Hand-lettered, symbolic & typographic logos – How to choose the best for you

Published by Nela Dunato on at 08:14 in Branding, Graphic design

Logos come in different shapes and types, and choosing the right one for your business can seem like an overwhelming task.

An experienced designer can suggest the best type of logo for your business, but a lot of logo designers specialize in one type, so you may need to narrow down your choices even before you’ve decided to hire a designer.

Hand-lettered, symbolic & typographic logos – How to choose the best for you

Here are the 3 types of logos, and how to decide which one’s the best fit for your business, product, music band or creative project.

Typographic logos

The simplest type of logo is based on pre-existing fonts. Fonts have different styles and “personalities”, and the main part in creating a typographic logo is selecting a typeface that most closely matches the company’s values and qualities.

In some cases, the individual letterforms may be tweaked or reshaped to create a more interesting visual, or a better composition. Just using the font “out of the box” is not enough.

Logo designs based on Helvetica font
All these logos are created using the Helvetica font

A typographic logo can be set in a linear fashion, with words written in a single line left-to-right (or right-to-left), which is the most common composition. Letters may also be arranged in a circle, in a square grid, or overlap each other. If this fits the brand, letters may also be arranged in a more random fashion, which is especially the case with fun and playful brands aimed at children.

While subtle details may be added to a typographic logo to add symbolism or to make it more unique, graphics are not at the essence of this type of logos.

Typographic logo design by Nela Dunato
The original font Days has been tweaked to get a more sci-fi look, and the letters SF are highlighted in a heart

When to choose a typographic logo

While most typographic logos are simple, if the font is chosen carefully, they can make for some very elegant and evergreen design solutions.

Here are some indicators that a typographic logo may be right for your project:

  • You want to keep things super simple.
  • You’re testing the waters with your product or service, and don’t want to commit to a brand just yet.
  • Your company name or core values are difficult to communicate through imagery.
  • You don’t expect to be using the logo as an app icon or printed on products.

I may be biased toward other types of logos, but I want to be clear that typographic logos are not worse than the others. They may be simpler, but if that happens to fit the brand, it's all good.

Symbolic logos

Visual symbols have a powerful effect on the human psyche—research has shown that we remember images more easily than written words. Our first written languages were based on images, and letters evolved from the drawings over the millennia. We were drawing long before we learned how to write.

Wild Moon Spirit logo
Transformation of a woman into a wild wolf is easily communicated through a symbol

A single illustration can be used to communicate a complex, specific message that can be absorbed and understood in less time than it would take to read a written description. Symbols overcome language barriers, and can be used internationally to communicate the same idea.

“Our research found that separate visual symbols used as logos tend to be more effective than brand names at creating a sense of emotional connection with consumers.”

Some visual symbols rely on shared cultural connotations, while others are created specifically for the client, and it’s the designer’s job to create the meaning.

Symbolic logos may be based on geometric shapes, abstract motives, or figurative motives (such as natural objects, body parts, human-made artifacts etc.). Symbols may also be developed from letter shapes or monograms.

Logo symbol development
Logo symbol development for the company MATDAT

Symbols are usually combined with a typographic wordmark to form a logo, and they can use different compositions to enable different applications. Symbols may also be used on their own when there’s no room to fit in the wordmark (like app icons and social media avatars).

When to choose a symbol-based logo

Symbols and icons can have great versatility and impact. Here are some signs that a symbolic logo is a good idea for your business:

  • It’s important that your logo is memorable and familiar to people, even if they forget the company or product name (for example, “That handmade soap brand with a bee logo”).
  • Your company name or core values are easily communicated through simple imagery.
  • You plan on creating merchandise featuring your logo, or the logo will be prominent on the items you sell. (Symbols are less obtrusive and more visually attractive than wordmarks.)
  • You have or plan to build a mobile app so you’ll need an icon. (Read why differentiation in mobile app icons is important).

Hand-lettered logos

Hand-lettering is an art form that involves drawing unique letterforms and words. It’s similar to calligraphy, but while calligraphy is the act of writing letters in a single stroke, hand-lettering is the act of drawing. Letters are usually sketched first, refined, and then traced in a digital graphics software. (See the example of my hand-lettered logo design process.)

Hand-lettered logo design for the band Komfor by Nela Dunato

Such logos are often expressive, and sometimes illustrative. Letter shapes and drawings may be combined in any manner to form very unique designs.

Hand-lettering is often associated with the entertainment industry, but I’ve seen it applied in a wide variety of industries, including IT and finances.

Hand-lettered logo design for Savarakatini by Nela Dunato

Another application of hand-lettering is using the business owner’s handwriting as a logo. In that case, a designer can take the existing signature and make slight adaptations, or a hand-lettering artist may develop the signature entirely on their own.

When to choose a hand-lettered logo

Hand-lettering provides great opportunities for making a statement with your brand. Here’s how to know if a hand-lettered logo is the right choice for you:

  • You want the letters in your logo to be more illustrative and represent a concept.
  • You want the letters intertwined with a graphic element, which requires a lot of customizing.
  • Other companies in your niche use a certain aesthetic that you want as well, but you’d rather avoid using the same fonts as them. (I’m looking at you, Malisia Script and Sophia.)
  • Your company name is based on your name, and you want a logo that looks organic and unique like a signature (even if it’s not your actual signature).
  • You have a certain character of the logo in mind, and you simply can’t find a font that has that specific combination of qualities.
  • You have a metal band—seriously, no self-respecting metal band uses a regular font.
  • You need a logo that looks good on clothing and products.

So, which one will it be for you?

If you already know what you want your new logo to be, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Because of my background in art and illustration, I’ve specialized in hand-lettered and symbolic logos, which require drawing skills, precision and patience to get right, and the results are always unique.

If you’d like to collaborate on your new brand, check out my services page for more information, and contact me so we can chat about your plans.

Nela
Nela Dunato

About Nela Dunato

I run a boutique design consultancy that helps creative businesses evolve into premium brands and connect with their dream clients, by crafting extraordinary visual experiences.

On this blog I write about art, design, creativity, business, productivity and marketing, and share my creative process and tips. Read more about me...



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