terrible clay pots by Amenemope.
Be it a simple stamp at the bottom of a clay pot, or an innovative and disruptive abstract mark, your logo is the lynchpin of your whole brand identity. It’s probably your first contact with potential clients, and it’s the first thing people think of when they think about your brand. It needs to communicate your product and your values as much as a single image is able to do that.
- Distinction. A logo separates you from your competitors, and a truly unique logo makes you stand out.
- Memorability. Again, your logo is the first thing people think about when they think about your company — and if your logo is memorable, it stands to reason that they’ll think about your company more.
- Consistency. You have the same logo — or, slight variations on the logo — across your whole product line, unifying your products. Amenemhat makes pots, dishes, mugs and vases, and they all have the exact same stamp.
- Loyalty. We assume the high quality of a product if on it we see the logo of a brand that we trust.
There are three basic types of logos: images, letters, and a combination thereof. There are subtypes to each, and every type of logo could be used in a variety of ways. Your logo should be simple, recognizable, versatile, and memorable. Let’s see how different types achieve those functions and those features.
First Type: Images
The most straightforward way to approach it. The company is named Apple — let’s have an Apple on the logo. A simplified depiction of something tangible, something real, works if your company has a literal name or a solid concept to its branding. However, this is a perilous route to take for a digital product that does something complicated and that can’t be explained this easily.
Examples: Apple, Twitter, Telegram.
Your product is more likely to have a more abstract logo — it’s easier to visualize your metaphor this way, and there are only so many real things in the world that could be reasonably used as logos. But this is complicated — while an abstract logo could greatly invoke a feeling, like the motion of the iconic Nike Swoosh, it could be easily misread. The logo for Spotify is supposed to imply soundwaves, but it’s simplified to such a degree, that when we look at it we might just don’t think twice or see WiFi. On the other hand, let’s consider the logo for Rows — an alternative to Google Tablets, its logo is itself a part of a spreadsheet. It is ingeniously simple while perfectly representing the product and the company’s name.
Examples: Spotify, Rows.
Mascots are usually used for more light-hearted products: an endless amount of cereal mascots, Colonel Sanders, the mustached gentlemen on every can of Pringles whose name happens to be Julius, but they can fit just as well for your digital product.
Examples: TunnelBear, Mailchimp, Duolingo.
A lot of digital products are complicated, and what they need in their branding is exactly what a mascot can provide: some humanization, a touch of levity. You can learn more about effective brandings with mascots in our article on the subject.
Second Type: Words and Letters
The second most straightforward approach to your logo. It might seem deceptively simple, but this simplicity is hard to achieve. To create a memorable logo with only typography alone you’d have to go through tons of typefaces, and then would have to customize the right one to really communicate your brand.
Examples: Uber, Webflow.
If you want typography in your logo, but the name of the company is just too long, strive for simplicity — abbreviations and acronyms greatly lend themselves to more solid, serious logos. In the process, you might find a particular form, like the exemplary logo of Federal Express with its arrow.
Examples: IBM, HBO, FedEx.
Streamlining things even further, you could use just the first letter of the company’s name. It would be extremely complicated to get it right, for a single letter to convey the full message. But if done right, the final result is memorable, and as a bonus, is infinitely adaptable.
Examples: McDonalds, Tilda, Notion.
Third Type: Combination
Mark and text
Best of both worlds requires twice as much work, but as the result, you get both a graphical mark and the company’s name in a recognizable typeface. This versatility can’t be overstated, as it leads to easier adaptation of your logo. However, you need to be careful — neither the graphical mark nor the lettering should outweigh one another, and this balance is hard to achieve.
Examples: Airbnb, Microsoft.
Emblems, inspired by the seals and crests, carry that traditional weight with them and are now barely ever used. Especially in digital products. The difference from a mark and text logo is that emblems have their elements within a classical shape, and the result is all too serious amidst decades-long trends of simplification, streamlining, and flatness. And if you do want to add a classical air to your logo, it’s easier to achieve by using the right serif for the typeface. But there is one big benefit to emblems: they look great as patches on your merch.
Examples: The Old Starbucks Logo, Harley-Davidson.
Adapting Your Logo To Different Formats
The logo is a cornerstone of your identity, and it should be just as flexible. Consider how it could change and adapt to different social media, to your merchandise, to outdoor advertisements, et cetera, all while staying the same. Let’s circle back to the aforementioned Rows, and see how the logo adapts to different platforms (via Focus Lab).