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Glossary of common logo design terms

At first it’s always daunting when trying to find out information about an industry in order to reach that pinnacle of being a knowledgeable consumer. That’s why I’m trying to flatten the learning curve for you by offering you a list of the most common logo design terms and their definitions. If you’ve heard any others floating around, please email them to me and I will add them to this list!

CMYK Stands for “Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK.” Also referred to as “full color.” When you have a logo designed, your colors you will mostly be using will be in CMYK mode since those are the four ink colors that can mix together to create any color in the rainbow.
combination logo A logo design that combines an icon with the actual text of the company being represented by the logo. The text is intrinsically combined with the logotype itself.
corporate identity A company’s corporate identity is every single piece of its marketing material (logo, business cards, envelopes, magazine ads, website, slogan, corporate colors, mascot, etc.) and how all the pieces act as one unifying marketing message.
duotone When two ink colors are used in the reproduction of an image. These colors are usually black and a Pantone color, but it can be any two colors used together to recreate a black and white image that normally just used black ink. Along these same lines, there can be more colors than two, but the more colors, the more muddy and brownish the entire image becomes.
font A set of characters, numbers and symbols of a particular style, such as Times, Garamond, Arial. Synonym: typeface.
glyph A letter or symbol that stands for something. Each letter of our alphabet is technically a glyph, but so is a pictograph of a stopsign, for example.
icon A graphical representation of an object or idea. Used in logo design to boil down a company’s central identity into a simple representative picture or shape.
logo Short for logotype.
logotype A personalized treatment, either textual or graphical, that represents a company or product.
negative space The part of a drawing or shape that is “empty.” This idea is important in logo design because this negative space can be used to create an idea and join that with another concept. An example in my portfolio is that of Bringbacks. The shape of the carkey is created by the negative space, which is intrinsically combined with the image of a hand.
Pantone® The industry-standard way to ensure that colors are reproduced in the expected way. They are pre-mixed in exact proportions of CMYK. If you don’t have a corporate color already, you should be sure to determine your corporate color by way of Pantone first, then a graphic designer can then translate that color into equivalent CMYK and RGB colors for uses in other applications.
PMS Stands for Pantone Matching System. And you thought it stood for something else!
raster Used to refer to images that use a grid of multi-colored or multi-tinted cells that, when looked at altogether create the image. When getting your logo designed, never get only raster images because these are unable to be sized up, only down. Always request a vector version of your logo.
RGB Stands for “Red, Green, Blue.” These three colors all combine in varying degrees to create all the colors in the light spectrum. RGB is the color language used by computer monitors and digital cameras. This colorspace is opposite of CMYK, which is the colorspace of inks, not light.
sans serif A way to identify typefaces that do not have serifs, or small strokes that are at the end of the main strokes of serif typefaces. See also serif.
script A kind of typeface that mimics handwriting in any form, including cursive or children’s print.
serif A way to identify typefaces that have small strokes that are at the end of the main strokes that identify serif typefaces. Serif typefaces are used mostly in print, while sans serif typefaces are used in website design. See also sans serif.
style guide A document that sets out the groundrules to follow with a logo so that the business’ corporate identity system is adhered to.
text only A style of logo design that creates the logo only with a typeface and possibly editing the natural shape of the typeface, but no incorporation of an icon. A text only treatment is usually used when a business doesn’t have a focus that is easily translated into an icon.
typeface Synonym: font
vector Images that are composed of line segments determined by mathematical formulas instead of by a grid of multi-colored cells. Having a vector version of your logo is of utmost importance because it can be resized to any size – from the size of a pea to the size of a building – without loss of quality. Antonym: raster.

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