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While studying logo design in college, we often argued about the differences between icons and logos, but we could almost never reach on a clear-cut consensus. But over the last few years, the difference has become very stark. Here are my very simple observations on the topic.

Are icons different from logos?

Absolutely. Icons and logos are poles apart from each other. An icon is a generalized graphical representation of something like an instruction, a technology, a rule, a category, a product, a service, a tool, an offer and a whole lot of other things that are really very general. Whereas, a logo is strictly the representation of a particular person or a company or a brand.

An Example

In the above image the icons of a turbaned man show exactly that: a turbaned man. But the logo of a turban shop didn’t have to have the turban. It’s just the initial letter of the brand The Turban Hut, designed with two things in mind. The target audience: Sikh men who sport turbans. Sikh people are the world are known to be really colorful and joyous, hence the multiple color bars. And if you visit a turban shop, that’s how the turban are arranged there. Read more about The Turban Hut branding here. An icon for, let’s say, an immigration company will consist of a globe, or a plane or both of them. And there’s nothing wrong with it. But a logo for an immigration company doesn’t have to have the globe or a plane. It can be something abstract like a swoosh or a stroke etc., depending on the name of the company, their target audience, their expertise, their location and a whole lot of information about them. All the logos available free on the internet are icons, not logos. Read more about free logos here.

Icons are for the brain. Logos are for the heart.

Icons and logos are made for different reasons. Both of them are equally important. But they cannot be used interchangeably. While an icon has to be simple and straightforward, and yet convey the meaning, a logo on the other hand is a more complex entity that has to bring alive emotional connections.

Why your logo should never be an icon?

The sole purpose of getting a logo made is to stand out from the crowd. And by picking up an icon and using it as a logo does exactly the opposite. A lot of so-called logo designers just do this sin over and over again! They pick up icons from Google Images and write name below them and their logo is ready! These are the type of logo designers that sell logos for five dollars on freelancer websites! You pay someone to help you get lost in a crowd of companies that are doing the same thing as you – using icons from Google Images and using them as their logos.

But, what’s the solution?

You can hire a real logo designer. Some research is all it takes. Just explore the work of each designer and you will find your match. If you are a real logo designer, just drop a message. We have plenty of logo design work that needs to be outsourced. And if you are looking for a logo designer, get in touch. – Jagjit Singh Makkar (Brand identity designer)

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