In the context of communication, the brand is the starting point of any graphic project with an associated image, being upstream of everything that will come in due time. From letterhead to business card, from personalized gadgets to the website...It all starts with the brand: it represents the synthesis as it summarizes - or at least it should - all the meanings and / or concepts related to the communication of an asset or service that the entity to be represented (company or individual professional etc.) intends to enhance. In summary, a brand "[...] Performs the task of symbolizing the company [or the person, the entity, the product] through a conscious and adequate graphic expression [...]. From the brand we receive a first unconscious impression of the company [...] It will tell us if it is serious, prepared, solvent, mature, efficient ". (G. Motti, Guide to industrial advertising, Franco Angeli, Milan 1989).

Often, however, when it comes to brands or logos, there is a tendency to get confused, both among the “laymen” and among the insiders. The client often does not have very clear ideas about what they really want and it is the graphic designer's job to guide them, first of all by presenting them with a detailed range of possible choices.

It is important to specify one very important thing: brand and logo are not the same thing. The logo (intended as an abbreviation of "logogram" or "logotype") is the typographic component of the brand, which can be made up, as we shall see, solely by text, text and figure (by figure we mean a graphic sign) or even only from the latter.

The typological classifications of brands often differ depending on the source. One of the most complete and concise sources is by Clemente Francavilla in his manual ‘Graphic Design - The rules of visual communication between design and advertising’ (Hoepli, Milan 2007). The author, taking up Monachesi, identifies two macro categories:

The above macro categories are further subcategorised.

For the logograms, these can be subcategorised into:

Pictograms can be subcategorised into:

A trademark can also be a combination of several elements: in most cases, in fact, we find a pictogram (figurative trademark) juxtaposed with a typographic component (typogram, logo or monogram).

All clear isn't it? But let's try to examine some concrete examples:


Logo Nike Image source:



The Nike brand, conceived in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a student at the University of Portland, is a pictogram (i.e. a figurative trademark) and more precisely an ideogram, as it does not represent a shoe (i.e. one of the products marketed by the company) but an idea, a series of concepts attributable to the brand: that of victory, movement and speed, represented by a single slender graphic sign that symbolizes one of the wings of the Greek goddess Nike, the personification of sporting victory. You may be interested to learn that the author was paid only 35 dollars for her work!


Logo CocaCola Image source:



The Coca Cola brand, conceived in 1887 by John Pemberton and retouched several times over the years, is instead a logogram (graphic representation of the product name) and in particular, a logotype, as it proposes an original solution of the lettering - in this case elaborated starting from a pre-existing font family, the Spencerian Script.

Even the Disney trademark can be defined as a "logotype", perhaps even more legitimately than the one analyzed above, as it is typographical but does not use fonts belonging to a pre-existing family: it was in fact elaborated starting from the signature of Walt Disney, the founder of the famous global company.


Logo EasyJet Image source:



The EasyJet brand falls into the category of logograms, but in this case - according to the Francavilla classification - it would be more correct to speak of a typogram, as it consists of a composed lettering, without making any type of modification or graphic customization, using a pre-existing font: the Cooper Black.

Other similar examples? The American Airlines brand (Helvetica), that of the famous American show Saturday Night Live (Gotham) or that of Facebook (Klavika Bold).


Logo Apple Image source:



What about the Apple brand? It represents an apple, which is something concrete, and is a direct reference to the name of the Cupertino company...So it's an iconogram? Wait! But Apple does not actually sell apples...Is it perhaps more correct to define it as an ideogram?

As we can deduce from this last example, the typological "boundaries" can often be very thin and a categorical and definitive classification is not always possible. What is certain is that the graphic design of a brand offers infinite possibilities and combinations. A conscious graphic designer should avoid improvising by relying on the inspiration of the moment and be able to systematically explore all possible and imaginable paths. Logograms, logotypes, monograms, pictograms and ideograms: only by knowing and taking into consideration all the alternatives will the creative be able to reach - or at least get close to - the right solution, that is to say the creation of a brand in which the client will be able to fully identify themselves with. All this, of course, must comply with some essential technical-design requirements, such as clarity and compositional simplicity, ease of execution and reproduction, readability in different scales, and both in color and in black and white...But this, of course, is another topic.

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