Difference between a Logo + Illustration

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More often than not I get a lot of requests of people asking for a logo, but it turns out they’re really wanting an illustration. It’s a request and a difference that I think most people would know the difference of, but turns out a lot of people don’t understand the difference. When people start a business, are looking for a rebrand or looking for a logo – sometimes I think they get stuck on this vision of a specific image. That, and I think it’s hard for many (not all) people to really visualize what a logo is. Seeing it in action, on signage, on a website, business cards etc. So I thought I’d share what a logo is.

A logo (much like a business name) is not always literal.

Sometimes it can be! But for instance, if you’re in real estate – that doesn’t mean you have to have a house in your logo. If you’re a coffee shop – it doesn’t mean there has to be a coffee bean or coffee mug in the logo. If you’re a clothing boutique – it doesn’t mean you have to have a tshirt, clothing tag or shoes in the logo. This isn’t to say that you can’t have those things in it, but there’s a lot of value to seeing your logo go BEYOND the literal item(s) and service(s) that your business is offering. Why? Because of business growth, new partners, brand evolving, relating to your target market and so much more.

Logos should be versatile.

This means you should be able to use your logo (or a secondary logo/part of your main logo) in everything that your brand touches. Websites, favicon (the icon that shows up in your browser window tab), business cards, embroidery, stickers, pens, clothing tags, stamps, mouse pads, brochures, billboards etc. Whatever you have for your logo needs to be able to be readable and functional on everything it’s on.

Logos don’t require a ton of detail.

This one varies and it can depend on the industry you’re in. For instance: wine and beer. Those logos tend to have a lot more detail in their designs, but it also has a lot more to do with the labels and additional designs they’re associated with. To go with the previous point – having too much detail in a logo might actually cause more confusion for your viewer(s) and it just won’t translate well in other platforms. This is why logo design is hard! As a designer when working on logos, I have to simplify the idea into the simplest form, and then simplify it again. And simplify it yet again. If you start getting into a ton of detail – that’s when you start moving to an illustration.


So now what makes an illustration? An illustration is a drawing. It doesn’t have the sole purpose of branding. It’s taking a picture and recreating that picture (or idea) through another medium. Think of a drawing that you’ve seen or even a cartoon, or an illustration you’ve seen in a magazine/book.

Logo design and illustration can go hand in hand, but they’re very, VERY different. These are two very different fields with two very different purposes. Illustration is more geared for fine art and graphic design is more towards commercial art.

Graphic design has a strong hold and purpose about communication. It’s connecting your target audience to you and your business. Illustration is more creative interpretation.

So if you yourself are looking for a logo design, it’s important that you understand the purpose of your logo. If you still want something more detailed with an illustrative quality – that can still be a part of your brand. Use it for background images on your website, business card, brochure etc, but it would not work well as logo.

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