With so many different types of logos present in today’s world, how do you know what type of logo your client is asking for, or needs? Something I learned a long time ago in one of my very first graphic design classes is that all logos fall within one of three basic categories: Descriptive, Symbolic, or Typographic Marks.

Descriptive Marks

ups logo on tail fin

When you need to get right to the point you may want to consider a descriptive logo/mark. Descriptive marks use imagery that relates to the product or service being offered – like including a package in the design of a parcel delivery company. As an aside, I still have no idea why UPS decided to go from the Rand Paul beauty, proudly perched above on the tail fin of a Boeing 747, to the generic swoopy version of today.

Symbolic Marks

Shell Logo Sketches - Raymond Loewy

Symbolic marks one-up their descriptive counterparts by incorporating some sort of  symbolism. Sometimes hidden or implied, such as the arrow in the FedEx logo. Often the symbology is very literal. These symbols, figurative or literal, can be used to convey the client’s mission, beliefs, etc. By the way, do you notice the grid in Raymond Loewy’s sketches for the Shell logo above?

Typographic Marks

coca cola logo painted on a wall

Often times, letterforms are the prominent design element in a logo. These solutions should include graphic organization or play with letter relationships to enhance its look. Often times, these logos are hand lettered giving them a unique and timeless quality.

If you keep these three basic classifications in mind it may be easier to figure out what your client is after or at least give you a starting point.