COM 322: Corporate Publishing

Logos, Symbols, and Combination Marks

[What is a logo?] [What makes a good logo?] [Design Checklist] [Readings & Assignments]
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Corporations spend a great sum of money developing, using, and protecting their corporate identity. A good corporate identity program consists of:

Symbols and trademarks have served many functions in history. The Fish identified early Christians to one another; the Coat of Arms identified the warrier; cattle were branded with a hot iron to mark the ranch to which they belonged; and the pawnshop was identified by three gold balls.

Today, trademarks are widely used by corporations. A trademark is any unique name or symbol used to identify a product or company, and to distinguish it from others. These unique marks can be registered and protected by law. Their primary function is to increase brand recognition and advertise products and services.


The Thought Process

1. Define the uses of the mark. Print publications? TV? Trucks? Business cards and stationary?

2. Articulate (in words) the image the company wants to maintain or project. Steady as a rock? High-tech? Conservative? Fast-moving? Look at the culture of the company--what single words or short phrases best describe it?

3. What budget do you have? Can colors be used? Or does the mark only need to look good in black-and-white or shades of gray?



Unlike other forms of advertising, the modern trademark is a long-term design. It may appear on

and many other items. Only a strong design with a simple, unified gestalt will stand the test of repeated exposure.

When developing a mark, keep the following in mind:

  1. The mark must reflect the nature and quality of the product, company or organization to an audience. A trademark is created by a designer, but made by a corporation. A trademark is a picture, an image of the organization.
  2. Your design must remain legible and strong in all sizes and circumstances, from a company vehicle to a business card.
  3. Because the mark will often be reproduced in newspaper advertising or with severely limited in-house duplicating facilities, it must reproduce well in one color.
  4. Many times the mark will be seen in less-than-ideal viewing conditions, such as short exposure (a truck passing by), under low levels of light, in competitive surroundings, and by viewers who do not have a strong interest. Simplicity of design is a virtue. A simple, interesting shape with good gestalt is easier to comprehend and remember than a more complex design.



Carl Jung, the psychologist, saw symbols as evoking a deep responses in us.

A symbol is something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent the invisible. A printed or written sign used to represent an operation, element, quality, quantity, or relation. (Websters' Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary) Historically important symbols include national flags, the cross, and the swatiska.

The symbol is a type of trademark used to represent a company or product. It can be abstract or pictorial, but it does not usually include letterforms. It represents invisible qualities of a product, such as reliablility, durability, strength, or warmth.

A symbol has several advantages:

A pictogram is a symbol that is used to cross language barriers for international signage. These are found in bilingual cities (Montreal, for example), in airports, and on safety instruction cards found inside airplanes. A pictogram is not abstract but rather a drawing of the object.


The second catagory of trademark is called logo or logotype. The logo is a unique type or lettering that spells out the name of the company, organization, or product. It may be handlettered but is usually constructed out of variations on an existing typeface. Historically, it developed after the symbol because it required a literate audience.

Choose type that suits the nature of your client and audience. Often more difficult to design than a symbol, because it entails both visual and verbal communication. It's advantages include:

1. Original construction, and

2. Easy identification with company or product.


A combination mark is a symbol and a logo used together. These are difficult to construct, demanding the most research and thought of all designs. They are often used, however, because they combine the advantages of the symbol and the logo.


What Makes a Good Logo or Combination Mark?

Consider these examples.

Logo/Mark Evaluation Checklist


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