You don’t always need to see the whole word to recognize a brand. One letter will do, if the word-mark (or logotype) was designed in a way that is unique and memorable. Often clients will question the cost of designing custom fonts for their word-mark. It’s a fair question, however if you want your brand to stand out, to be memorable and to incorporate clues to what your product or service is about – Helvetica isn’t always the answer.

Some brand owners choose to have a relatively simple word-mark accompanied by a symbol, such as Nike or Puma. You don’t often see a symbol accompanied by a customized word-mark. It’s either one or the other – take Coke and Pepsi – Coke has a very unique and customized word-mark. Pepsi has a very simple word-mark accompanied by a symbol. Which is better?

The intent of having a word-mark and a symbol is that eventually the symbol will be so easily recognized that there won’t be any need to have the word mark. Symbols are more recognizable than word-marks: you simply see a symbol, but you have to read a word-mark. Hence the Nike swoosh is instantly recognized even if seen for a fraction of a second on the sleeve of a player. It takes an average person less than 1/30th sec to see the swoosh.

It takes the same individual1/10th sec to read a word-mark.

Why is time so important? In the world of consumer-packaged-goods, we as shoppers can scan a store shelf with over 500 facings in a matter of a few seconds. It takes us less than a 1/3 sec to see an item and decide whether it should be part of the consideration set or not. Within that 1/3 sec we will have seen two to three messages on the package – usually the brand is one of those three. A word-mark that is hard to read will be glossed over and fail to make an impression.*

A well designed word-mark acts like a symbol – it is seen and recognized without having to read the entire word. More importantly a well designed word-mark is memorable and that is the beginning of brand awareness.

Test your familiarity with some of these well-known brands, by naming the brand that goes with each letter of the alphabet.


*Visual Diagnostics Inc, (2012) Study conducted in five consumer categories among 4,000 Canadian consumers