identity design

among the wide spectrum of marks (as not only graphic designers but anthropologists and psychologists call them) is the logo; here are some basic terms:


Symbol: a mark without type to identify a corporate entity which can be legally protected (e.g. Apple, the Nike “swoosh,” Woolmark, Red Cross).

no smokingPictograph: a public symbol for a word or phrase, the earliest form of writing (e.g. the “no smoking” symbol).


Lettermark: characters which form an acronym in type, used to identify a company or institution (e.g. BBC, IBM, HBO, 3M, GE).


Logo: a word or words in type to identify a brand, company, group or project (e.g. Canada, Google, Coca-Cola).


Signature: a symbol and logo used together (e.g. YouTube).

Trademark: any and all of the above, legal name for a unique mark.


Glyph: a hieroglyphic, simplified picture (e.g. astrological planets).

power icon

Icon: a graphic device representing an object or action (originally religious, today secular icons are common in computer technology).

the more abstract a mark is, the more exposure it needs for market recognition

If you want your company’s trademark as an acronym (e.g. ABC Co.) or as a hieroglyph (e.g. an eagle), plan on a big multi-media advertising budget because it must be learned! If your business or project is not a household name yet, consider a low-abstraction mark which always includes its name in highly-legible type.

the trademark has a venerable history

UlfberhtIt’s thought that Roman swordsmiths were the first to use trademarks. The Viking logo +ULFBEHRT+ (above) cleverly inlaid in the famous blades distinguished a sword of superior crucible steel since the 11th century.Löwenbräu

Löwenbräu, the German brewer, claims the use of its lion mark since 1383.

England’s Bass Brewery combination mark has been around for some time too, the first to be registered, in 1875. Check out the ale bottles in the foreground of Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1881-’82.


If you need identity design, we can help. See our branding and identity portfolio page for some examples of our work.