Wordmark vs. Symbol vs. Combination Mark

What’s the difference and is one better than the other?

 

Before we get into why you might choose one logo category over the other, let’s quickly define what makes up each.

 

Wordmark

Wordmarks are made using only type. This branch of logo uses only the company or product name as the brand. There is no additional imagery to support the type.

 
Pictured: Twitter, Olympics, Target

Pictured: Twitter, Olympics, Target

Symbols

A symbol uses only an icon or imagery as the brand. There is no type to go along with the symbol.

 
Pictured: Arts Engage, Mastercard, Photoshoot, Adidas, Venture London, Dropbox

Combination Mark

As you might guess, a combination mark is a mix of both. It uses both a symbol and type to support the symbol (or vice versa).

 

So why would a company choose to use one category of logo over another? There are a few considerations that can help guide you.  

Pictured: Apple, Nike

Pictured: Apple, Nike

Businesses and designers alike are often drawn to the iconic feel of the symbol, but symbols are rarely used by themselves without the company having first invested heavily in brand recognition. If you see Apple’s “apple” or the Nike Swoosh alone, you instantly know what brand that is, but those companies have worked for decades to earn that brand recognition. Without that work, you may see that apple as just an apple.

By contrast, wordmarks tell rather than showing. They work well for companies with distinctive or descriptive names, or for new or growing companies that are trying to build recognition. For longer names or global businesses, though, the brand might not come through effectively in a wordmark. 

A combination mark, on the other hand, can bring the best of both worlds to the right brand. Adding imagery can sometimes tell the audience more about the company or product and add value to the brand. But remember not to add something simply for the sake of adding more. Putting together symbols and type that don't make sense can confuse your audience and hurt your brand.

The answer to the question of whether one category of logo is better than the other? No... and yes. Choosing between having only a wordmark or including a symbol will depend on what your logo needs to say (and to whom). While there may be no simple yes or no answer to which type a company should pick, you can ask yourself a few questions to help make a more informed decision:

  • Is a symbol going to convey something that can’t be shown with a wordmark alone? 
  • Does having only a wordmark express enough about your brand? 
  • Is your company name too long for a wordmark to effectively convey your brand? 
  • Does your company name translate well to a global audience? 
  • Do you have a plan (and a budget) to help communicate the meaning behind a symbol? 
 

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Designer Kevin Vansteenkiste helping you understand the differences in logo types and what to think about when working on your own brand.

 

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