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Nike’s Swoosh and Apple’s apple are not logos. Seriously.

So what if I told you that the “apple” on the back of your iPad is not really a logo?

First off, I’m not attempting to change peoples’ usage of “logo,” but you might find it interesting that what is commonly thought to be one, isn’t.

“What? Baloney! I know what a logo is.” Okay, let me explain.

What most people typically refer to as a logo is a really a trademark. We already have the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Maybe they should rename it the U.S. Patent and Logo office?

Logo is short for logotype, design industry-speak for a custom-lettered word. How this came to be used by the public I’m unsure, but its root comes from the Greek word “logos,” meaning “word.”  A trademark that is strictly a custom-lettered word is a logomark, or logo. Think Pentax, Hershey’s and Microsoft. The Nike swoosh is not custom lettering, and therefore is neither a logomark nor a logo! The “apple” for Apple Computers is not one either. Rather, these are symbols, some say icons, within a trademark. Whether they are logomarks or symbols, though, they are both trademarks.

Examples of logomarks and symbols within trademarks

Here is a breakdown of trademark types.

  1. Logotype – a custom-lettered word, with no symbols, i.e. Pentax, Microsoft, Hershey’s, Marlboro
  2. Symbols – Nike Swoosh, Apple Computer, the “P” on a Phillies cap!
  3. Monogram – IBM, GE, the NY combo on a Yankees cap.
  4. Emblems – Manchester United, Free Masons, U.S. Navy.

Today, people use logo to cover all of these. Once a shortening for a specific type of trademark, now has come to be universal. Logo is easy, it’s short and it’s cool. Trademark sounds stodgy. So I’m not expecting clients to tell me any time soon, “Hey, that’s a nice trademark you designed, Gary.”

My advice, just keep saying logo and let us design nuts worry about it.

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