There are some logos so distinctive you immediately recognize them. Think of Nike’s swish or the Coca-Cola script. Let’s do a thought exercise: think of ice cream. What does the carton look like?
Perhaps you’re picturing a company logo, like that of Ben & Jerry’s—an instantly recognizable brand, thanks to its distinctive font and fun, playful design. The logo has helped to make Ben & Jerry's one of the most well-known ice cream companies in the world.
Maybe you want to create a logo that’s as eye-catching and memorable as the Ben & Jerry’s logo? That’s a moonshot goal. Still, we can get close! Here’s what you need to know about logos before you dive into designing one for your business.
What is a logo?
A logo is a graphic representation of a company’s name, trademark, or other identifying information. It is often used on things like letterheads, business cards, product packaging, websites, online shops, and on the front of company stores.
Logos can be simple or complex, but they should always be identifiable to your customers (or potential customers). Many companies have multiple versions of their logo to fit different needs. For example, a horizontal version for use on a website and a vertical version for use on stationery. Some logos are merely the company’s initials, while others incorporate symbols or images.
The best logos are those that are simple and memorable: think of Amazon’s a-to-z arrow or McDonald’s golden arches. Both are instantly recognizable logos that have come to represent their respective brands—so much so that the companies often don’t need to include their name alongside the logo.
Six types of logos
Here are six of the most common types of logos to help you come up with some logo ideas for your business.
Emblems are a type of logo that closely resemble crests, the symbols traditionally used in Europe to represent different (often powerful or rich) families. Emblems are more traditional in design and usually combine symbolic imagery as well as words, like the name of the company. They’re most often used by schools and universities (think: Harvard’s logo), but are also popular with auto companies and other groups that want to lend a sense of gravitas to their brand.
A well-known emblem logo is the beer brand Stella Artois, which is red and gold, centers around the brand name, and has a border that represents gold filigree on an oil painting.
A logotype is a text-based logo that uses the name of a company, usually in a unique typeface, to represent a company or product. They’re sometimes called “wordmarks” because the term “logotype” is derived from the Greek words “logos” and “typos,” which together mean “word mark.”
Logotypes can be created using a variety of typefaces, graphic elements, and colors. In order to be effective, a logotype must be simple and easy to remember. It should also be able to convey the essence of the company or brand it represents.
Coca-Cola’s famous logo is an excellent example of a logotype. The company used its name to create an instantly recognizable graphic that is now known throughout the world.
3. Pictorial marks
Pictorial marks are simple, clear graphics that represent a brand. Unlike logotypes—featuring the name of the company in a stylized font—pictorial marks are displayed without any accompanying text. This means they need to be immediately recognizable and distinctive enough to stand on their own.
Think of Apple’s apple logo, which is an instantly recognizable pictorial mark for the tech company. It’s simple, clear, and can be used on anything from business cards to billboards to marketing materials without losing its impact.
A lettermark is a type of business logo that uses letters—usually the initials of a company or individual—to create a unique and memorable symbol. Lettermarks are often used by businesses whose name is difficult to spell or pronounce, or when a company wants to create a more modern image. That’s because, unlike logotypes, lettermarks usually use one or two letters and not the whole name.
The luxury brand Louis Vuitton uses a lettermark—LV—on almost all of its products. Other luxury brands that use lettermarks as their logos include Diane Von Furstenberg and Chanel. Lettermarks are highly versatile and can be used in a variety of contexts, from print to digital media to direct placement on a product.
5. Mascot logos
A mascot logo is a type of logo that features a character or animal that represents a unique brand identity. This can be anything from a cartoon character to a real-life animal.
With a mascot, it’s important it is easily recognizable and represents the values of the brand and the brand personality. For example, if a brand is trying to convey a message of fun and approachability, then a cute and cuddly mascot would be a good choice. On the other hand, if the brand is trying to convey strength and power, then a more intimidating mascot would be a better choice.
Ultimately, the goal of a mascot logo is to create an immediate association between the character and the brand, which can help to increase brand awareness and loyalty. The friendly, smiling creature made from tires and known as the Michelin Man is a versatile mascot seen not just at mechanic shops where the brand’s tires are sold, but also on the doors and windows of some of the world’s best restaurants, which are also reviewed by the company.
6. Combination logos
A combination logo is a type of logo that combines elements of both text and imagery. The most common type of combination logo features a wordmark, or text-only logo, paired with a pictorial mark or symbol. This type of logo is often used by businesses that want to communicate both their name and their brand identity.
Delta Air Lines uses a combination logo with an interpretation of the Greek letter delta (a triangle) pointing up, with the word “Delta” underneath (or beside). Not only is the pictorial portion of the logo indicative of the company’s name, but it also points up, representing what that company does (flies planes) and where it operates (above, in the skies).
Five tips for creating a good logo
Logo creation doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, you can probably create a great logo on your own, without any design experience. Here are some tips for creating a good logo.
1. Figure out your brand
The most important part of logo design is determining what your brand stands for. Is it silly? Serious? Hip? Take some time with your team, if you have one, to answer some fundamental questions about your company. Ask yourself: What drove you to start this company? What are your values? What makes you stand out from the competition? And who are your customers?
Answering those questions will get you on a good path toward figuring out your company’s logo.
2. Play with different types and do some research
Play around with different types of logos for your company and different versions of them. Your logo might go through hundreds of iterations before you land on one that fits. Look at logos past and present—there are so many logos out there already—you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel. You can draw inspiration from other companies’ logos, both in your industry and outside of it, to help you get started. Do your best to not copy another company’s logo, though, as that is a form of copyright infringement.
3. Pick your colors
Drawing on both your previously determined brand identity and your research, it’s time to pick the colors that best represent your company and what you do. For example, many eco-conscious brands choose to use blues and greens in their logos, in order to represent the Earth. Similarly, a logo for a children'’ brand might use bright colors to attract a child’s eyes.
4. Choose the right typeface
Not all logos have words in them, but if yours does, then you’re going to need to choose a typeface. Pick something that’s easy to read, scales well, and can be reproduced in multiple formats (remember: this might be on a tiny bottle, a billboard, or a computer screen).
5. Shop it around
Show your logo to different people and get their reactions. Ask them open-ended questions like, “What does it bring to mind?” or “What does it make you think of?” You can also ask specific questions, such as, ”Do you like these colors?” or “Which parts do you hate?” Try to get feedback from a variety of different people, not just your friends and family—if possible, you can arrange focus groups with those in your market demographic to get a clearer picture of how your logo resonates with the people who will likely be buying your product.
Five popular online logo makers
There are many online logo makers to choose from that will help you design a logo yourself with few design skills. Some are free, while others charge a fee. All have different features, pros, and cons.
1. Shopify’s free logo maker
Shopify’s free logo maker includes hundreds of logo templates and doesn’t require any design experience to get started. In addition to easy-to-create logos, it also offers social media assets and is available even if you don’t use Shopify as an ecommerce platform. The potential downside is that, because it works with templates, the customization is more limited than if you worked with a professional designer.
Canva is a user-friendly graphic design app that provides a bit more freedom to create and customize your logo. Its templates make it a good option if you have some design experience. Canva offers free plans, and paid plans with more features starting at $12.99 per month.
LogoMaker is another free logo design creator that uses logo templates to help you create a custom logo design. LogoMaker is not a free platform—a $40 payment is required to purchase your final results, which include multiple file formats so you can easily use your logo on a variety of items, like marketing materials or t-shirts, or online.
Squarespace offers a free logo maker that uses a vast database of icons to help you create custom logos for your company. The logos are easy to integrate with Squarespace sites, but customization is extremely limited, which makes it difficult to create unique and eye-catching logos.
5. Wix Logo Maker
The Wix Logo Maker starts with a series of questions and then uses AI (artificial intelligence) to generate detailed logo designs based on your answers. It then lets you customize the options that it presents, using its database of icons. It’s a good option if you already have some idea of what you’re looking for in a logo and are prepared to customize it. However, it may not be the best choice if you’re looking for a logo generator.
Logo design FAQ
Can I design a logo myself?
Yes, you can design a logo yourself. There are both free logo makers and paid logo generators online to help you create a unique logo.
What software can I use to create a logo?
There are many online logo makers you can use to create a logo, including Shopify’s free logo maker, Wix Logo Maker, Canva, and others. You can also use professional design software like Adobe Creative Cloud, but it will cost more than online options.
What is the best place to make a logo for free?
Shopify offers a free logo maker that includes hundreds of templates and doesn’t require any design experience to get started.