Icons VS Logotypes

What’s the difference?

There are two different types of logos that many people are familiar with. Logotypes or word marks like the coca-cola logo, they use a really beautiful word mark to put on their products, and icons like the apple logo, which is the most common example. When people simply just look at the icon, they would think of apple and its products.

So we have two choices when it comes to logo design, word marks or icons? Let’s break it down to how memorable they can be, how effective when it comes to recognition and how it communicates the personality of the brand.

Let’s start with how memorable a type of logo can be. In terms of how memorable they are, icon triumphs over logotypes.

A logo should be recognizable at a glance

When we see a picture of something that associates with something, we can internalise it much faster and associate it with the company or business whereas it takes longer for us to be able to process a logo type since we have to read the name of the company. Sure, it takes only about a millisecond longer to recognize a logotype compared to an icon, but that milisecond is important. The shorter the time people need to recognize your logo, the better.

A good practice for logo designers to come up with a logo is to show other people like friends or family your logo and ask them to redraw it on a fresh new piece of paper. If they could get the general gist of it, they would definitely be able to draw something that is similar to the logo that they just saw.

So give them a few seconds only to take a look at the logo and internalise it, and straight away give them something to redraw it on. They would naturally be able to redraw icons better than a logotype because you won’t necessarily be able to draw letters very well if you just started and your brother asked you to draw a logotype all of a sudden. It’s quite interesting the things that people come up with when you ask then to draw a logotype when they’ve only seen it for a couple of times.

Unless they are a hand letterer themselves, you wouldn’t necessarily get a good recall from them of the logo. So, difference of how memorable logos are, it depends. Some people can internalise logotypes faster than icons and vice versa because a factor that plays apart as well is how long or how many times they’ve seen a particular logo before. So there’s not actually a winner in this situation.

The next characteristic we’re going to be looking at is how effective is it when it comes to recognition. How long does it take for a person to recognise a logo? To put it simply, people can recognise an icon much faster than a logotype.

However, this boils down to the simplicity of the logo. Many hand lettering artists who specialise in logotypes only use one style for all of their logos for clients and it is just difficult to differentiate them due to the similar styles and aesthetics. That is really something to avoid, you wouldn’t want to do the same thing for all of your clients, they would think that they just got a carbon copy or imitation of another person which is a previous client’s logo. You wouldn’t want that to happen. Always think about the goals of the business and how effective your solution is for the business to achieve its goals.

Last thing is how it communicates the personality of the brand. This is not just the physicality of the logo that matters but the color of the logo plays a very big part as well. Not only should the colour be versatile for various mediums (a logo should work on various different background colours in case products have different colours) but the colour should also effectively communicate what the bran d is all about. So if you are a logo designer, you should take a look at the questionnaire answer where the client talks about the business’s colours and why they use those colours.

Also take a look at their goals to further clarify and understand the true meaning of their colours and from that you can help your client communicate the business’s message very well. Colours are really important for a logo design.

Often for minimalistic designs, the colour of the logo is very matt and not very hot. The reason being is that you want the colours to actually somehow blend in with the background. Now I know that this sounds counter-intuitive but to make the colours matte and really soft communicates that the brand is really modern and new.

Almost everything nowadays is minimalistic

From products to different companies like google and youtube. If your logo has really hot colours, then it might appear as really obnoxious and just wants the attention of others. This would come across really bad for the brand perception. The timeless characteristic of the logo plays a huge role in this one because hot colours feels outdated, it just doesn’t fit in the era that we live in right now, everyone is looking at screens more than 70% of our day. A logo with hot colours would just stick out like a sore thumb.

I’ve only touched on the colors of the brand, well let’s take a look at the shape of the logo and how smooth it is, how the shape influences the feeling people have when they look at it.

Typefaces in logotypes communicate 80% of the entire logo

What typeface you use for your logo is very important. A serif typeface would look professional, a san serif typeface would look friendly and approachable, a slab-serif typeface would come up as rugged and tough, and a script serif would come up as elegant and lady like due to the curvature of each individual letter.

However, hand letterers are great when it comes to designing their own typeface because they create their own typefaces.They have a competitive edge because

Hand lettered logo types have the humanness to it

Since it looks organic and there is a sense of craftsmanship towards it, it would stand out from all the other different logos and it would be more memorable. In this world that we’re living in, people are exposed to information in text every day of our lives, from our phones to television to our computer. Stumbling upon a hand made logo gives a really relieving feeling of change. From all the digital fonts that they are exposed with, finally they see something different for once. So what do you think will resonate more? A hand lettered custom logo or a logo that uses a standard typeface?

These are just some of the differences between word marks and icons. So which one should I pick for my business? A word mark or an icon? Well, it depends. Since there are so many factors to consider while deciding, there is no binary answer to decide which one works best. The decision boils down to your goals for your business and your target audience.

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