Iconic Logos

Your company essence distilled into a simple graphic

Iconic logos generally feature highly simplified graphics or symbols that reflect an aspect of the company and/or product portrayed. These graphics can be abstract in concept or feature a reasonably accurate depiction of same. Truth to tell, it’s the treatment of the image, as well as the subject matter, that defines an iconic logo. Iconic logos are perhaps the most common and is probably the type of design that comes to mind if you were asked to describe “what is a logo?” Despite their relative simplicity, these logos are often difficult to design – it’s certainly not easy to take complex ideas or concepts and break them down into a few abstract shapes. Doing so requires the services of an experienced designer who is able to understand both the conceptual and technical limitations of developing such a design. While there are an infinite number of variables that are possible with any corporate identity design project, and many company logos ‘straddle’ the various types, our designers have found that most design ‘treatments’ will fall into four distinct categories; Text, Iconic, Graphical and Illustrative. While these categories are certainly not to be viewed as absolutes, and many logos have the features of several types, this is a fairly basic, yet accurate, overview for those new to the logo design process. Each logo type has it’s merits, while others have disadvantages. Some types are more appropriate for certain market segments than others. By being familiar with the different versions, and their strengths and weaknesses, you can make an educated decision on which logo type is more suited to your requirements. Let’s take a closer look at the various logo types, using designs pulled from our graphic design portfolios as examples…

What is an Iconic logo?

Let’s take a look at the Nexus Funding Corporation logo – a design created by our studio a few years back. This extremely simple logo represents two hands locked together – symbolizing co-operation and teamwork. Not an easy concept to illustrate with one simple shape. Simple iconic logoThe Impact Basketball logo (left) is more illustrative in approach, but remains well within the iconic category. There’s also more to this logo than meets the eye – the star graphic represents the ‘stars’ of the Impact basketball team, as well as an almost ‘comic book’ treatment of an actual basketball ‘impact’. Because of the somewhat abstract ideas contained within these kinds of designs, iconic logos run the risk of being described as clip art logos by the viewer, who may not have the understanding of what’s actually being illustrated. Impact basketball iconic logoAccordingly, the development of these logos should be left in the hands of seasoned designers whose ability to create simplistic graphics has become more developed over time. Developing an Iconic logo When developing an iconic logo, the logo design process involves creating a graphic that depicts some aspect of the company, broken down into a very simple series of shapes and objects. Unlike illustrative logos, we try to avoid adding blends, gradients and other nifty special FX lest the design become cluttered. More often than not, iconic logos feature solid geometric shapes, arranged in a way that very quickly describes the company portrayed. Utilizing an icon design has certain technical advantages over their illustrative counterpart, the most important one being this; these logos are more adaptable when your design is to be featured at a small size, or in low-resolution reproduction such as newspapers, faxes, etc. Iconic logos are generally developed with a text portion – though secondary to the overall design – which can be dropped at a later date, once your logo has been well exposed through marketing and advertising. Iconic logo development That’s not to say that iconic company logos aren’t the result of a full-blown design process – they are. Pictured above are the steps involved in many of our design projects. Left to right: 1) our designers sketch out rough concepts and ideas using various elements of the company. 2) Once we’ve settled on some design direction, we render the rough doodles into vector artwork using Adobe Illustrator. This gives the client a better idea of what we have in mind and allows them to select an icon to work with. 3) Once we’ve agreed on a particular icon, we can add text, colour and turn the icon into a full-blown logo. Due to their relative simplicity, iconic designs are the best choice for certain applications – embroidery for one example, flash animation for another – and these are the kinds of logos that have the fastest retention factor for your viewing audience. See our iconic logo gallery for more examples.


Faster to visually ‘absorb’ than illustrative logos but more exciting than text versions.
More likely to be recognized later after limited initial exposure.
Can utilize spot color reproduction effectively.
Can be reproduced on most media without any modifications.
Can be reproduced on low resolution media (FAXs, cheques) while remaining recognizable.
Easier to trademark the logo (with unique icon.)
Favored by hi-tech and start up companies. Easier to appear ‘cutting edge.’
Can usually be reproduced in a variety of color combinations (easily edited.)
Easily converted to black and white linear versions.
An iconic logo usually lends itself to Flash animation.
Is more likely to be recognized when reproduced at small sizes, or from distances.
Generally simple to embroider and requires smaller stitch count per impression.
Icon can be ‘separated’ and used individually either as main logo presentation or graphic accent.


Difficult to create ‘unique’ icon.
Requires fairly experienced graphic/logo designer.
Runs risk of looking like ‘clip art’ if not designed effectively.
May end up as ‘fad’ logo i.e.: globes & swooshes from 90?s.
Generally not appropriate for mascot or cartoon logos (though not impossible.)
Generally requires a text portion, unless the subject of massive exposure (i.e. Nike) which can lead to visual ‘clutter.’

Other logo types

Graphic logo example

Graphic logo example from our galleries

Graphic logos are, in the practical sense, somewhere between an iconic and illustrative logotype. These logotypes are very visually appealing – detailed enough to be recognizable, yet linear and technically simple enough to translate into most media usages. It’s a ‘toss up’ between graphical and iconic logos as to which is the most popular and/or common..

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Illustrative logo example

Illustrative logo example from our galleries

Illustrative logos are usually more detailed and complex than graphical, and are a pictorial (illustration) representation of some aspect of the company or product portrayed. This can be the name, the business concept or a character/mascot. While sometimes frowned upon by graphic design purists, if handled correctly an illustrative logotype can become a unique marketing and promotional tool and works well on many types of marketing materials including wearables..

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Text logo example

Text logo example from our galleries

Text logos are visually the simplest logos (and often favored by Fortune 500 corporations). Paradoxically, their simplicity can be misleading as these logos can be enormously difficult to design. Your designer is limited in the ‘tricks of the trade’ that are available, so the font driven design requires someone with a ‘mature’ level of design experience . In terms of marketing your new company, text logos also have the bonus feature of promoting your company name extensively without being cluttered with heavy visuals and graphics..

Text logo example

Text logos can also utilize visual accents. For more examples see from our searchable galleries

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Keep in mind..

The categories presented in this section are meant as an overview and generalization of the infinite possibilities. As in all manners of creative design, there are no absolutes and this area is meant for reference only. Should you require assistance in selecting the right type of logo for your business, company or service, contact our client support.

Examples of Iconic Logos

Pulled from our Design Galleries. Click on images for project details.

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