Logo styles can be divided into five basic categories: wordmarks, lettermarks, brandmarks, combination marks and emblems. In this post, we explain how each of them is defined, give some famous examples, and explain when and why you should use them.

(Note: it’s arguable that not all logos fit neatly and cleanly into these five categories. But that’s not really a problem, as long as you think of them less as a rigid system and more as a way of getting you thinking.)

01. Wordmark

The Mobil logo was designed by Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv in 1964

A wordmark – also known as word mark or logotype – is in many ways the simplest type of logo, casting the company’s name in text alone. They may be based on handwriting, signatures, custom fonts or (less common) existing fonts.

Famous examples include the logos for Coca-Cola, Disney, Mobil, Canon, Sony, Visa, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Pinterest.

For big brands, the simplicity of a type-only logo can convey a sense of confidence, history and stability. However, the wordmark can also be a good choice for a startup, as it contains the company’s full name and helps to make it known.

Once that name has become ubiquitous, though, it’s often the case that brand or company will switch to a…

02. Lettermark

The CNN logo was designed by the late Anthony Guy Bost in 1980

Also known as a monogram logo, a lettermark logo is again made of text, but based on the initials of the company or brand, rather than its full name. Famous examples include the logos for Cable News Network (CNN), Home Box Office (HBO), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Procter & Gamble (P&G), and Electronic Arts (EA).

As these examples suggest, a lettermark is a good choice for a company whose name is difficult to pronounce, or too long to work as a logo in most media. This is an especially important consideration when it will need to shrink down to tiny sizes on mobile devices, for example.

Shortening a long company name to initials will also make it easier for your audience to remember your logo and name, especially in global markets.

The challenge with both lettermarks and wordmarks, however, is to make them distinctive enough visually that they become instantly recognisable. That’s less of an issue when it comes to designing a…