Pictorial vs. Abstract: Picturing the Perfect Logo for Your Business

When you hear the word “logo,” it’s likely that your first association is an image. Though not every business needs an icon, many businesses opt for either a pictorial logo or abstract logo—but what are those?

Regardless of whether you’re updating your existing logo or starting from scratch, your primary research will likely contain an overwhelming number of search results talking about the 6 types of logos: monogram, wordmark, pictorial, abstract, mascot, and emblem. Each type has its own distinct benefits and communicates a lot about your business despite their size or simplicity. When you hear the word “logo,” it’s likely that your first association is an image. Though not every business needs an icon in addition to the text in their logo, many businesses opt for either a pictorial logo or abstract logo—but what are those?

ROUND 2: The Introductions

What is a pictorial logo?

Pictorial logos are icon or graphic based, and they usually depict objects commonly seen in the world; a true pictorial logo only contains the icon, like Target’s bullseye and Apple’s….well, apple. By using identifiable objects as their icons, these logos are easy to spot and equally as easy to remember. 

What is an abstract logo?

Abstract logo marks are usually presented as icons or graphics, but instead of tangible, real-life objects, these logos tend to focus on geometric forms and uniquely individual shapes. The world is your oyster with this type of logo—there are endless possibilities and infinite opportunities to create a unique mark.

ROUND 2: The Fight 

The World Wildlife Foundation’s logo features a panda, first and foremost, and is a prime example of a pictorial logo. Their adorable icon has become a spokesperson for endangered animals everywhere, evoking an emotional response from its audience. This pictorial logo is successful because it gives the viewer a cute animal to latch onto the mission of the brand.

In the world of the abstract logo, Nike’s “Swoosh” is a great example, as it is energetic and dynamic. The bold and graphic nature of the logo echoes the primary goal of the brand. Conversely, Airbnb’s logo is soft and friendly, with no sharp angles or any points of tension. This logo feels safe, trustworthy, homey, and personable—just as you’d expect your Airbnb to be.

ROUND 2: The Outcome

Simply put, pictorial logos are memorable and identifiable. They allow viewers to apply their prior knowledge of the object depicted in the logo and associate that object with the brand. Businesses considering a pictorial logo should have a specific goal in mind as they create it; for example, as the WWF panda evokes emotion from its viewers and reminds them of the endangered species, what do you want your logo to inspire in the viewer? This can take on many forms—a play on your brand name, a deeper illustration of what your product does (e.g. Snapchat’s ghost), or something else entirely—and allows for some creative liberties to be taken during the design process.

Abstract logos are simple and iconic, but they allow for more creativity since you aren’t confined to real-world images and objects. Because the viewer has no previous experience with the shape, your brand will define your logo using their experience with your business. Using colors and shapes to convey your brand can be a great way to shape your customer’s experience with your brand; as they see your logo and colors more, they will begin to associate those colors and general shapes with your brand, leading to lasting awareness and a great impression.

What if neither a pictorial logo nor an abstract logo is right for me?

Fear not, we still have two more types of logos to put in the ring; be sure to check back for round 3 of our Battle of the Logos! If you’re interested in learning about monogram logos and wordmarks, you can do that here.

We’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg in this blog - don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to chat more about how to “pic” the perfect logo for your business. Sisu Group is a creative branding agency that creates meaningful consumer experiences through authentic storytelling. Through our creative and branding services, we help socially conscious businesses build a brand that will move the world forward. Ready to get to it? Drop us a line!