As a designer, I sometimes have to remind myself that not every term used when working on branding projects is familiar to my clients or has an obvious meaning. In an effort to continue teaching and sharing knowledge about the design industry with non-designers, I thought it might be helpful to demystify some commonly used terms. The design terms I want to focus on clarifying in this post are centered around logo variations.
You might be thinking, “Gillian, what the heck is a logo variation to begin with?” Not to worry, friend! If you keep reading, you’ll learn exactly what that means, as well as what the difference is between a primary logo, a secondary logo, and a submark, as well as common uses for each of those logo types.
What is a logo variation?
A full brand identity doesn’t just include one logo; it includes a full family of logos that give you the widest range of versatility and potential for brand recognition. A logo variation is simply that: a variation or alternate version of your main logo. So, if you’re looking at hiring a designer to create a full brand identity, this whole family of logo types are typically included in the design package, versus hiring a logo designer to create a solo mark.
The primary logo is the main identifying mark for your business. Think of your primary logo as the trunk of the tree with the other logo types/variations being the branches. This logo type is used the most, and is often utilized on the header of a website, on brand collateral, etc.
The secondary logo is also commonly referred to an alternate logo. The secondary logo uses the elements of the primary logo arranged in a different composition. This provides you with more flexibility to use your logo in different design settings. For example, a secondary logo is often either a simplified version of the primary logo or another version may be in a square composition. This logo type is ideal for using in square social media profile images, on social media graphics, and other places where you need to use a more compact version of your logo.
A submark can also be referred to as a watermark (especially if the brand identity is being created for a photographer). This final type of logo is the most simplified, compact mark of the logo family. For example, it often pulls in an icon or initials that can stand alone as an identifying mark. Submarks are handy to use as favicons, social media profile images, watermarks on images, and footers of websites.
But why have logo variations?
As you can see from the descriptions of each logo above, each one serves its unique purpose in how you’re presenting your business. When you only have a primary logo, you’re sacrificing quality of design (because a big primary logo just isn’t going to look good shrunk down to fit your Instagram profile image) instead of having a seamless brand experience. The fact of the matter is this: having a full brand identity with a family of logos will serve your business much better and much more effectively for much longer.
I hope this post helped demystify some terms you see getting used regularly by designers or listed in service packages you’ve looked into purchasing. And I hope it helps you learn more about branding and how having several logo variations will make your branding versatile across all platforms, from digital to print.
Have any other terms you’re confused about? I’d love to help you understand those, too! Leave them in the comments below, or send them to me in an email at firstname.lastname@example.org using the form below.