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Pairing Typefaces to Symbols for Logotype Design

Graphic designer Ana wrote me a message, “I have been working as a freelance graphic designer for over 20 years. When I’m working on a logo, I can spend HOURS browsing through fonts looking for inspiration.”

And you know what? This isn’t an isolated situation. We hear this frustration all the time. This type of work comes up often among the Varsity Team members.

Graphic designers spend a lot of time trying to figure out where to start with pairing typefaces to symbols.

As a matter of fact, I’ll never forget my first freelance product logo with then-client Canon Business Machines in which I logged over 120 hours in designing. I remember staying up all night looking at logo books and scrolling through the font palette, not knowing where to start.

I couldn’t bill them all those hours, so I lost my big on that project. Instead of making $1,500 on that logo, I probably lost $1,500. I guess Canon paid for my education. And it didn’t even turn out that great.

What went wrong?

First of all, I didn’t understand how important type was. I was focused on the symbol, and was using the letterforms to fill in space.

I assumed that great logos were all about the symbol, and the company name didn’t matter. On most logos, I didn’t notice the type. I realize now that is the one thing that demonstrates good typography.

I was referencing bad logos. I didn’t know what was good at the time. I had zero guidance.

Have you ever known someone to design their own logo? Or commission their cousin or secretary because they had Adobe software? Those logos are all over the place. Uninformed, unfocused and amateur. Now that I look back, I see the answers were easy to find. I should have studied the masters.

I didn’t know what the look for. I didn’t realize that classifications and characteristics were important to understand.

Typography fundamentals matter. Even in logo design. Especially in logo design. When you’re building a visual communication tool that will be used by a company for upwards of 10 years and placed on everything from a side of a building to the surface of a golf ball, those fundamentals matter.

Want to save some time finding core typefaces for logos? Michael and I address this issue and provide some guidelines in this video recorded during one of our monthly Alumni Calls.

First watch the video, and then I want you to take a minute to test your pairing skills.

Soulspace was a client of ours, a Hawaiian yoga sanctuary, in which we developed a few early logo directions for.

Take a look at these three directions, and look at the symbol and the type. What do you notice?


Let’s see if you can decide which of these three logotype variations work best, and why.

Don’t say which one you LIKE the best, because when it comes to design, it’s not about what you like, it’s what works to communicate visually.

So, in your opinion which works best? A, B or C? Leave your comment here with your best guess on which one works, and state why you think so.

In our next post we’ll address each option.


  1. B works best because of weight, kerning, and less lines. When printed or scaled it will look the same whereas the other two have the thin lines that are distracting and won’t print the same when scaled.
  2. My opinion is B works best. I’ll comment on the reasons the other two don’t work as well then come back to B. In concept A I think the finials are very distracting. Is this Archer? There are also strong angles where the strokes of some letters intersect with other strokes that contrast with the organic symbol as well in my opinion. I like the typeface of concept C but I feel it’s too thin and airy to be used with the symbol. This could possibly work if the symbol was monoline but that’s not what we’re dealing with. The visual stroke weight in concept B is equal between the symbol and type which creates a dominant connection to my eye. The kerning treatment pushes the feel of space visually without disconnecting the message. The curve on the bottom of the lowercase l is a fantastic allusion to organic shapes/lines – especially since it is the only letter that does not have a round shape to it. I think this really helps make it work without relying on a more organic, overused, or less professional typeface.
  3. B? Because the mark is more balanced with the name and it will read at smaller sizes? Great video btw, all this time I’ve just winged it! I’m afraid to look at my old logos
  4. B is balanced, but my wrong thinking says they almost match too closely. As if the symbol was part of the text and it shouldn’t be. Loved the video too. Yes, I look at our wrong logo every day! Oy!
  5. B is my pick. It looks like it will scale the best because its the most simplified of the 3. It also feels the most balanced; the weight of the symbol is very close to that of the font. The weight also makes it more legible, especially if it is ever placed over images or busy backgrounds. There is also a balance in personality; the symbol communicates most of the personality while the typeface is more simplified.

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