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Logos & Identity

This chapter is from the book

How to Design a Wordmark

  • A wordmark is a logo without pictures, and it’s hard to believe it’s so easy!.

A logo without symbols or pictures is called a wordmark, and it is easier to make than any other kind. Wordmarks are the most widely used of all logos: In fact, many of the largest companies use them.

Like any logo, a wordmark is a symbol of something. Before you begin, take time to consider what that something is. What is the company you are trying to represent? Is it a thing or a person? Does it manufacture a product or provide a service? Who is its market? You want these answers because as you work, you’ll find the lure of new and interesting graphics can lead you into blind alleys—it’s easy to wind up with an enchanting logo that has little to do with the company’s actual needs. The more you know about the company, therefore, the less likely you’ll wander.

In this article, we’ll design a wordmark for Berington Insurance. The principles demonstrated here can be applied to any logo.

1 Select a Typeface

In a wordmark, typestyle plays the key role. Your first step is to fish one from an ocean of choices. Some guidelines:

When set in type, a name sends an explicit and implicit message. The explicit is what’s actually said; in this case, Berington Insurance. The implicit is in how it’s dressed, or the tone of its voice. What you are looking for is the interaction of the two.

Let’s try one:

The implicit message always depends on the context. In this setting, Mr. Berington might be an insurance specialist for military families. To the general public, however, he could be mistaken for a shipping company. Let’s try another:

The chiseled face used here imparts the sense that this guy will be in business for years to come. Now let’s change the explicit message.

Uh-oh. That same reassuring typeface now says something different: This mechanic is going to be very expensive.

That’s what we mean by interaction.

The best way to evaluate type is to set the company name with every font in your library and have a look. You’ll gravitate toward the showier typestyles, so pay attention to the plain ones. Why? They’re often more forceful. For example, Caslon won’t stand out on a page of specimens:

Yet set in uppercase with added letterspacing... looks positively regal, and it carries the clout that befits its stately bearing.

Be aware, too, that a single line of type often does not reveal enough: Its implicit message will be altered by other factors in your design. For example:

is set here in Lithos, a typestyle with funky, Greek, African overtones. This attitude, though, demands funky typesetting. In a specimen catalog, its attributes are very easy to miss.

2 Align the Words

We settled on Odeon Condensed, a super-squished, industrial-grade typestyle, for Berington. Insurance can be set in the same typestyle or another can be selected. Pay attention to the interaction of faces. Usually, you want the words to read as a unit. In this example, you’ll adjust type sizes and make use of your program’s Force justify feature to align both words to the right and left margins. Here are some possibilities:

3 Enclose in a Shape

Now look at your words and evaluate the shape they form (try squinting at the grouping). Next, draw a box around the perimeter of this shape—or part of the shape—and fill. This works with both single- and multiple-word logos. Here are three approaches:

4 Add and Align Rules

Rules add the polish and give your logo style. Because they emphasize structure, they can draw attention to the company name. Sometimes, you’ll use rules simply for decoration.

When adding rules, always align them in some way with the type of graphic shape. This is not only neater, it also unifies type and shape into a single powerful logo.

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Last Update: November 17, 2020