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Icons, Wordmarks and Emblems, Oh My!

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I’m sure you’ve heard these logo-related terms before: icon, wordmark, and emblem. These logo-related terms are used almost interchangeably in the design industry. Each have distinctive qualities that promote brand recognition. And, at the end of the day, it’s all about your brand. So, what makes your brand stand out? What separates your brand from market competition? Your logo — the mascot of your brand. That is, your icon, wordmark, or emblem (the mascot) is the symbolic representative, or ambassador if you will, of your brand, and it goes above and beyond to win over potential clients.

How about a quick reference guide for the 5 basic logos?


1. An icon or symbol is the graphic shape that visually represents a brand.

2. A wordmark is a text-based logo that spells out a brand’s name in a special, unique way.

3. A letter mark is typographic, just like a wordmark, but uses a single letter or the initials of a brand’s name.

4. A combination mark is a logo that combines a symbol or icon with a wordmark.

5. An emblem is a logo that encloses the brand’s name within a design.

If you’re wondering if your icon, watermark, and/or emblem is not up to par, send us a message or call us at 323-848-4465 and we’ll help empower your brand with an eminent logo design.

But first, let’s take a more in-depth look at the different kinds of logos.


Icons/Symbols are typically simple and bold, but highly stylized to remain unique. Think of the eponymous Apple icon or Nike‘s “swoosh,” for example. These universal icons are immediately recognizable. That is because their logo design, or symbol, channels strong and compelling ideas and values that represent the brand. In the graphic design world, an icon also applies to our digitally obsessed world, a world that immediately identifies and fastens with straightforward and bold icons on our digital devices: i.e the Instagram and Facebook apps.


Because a wordmark spells out a brand’s name, designers typically choose a font that evokes the right feeling(s) for the brand. Good designers often track a font’s letters to get that perfect spacing, as the team behind TMZ‘s logo did (using the font Amelia). Sometimes they even create a custom font, like Paul Rand did for IBM. Essentially, the wordmark uses a graphic symbol that instantly connects your brand with its products and services.


A lettermark is strictly typographic (that is, uses only letters) to represent the initials or the first letter of its brand’s name. Maybe the full name is too long (who even knows what CNN stands for, anyway?), or simply looks cooler with just the letters (très chic, Chanel). Simply put, lettermarks are what they sound like — a logo made up of letters. Monograms, initials, and acronyms, all fall under the same umbrella of lettermarks. Another example is ESPN. Most of us probably never bothered to look up what the letters stand for, but know exactly what the lettermark represents… ESPN stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, in case you were wondering.


A combination mark is just what it sounds like– it combines an icon or symbol with a wordmark. That said, combination marks use concise text to compliment an icon or symbol, providing clarity to your brand and/or business.  So, what makes a good combination mark?

1. Clarity and simplicity.

2. Competent shape.

3. Suitability of overall design.

4. Freshness and originality.

Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lacoste, and Puma also use combination marks to for their powerful brand identity… pretty cool stuff, right? A combination mark is also great for start—ups and brand building. If you’re considering a combination mark for your logo, POP THE PIXEL is here to help point you in the right direction. Check us out on Instagram to further your curiosity.


An emblem is used when a brand desires a more traditional look. Emblems can be tricky; since the brand’s name is intertwined with the symbol, it’s possible it won’t be legible at smaller sizes. Essentially, it is a symbol that conveys your ideas and values. Whereas, the logo performs as a promotional function of your brand. Nonetheless, an emblem is an incredible way to stand out in the market, among your competitors, because of its visual allure. An emblem is also more of a corporate image than it is a logo, where there is a deeper message embedded and intended for a much broader market. Examples of emblems, that we’re all familiar with, are the U.S. Army, Starbucks, NFL, and Harley-Davidson.


Whether it be an icon, wordmark, or emblem, all are utilized to help promote your brand so that they stand out from competitors in the market place. Icons and emblems, however, play a larger role in establishing broader concepts in a much broader market. All in all, there are many a “wonderful things” that logo designs can do for your brand. If you’re shopping for a new logo design, or an upgrade to your existing one, email us today for a consultation! We’re here to help you transform your design and branding ideas into a reality!

About the Author of This Post

Christopher Dalbey is an actor and screenwriter who likes to hear the funny side of the story first. You can follow his odd-yssey on Instagram, and see full clips of his work on


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