So you’re starting a business and you’ve just contacted a brand designer to create a brand identity for you. You’ve looked at the packages they offer, and they seem to know what they’re talking about, but you don’t actually have a clue what all the different terms they use mean. All you want is a logo for your business but they’re insisting on multiple logos plus loads more extras? Are these all necessary or are they just trying to rip you off?
A brand identity designer will try convince you to invest in more than just a logo, and I understand your concerns here, but trust me, they’re not trying to scam you or upsell, they’re actually just doing their job - which will save you a lot of time and money in the long run, and help you build a reputable brand.
If you’ve looked at different branding packages, you’ll see terms like primary logo, alternative logo, secondary logo, favicons, submarks and much more. When all you want (or all you think you want) is a logo, all this technical jargon can be overwhelming.
Here’s a run down of the different logo terms you might come across. Keep reading to find out which of these are actually essential, and which of them you could do without.
- Primary / Main Logo
- Alternative Logo
- Secondary Logo
1. Primary / Main Logo
As you might have guessed already, your primary logo is your main logo. This should be the one you use the majority of the time. It can be a simple wordmark/logotype (a word with no illustrative elements) like ‘Google’. It can also be a combination logo (a wordmark with the addition of some icon or illustrative element), like Ralph Lauren, pictured above. Whichever type of logo you choose, your primary logo should always include your full business name.
As your primary logo is the most complete version of your logo, you can also include other elements here, like a monogram (initials of your business), the year your company was established, or any slogan/subtext. Your primary logo can be any shape, this is why it’s important for your brand designer to know where it will be used, for example, if it’s on a website landing page it should be landscape, but if you need it for packaging on a bottle, it should be stacked vertically.
2. Alternative Logo
Maybe you’re thinking okay, well I need a logo for my website so I want my primary logo to be landscape, but WAIT, what about my social media accounts - don’t they require a circular image? Exactly, that’s where your alternative logo comes in handy. If you try and use a landscape logo for your instagram profile photo, it’s going to be like sticking a square peg in a round hole, literally. Even if you scale your primary logo down to fit within the parameters required here, it can prove really difficult to read if it wasn’t purposely made for this space. Whatever shape your primary logo is, your alternative logo will essentially be the opposite of this. For example, if your primary logo is landscape and rectangular, your alternative logo will be stacked and circular, and vice versa. This ensures you have cohesive and functional branding for anywhere it’s needed. In the example above you can see Ralph Lauren simply stacks its wordmark from its primary logo in a circular space which allows them room to add subtext for each of their sub-brands also.
3. Secondary Logo
Often people use secondary logo and alternative logo interchangeably, but to me they’re different. While your alternative logo will be the opposite shape to your primary logo, your secondary logo doesn’t have to be. If you have a large primary logo that includes many details like the year your company was established, and a slogan, you may need a simplified version of this for when you are scaling it to a small size and those details are no longer be legible. This is what I and many other brand designers call, your secondary logo. As seen in Ralph Lauren, they simply isolate the wordmark from their primary logo to create their simplified secondary logo.
A submark is very much like your secondary logo in that it’s a simplified version of your primary logo, which can be used on a smaller scale, BUT, while your secondary logo normally emphasises the business name from your primary logo, the submark will emphasise any illustrative elements from your primary logo - like the iconic polo illustration from Ralph Lauren.
Your monogram, also known as a lettermark uses just the initials of your company name. Think of the LV on a Louis Vuitton bag. This may be an element that is part of your primary logo or alternative logo. Monograms are useful to have as they can usually be scaled down quite small and remain legible. Ralph Lauren retains the use of monograms solely for their sub-brand ‘Lauren Ralph Lauren’, to distinguish it from their other sub-brands. A perfect example of why some businesses need more logos than others.
Your favicon, also known as a website icon, is the little symbol that appears on top of each tab you have open, Think of the white ‘P’ in the red circle for Pinterest, and the multicoloured ‘G’ for any google search tab. Favicons will usually be either a monogram, or a submark - something that is clearly visible at a smaller scale. As you can see, Ralph Lauren simply repurposes its submark as their favicon - while perfectly acceptable for Ralph Lauren, I would not recommend such a detailed illustration be scaled to that size if you’re a relatively unknown business - you’re going to have to work to build a recognisable brand with an easily recognisable favicon, Ralph Lauren doesn’t have to worry so much about recognition anymore!
So there you have it, my explanation of all the different logo types you may come across and where they should be used. Keep in mind that people throw around some of these terms interchangeably, so you may find some designers referring to alternative logos as secondary logos, and vice versa.
Okay great, but which of these do I need for my business?
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that your brand designer will usually offer more than just one logo, because you will need more than one if you want to have a successful business. Having said that, not all of the above list are necessary. While some of the logos are nice to have, the only ones I think are absolutely essential for your business to have are: one primary logo, one alternative logo and one favicon (that is if you plan on having a website at any point). That’s why these are what I include in my Brand Essentials Package. The others are only necessary depending on how elaborate you want your primary logo to be, and where you intend on using your logo. These are important aspects to consider before discussing your needs with your brand designer.
I hope I’ve answered any questions you may have had around branding packages, and made it a little more clear on why we brand designers constantly double down on businesses having more than ‘just a logo’! If you’re still unclear on anything please reach out and I’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.