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Logo Design Terminology: Understanding Industry Lingo

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The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) spent $1.8m on their company logo. Companies pay anywhere from a few dollars to millions for logo designs. This goes to show the importance of logos to branding and marketing efforts.

There are several considerations that you have to make before deciding on a logo design. You must asses how well the logo represents your brand, your mission, and your identity. A logo also needs to be memorable, unique, and identifiable.

As if that’s not hard enough, the logo design industry is riddled with design terminology that includes numerous acronyms and design words.

On the part of deciphering the terminology, we can help you out. In this article, we have grouped the vocabulary into critical and popular areas of interest, then explained what each of them means in relation to logo design.

Design and Layout

A design layout describes the composition of the logo, its characteristics, and relationship. The composition is the collection of individual elements making up the design, elements such as images, text, and symbols.

A well laid out composition results in a visually pleasing design that guides the viewer in discovering its features and meaning.

Balance

Balance is all about the positioning of visual elements on the design that results in a distribution. The word balance may lead one to assume that the distribution of details has to be even. Well, that’s not always the case; there are three ways that designers achieve balance in logos:

  • Symmetrical

Symmetrical balance means that all the elements are evenly distributed and spaced right down the middle. In a perfectly symmetrical design, an axis running through the middle from any direction should mirror both halves.

  • Asymmetrical

This is the opposite of symmetrical design. The graphic elements are not equally spaced or centered to the middle. For instance, you can have graphics on the left and text on the right side.

  • Radial

A radial design arranges elements along with the features of a circle such as a radius or a circumference. The resulting visual appeal shows the items radiating from or towards the center of a circle.

Rule of Thirds

This is an unwritten rule of thumbs that is used in photography, filming, and graphic design. The designer divides the image into nine equal parts by drawing a pair of horizontal and vertical guidelines. According to the rule, visual elements of interest should be placed along the guidelines or their intersections, known as focal points.

Doing this focuses attention to the important objects and builds interest in the image.

Alignment

This is the positioning of textual and graphical elements with respect to the background or each other. An item can be centered, trailing, or leading from a defined frame of reference.

Proximity

This is the physical distance separating different elements. Close proximity means that the elements are related; when they are far apart, there is little or no relationship.

Contrast

Contrast is the measure of the difference between various elements. Contrast can be achieved by using opposing colors, sizes, shapes, and meanings among different items.

Opacity

Opacity describes the opaqueness of an object. It is scaled from 0-100. Zero opacity means an object is completely transparent, while 100 indicates a complete opaqueness.

Scale

The scale is the relationship in size among the various elements making up the design. It can be used to exaggerate or enhance unique features.

White space

Also known as negative space, white space is any portion of the design that is left unmarked, or does not contain any objects, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be white.

Typography

Typography describes all the techniques used in creating text and textual elements, including letters, numbers, and symbols.

Font Type

Each font type dictates the weight and characteristics of a set of textual characters. There are hundreds of different font types, all of which are broadly classified into four categories.

  • Serif

Serif fonts have small embellished lines, which are hook-like additions to the sharp edges of each letter.

  • San-serif

“San” is an old English word meaning “without.” San serif means fonts “without serifs.”

  • Script

Generally, these are fonts that resemble the natural handwriting. The letters are written in a following, cursive stroke.

  • Decorative

Decorative fonts are designed as more of graphical elements than text. Many designers use custom decorative fonts to blend with other features.

Case

Font case simply describes the capitalization of characters in a word or phrase. There are three different types of cases that apply to various capitalization rules.

Uppercase – this is the use of the capital letters of a font type. A, B, C, D…

Lowercase – lowercase is the small letter versions of the font type. a, b, c, d…

Small caps – these are uppercase letters that have the same height as their lowercase equivalent.

Font Color

This is the color of the characters.

Style

The font style describes the font’s weight, scale, and appearance. The style includes point size, which represents the actual size of the characters (not to be confused with font case). The size is measured in numerical points whose range depends in the typing platform.

The weight of the font is represented in bold font and italics. Italicize characters slant a little to the right, while bold font has more bulk on the strokes and lines.

Spacing

Spacing refers to the vertical and horizontal gaps between characters. Altering the spacing changes or enhances the appearance of the text. Text spacing is achieved using three techniques:

  • Kerning

Kerning is the alteration of the space between the letters or characters in the same word. Kerning is used to reduce inappropriate spaces between characters or add more space to make the text more attractive or legible.

  • Tracking

Tracking is the adjustment of spaces between blocks of text or an entire string of characters.

  • Height/Leading

Line height is the vertical gap between two lines of text.

Color Properties

Color is a big part of any graphic design, including making logos. Below are some common terminologies used to describe the characteristics of color.

Blend: RGB, CMYK, and Pantone

RGB stands for red, green, and blue – the three primary colors. This scheme is used to represent colors on a digital platform by rendering each color as a mix of all three.

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is a color scheme used by printers to print colored media.

Pantone is a proprietary color blending schemes that enhance the effectiveness of CMYK on print.

Hex Code

Hex code is a color identification system that assigns a hexadecimal code to specific colors on various blends including RGB and CMYK.

Palette

A color palette describes the full range of colors used in graphical design. The phrase “color palette” is interchangeably used with the words “color scheme.”

Hue, Tint, Shade, and Tone

Hue is a color parameter that defines the comparison between pure colors against the description of red, green, blue, and yellow.

A tint is a lightened hue by adding white to color. A shade results from adding black to a pure color. Toning is the addition of both white and black (grey) to a color.

Saturation, Temperature, and Gradient

Saturation describes the amount of color (intensity) on a particular spot.

Temperature is the coolness or hotness of a color. Colors on the lower end of the spectrum (blue, indigo, violet) are considered cool colors. Those on the higher end of the spectrum (red, orange) are considered warm colors.

Gradient is the measure or representation of the gradual transition between two colors.

Harmonies: Monochrome, Analogous, Complementary, and Triadic

A monochromatic color scheme uses a single color with varying shades in the entire design.

Now, consider a color ring or wheel made up of the full spectrum of colors. A complementary design uses colors on the opposite ends of the color wheel. An analogous color scheme uses a selection of colors adjacent to each other.

A triadic color scheme selects three unique colors that are equally spaced on the color wheel. One of the colors dominates, the secondary color supports the scheme, and the final color acts as an accent.

Color Theory

Color theory explores the use of different colors to evoke a natural response or behavior from the viewer. Different color blends are used to communicate different messages and drive towards particular emotional reactions.

Image Properties

Logo design normally involves working with images during development. Here are some of the terminologies you should know about.

Pixel

A pixel is the smallest building block of an image that can be manipulated. It holds its own unique color and light.

Resolution, Size, Crop, and Aspect Ratio

A resolution describes the level of details in an image; it is indicated by the number of horizontal and vertical pixels –the more the pixels, the higher the quality.

Image’s size is its physical dimensions measured along its length and width, usually given in millimeters. Aspect ratio is the difference between the physical or pixel length and width of an image.

Cropping simply means removing unwanted portions of an image.

File type

A file type refers to the standards used to encrypt and compress an image file digitally. There are several image file types suitable for various uses. The popular ones include JPEG, GIF, and PNG.

Types of Logos

Logos come in various sizes, shapes, and designs. However, the millions of logos available today can be classified into six types.

Emblem

This type of logo is composed of text that is embedded inside an abstract symbol. The resulting logo resembles a seal or badge.

The emblem logo design is a traditional yet authoritative art piece. They are mostly used by institution and organizations like sports clubs, schools, and societies.

A good example of an emblem logo is the iconic Starbucks logo.

Letterform/ Monogram Logo/ Lettermark

A letterform logo consists of a letter or more that usually represent the initials of a brand. This type of logo is used by businesses who have already turned their initials into brand identities, or those with long names and prefer not to use symbols.

Popular logo designs that use this technique include HP (Hewlett Packard), HBO (Home Box Office), and Facebook logos.

Mascot Logo

Mascot logos are graphically rich and compelling logos that depict colorful, cartoonish characters in the design. The logo represents fun and adventure, and mostly appeals to children, families, and fans. Mascot logos are popular with sports teams and kids-branded products.

Common mascot logos that you probably see every day include the KFC logo and the Mr. Peanut logo.

Abstract Mark/ Brandmark/ Iconic Logo/ Logomark/ Pictorial mark

This is a rather broad category grouping logo designs that use only one symbol to represent the brand. The symbol used can be an abstract art piece, a brand identity icon, a trademark, or a simple picture.

Some of the best examples of brandmark logos include the Twitter logo, Apple’s logo, and the Microsoft logo.

Wordmark/ logotypes

When thinking of wordmark logos, think of Google’s, Coca Cola’s, and Instagram’s logos. The logo is a simple representation of the brand name. The brand name is usually accompanied by a complementary background, custom font, style, and other subtle unique features.

Wordmark logos are mostly used by brands that are identifiable by their full name, which should also be easy to write and pronounce.

Combination Mark/logo lockup

A combination mark design, as the name suggests, combines various types of logo designs to create a single logo. A logo lockup may comprise of abstract symbols, brand marks, and text in one visually rich design. Each element supplements the others both visually and for branding purposes.

The Burger King and Lacoste logos are examples of combination mark logos.

You’re Now Adept with Design Terminology

This was a long list, but luckily, the vocabulary of design terminology rarely changes or grows. So, you’ll be using this article as a reference for years to come.

If you are new to graphic design or interested in practicing the art, you have now acquitted yourself with the industry lingo. You’ll also be able to tell what your logo designer is talking about when they describe the design process.

Speaking of designing logos, are you looking to represent your brand through a captivating logo? If you are, get in touch with our team of professional graphic designers, or try our easy-to-use logo maker. We specialize in branding businesses and building lasting impressions through creative and powerful logo designs.


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