Logos in the form of words or letters have natural properties that make them visually effective: (see also logos article)

  • Good recognition
  • Good descriptiveness
  • Good presence

Tip: When designing a logo, carefully consider the merits of text-only, and whether a pictorial symbol is likely to add value.

Good recognition

Words clearly denote meaning, as they require hardly little mental interpretation, even compared to iconic symbols. Our brains are used to picking out and interpreting strong words, as they do so hundreds of times every day.

Good descriptiveness

When the whole logo is a meaningful word, the whole logo carries meaning. This is very economical, with a high ratio of visual activity to value.

Good presence

Standalone text naturally fills all the space it occupies. Also, remember fonts are designed with visually consistent weight and contrast, meaning much of the work to make your design visually consistent has already been done for you.

Powerful for new brands

These logotypes have a lot to offer new brands, mainly for their high recognition factor.

Excellent logo from www.everythingadmin.co.uk/

A great example of a text-based logo from a new brand. Says it simply, and with quality.

Established brands can fall back on iconic symbols (e.g. McDonalds' golden arches / Halifax's 'X' / Blue Cross-Blue Shield's emblem / British Airways' ribbon), as they have invested a lot of time and money behind putting those icons in place.

New brands can not have that much time and money invested from day one, so it is hard to make a symbol carry much value for the consumer. In these situations the natural meaning in words can be very helpful. A brand identity can always be redesigned at a later date, introducing a new icon (e.g. BT-Cellnet's herald).

What's wrong with symbols?

There's nothing wrong with symbols as logos. The McDonald's M, Nike's swoosh and Apple's apple are all powerful icons, which can stand alone. But they only have meaning because of our long experience with those brands.

For new brands, or re-designed brands that don't have high existing visibility in their markets, symbolic logos can be weaker than word-based logos, because they do not have the natural characteristics described above.

On the other hand, symbols can be powerful when they are iconic, i.e. they make use of established signs that represent something the viewer already knows and understands.

Iconic symbols are effective cognitive shortcuts: such as scales representing justice, house representing the home and family, umbrella representing protection etc.


Many of the most established brands use either a text-based logotype alone, or a text logo and symbol logo that can be used independently (e.g. Nike and Apple).

All logos are the trademarks and copyright of their respective owners, and are represented here for purposes of education.


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