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How Does a Wordmark Differ From a Logo?

written by: Amber Neely•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 4/16/2012

If you have ever heard the term wordmark, you might have been confused. What exactly sets a wordmark apart from a logo? Are they entirely different, or do they share some of the same qualities? Find out exactly what a wordmark is and how using one can help your businesses grow.

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    If you have heard the term wordmark, you might have been confused. What sets a wordmark apart from a logo? Are they entirely different, or do they share some of the same qualities? Learn what a wordmark is and how they can help businesses with their unique qualities. It might sound a little confusing, but we'll make more sense of it a bit further down on this page. Keep reading to learn why wordmarks differ from the standard idea of a logo, as well as why they are rapidly becoming one of the more effective methods for product branding by increasing the ability for a company to be recognized.

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    What is a Logo?

    Pictorial Logo 

    One of the first steps in understanding the differences between a logo and a wordmark is to understand what a logo actually is. A logo is a graphic or emblem used by a business, company, organization or even sometimes individuals. The purpose of a logo is to help people remember a service or brand offered. They can be as simple as the company name itself, as elaborate as a graphic and everything in between. These are also an effective form of mass communication, as several logos, such as Apple's apple - probably one of the best examples of a picture-based logo (or a pictorial mark) - are known worldwide at just a glance.

    Logos have been around for thousands of years, from signs denoting the local blacksmith to government seals, coats of arms and more. Pictorial logos were commonly used to denote buildings and products to people who did not have the ability to read, rather like a functional picture book. Text was incorporated as education began to become the standard for all citizens, ushering in new types of logos. As typography began to evolve and change, logos only seemed to become more important. With graphic design becoming a critical part in everyday advertising, logos are increasingly recognizable and even more critical to a company’s success.

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    What are Wordmarks?

    Wordmark 

    We have established that a wordmark is a logo, but not every logo is a wordmark. How does this work? The number one difference between logos and wordmarks is that wordmarks are text-based logos. These types of logos are completely devoid of extra pictures, meaning that logos such as Pepsi and MasterCard are not wordmarks, since these logos contain images as well. You can probably think of several examples of wordmarks off the top of your head, but some of the most famous are FedEx, Coca-Cola and even world-famous Google. These are all examples of highly successful and easily recognizable wordmarks that are easily identified with around the world.

    Why would someone use wordmarks over something like a pictorial graphic? It ties into the fact that they are a more direct type of branding. When you provide just a picture, such as Joomla's logo, you have to have faith that a person can learn the association between a picture and a name and service, keeping them separate from other pictorial logos. Imagine if all of our favorite brands and companies were only identified by a simple graphic. We would have hundreds or even thousands of these little pictures to remember. Trying to keep them straight would become very confusing!

    When providing a wordmark, such as Google, you provide a name while still providing a recognizable image for the viewer. Wordmarks are becoming the standard when it comes to designing logos, as it has been observed by some studies that they are more effective than their pictorial counterparts are.

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    How Can Wordmarks Stand Out?

    While relying only on text might seem a bit limiting, it is not as constraining as you may think. Using interesting fonts, recognizable color combinations or interesting interpretations of typography, you can create a very effective logo. Everyone knows the curly font of Coca Cola’s wordmark, the blocky font of FedEx's wordmark and the primary colors of the Google wordmark. Of course, some companies such as LG have managed to turn their company’s logos into a combination of both text and pictorial elements, with their very familiar LG face. When designing a wordmark, it is very important to remember that you want to stand out while focusing on key factors such as readability. After all, creating a wordmark that looks like chicken scratch is likely to confuse your readers even more than just a simple picture-based logo.

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    Resources

    Meggs, Philip B. (1998). A History of Graphic Design (Third ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. p. 58

    White, Alexander W. The Elements of Graphic Design: Space, Unity, Page Architecture, and Type. Allworth: 2002

    Wheeler, Alina. Designing Brand Identity: A Complete Guide to Creating, Building, and Maintaining Strong Brands. Wiley: 2006

    Image Credits:

    All images are licensed under the Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License

    UXCampSeoul logo design by Nam-ho Park

    Mubeca logo by Fran Fillena