“I want a logo!” With these words every logo design process starts. But this isn’t enough for a designer to develop the new logo for your website. It helps to know what type of logo you want, or, at least, what your preferences are. Here you find the different styles of logos so you can tell your designer what type of logo you prefer.

Logos are not what you think they are

Most people think a logo should include an element that shows exactly what the company is about. If you’re a bakery it should include a picture of bread, if you’re a hairdresser it should include some scissors. This is an old way of thinking about logos, and it’s particularly bad when we talk about logos for more abstract concepts or scientific studies. Usually, the more abstract a company, initiative, or research department is, the more cliché the logo becomes. Can you imagine the Disney logo to include Mickey Mouse and a dalmatian as an icon? Or the Philips logo to include a collection of light bulbs? Or a research study about vaccines including needles and blood in their logo design?

A logo can be just a good font in a color that matches the style guide!

Nowadays, when I design logos for websites, I often do not design an image anymore and forgo the entire logo design process. This is because search engines and screen readers cannot read the text in an image, so they skip the text when browsing a website. This is such a shame. So for one-page websites, or website where I use big gestures, I usually use a very large font for the company name to make it stand out. The benefit is also that this scales very well on mobile, and is legible to everyone (including screen readers and search engines).

Here are two examples where the “logo” is just a font in the corporate style of the website.

Typographic logo

It’s no surprise that most big companies also use the simplest logo type. The easiest and most accessible type of logo is the typographic logo, that only consist of a well-chosen font and color. These logos are the most simple and time-resistant logos. Here are some examples of some typographic logos. If you want to join the big guys, I would advise to go for a simple logo.

Typographic logo with a wink

For a number of years now, the typographic logo with a wink has been very popular. These logos contains a clever pun that will put a smile on your face. This is our personal favorite, because it is stylish and subtle, and it elicits an emotional response.


Letter logo / monogram

Another logo type is the letter logo, or monogram. Does your research have an acronym or abbreviation it uses? In that case a letter logo might be a good option. However, if you’re not a big company, this might not work. I usually prefer writing out your company name.

Combination mark

A combination mark consists of the name of the lab, research group or scientist plus a logo element. It’s the cherry on the cake, and it help make the logo stand out more. One advantage to this is that the element itself also can be used to design elements with on your website or brochure. This is what most people think of when they want a logo. However, I usually separate the element from the text in logos like these, so the logo is more flexible, and can also be used as real text on a website.

Emblem logo

An emblem logo consists of text on a colored background or has a specific shape. Although emblem logos are used by many different companies, you will see them mostly in the hotel and catering industries.

Isolated symbol / icon logo

A logo without any text is only a good idea when you are already well-known and everyone is familiar with your brand. The following logos were formerly combination logos that included text,  and are now so familiar that everyone knows what they stand for and are used without any text.

Choosing to have multiple styles

You can also combine it all, as some companies use several instances of the above logo types. WordPress for example uses a number of variations of the logo according to where they use it (see https://wordpress.org/about/logos/). So you do not always have to choose.  As long as the logo is recognizable as your brand you can vary the types in your displays.

Flexible identity

Flexible identity is a relatively recent development. It is a logo or corporate identity style design that can easily be used for a variety of themes. This is an especially good idea if the content of the brand can mean different things. The Natural History Museum has many different exhibitions about the earth, plants, and animals, all of which can be seen in the various manifestations of their brand:

A great example of this can be found in the Netherlands:  The Universiteit van Nederland (University of the Netherlands) uses their “U” to show the variety of the content of their online scientific lecture series:

In summary, a logo can be anything: from a simple font, to just a design element or icon. When you’re looking to develop a logo the main trap most people fall into is that they try to cram all the different products, ideas, corporate values into a logo. One of my clients wanted to put 10 different concepts into their logo because they were afraid that leaving this out would mean that they would not convey all their values to their customers. The opposite is true: simpler logos are more attractive. So get started on your logo, but keep in mind that a logo is not always what people think it is.

About the Author: Liesbeth Smit

Liesbeth combines her knowledge of science communication, technology and design to explain difficult topics to a wide audience. You can use her practical tips immediately in your (poster) presentations to create a bigger impact. She developed dozens of websites, infographics and animated videos, and regularly gives workshops about design at The Online Scientist.

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