What's the difference between Branding, a Logo and a Design?


Most people (outside of the design industry) don’t know there is a difference between these 3 terms and that’s 100% understandable. If that’s you, it’s unlikely you’ve ever had to ponder the meaning behind any of those things. You likely use them in terms of what brands you like, such as Starbucks or Old Navy.

In terms of services rendered however, Branding, Logo and Design have very different meanings for those of us doing the creative work and I’ll explain it in regular ‘ol words so you don’t get hung up on industry jargon or terminology that confuses you further.



Let’s start with the simplest or most expansive one, because it’s easier to nail down. Design covers so much ground. Anything that is designed by a creative (such as a graphic designer like myself) can be considered a “design.”

That means EEEEEEEVERYTHING you come into contact with is designed, from the cup or burger wrapper you got at McDonald’s to the pattern on your new PJ’s & the billboard you passed on the way to anywhere. Yeah, I really mean everything, or nearly everything.

“Design” covers such a wide range of products, including “logo” and “brand” design, website design, advertisement design, product design, packaging design (even the Cheeze-It boxes are designed by someone).


A logo is a single design that represents a company or a product. That’s it!

When you think of logos specifically, it’s just the logo image (design) itself. The apple on all Apple products, or the green mermaid logo for Starbucks. It’s also the word “Cheeze-It” on their box, but not the box design itself.

Logos don’t include anything else, like company fonts or colors; that’s where Branding comes in.


A brand is a collection of things that represent the company. It’s all chosen to specifically maintain consistency across all aspects of the company, and can also help provide some variation while still staying within the style of what you’d expect from that company’s “look.”

In other words, Apple’s branding is their simplistic font choice, their signature apple logo with the bite taken out, their colors are black, white & grey, and looooots of white space. Their “brand” is all of those things combined.

Here are some terms relevant to Branding (I’d show you examples here, but as I don’t have copyrights to do so, I’ll let you Google them instead; sorry!):

  • Alternate Logo / Submark:
    This is an alternative to using the main logo and it’s normally a simplified version of it, either with part of it completely removed or without so much detail or text.

  • Pictorial Mark:
    This is an image only (example: Apple’s apple-logo) that’s typically just an icon, with no words.

  • Word Mark:
    This is just a word (example: Google), but the word itself is also the logo.

  • Letter Mark:
    This is just an acronym, typically (example: NASA or UPS), but the letters itself are the logo.

  • Abstract Mark:
    This is a design, like a pictorial mark, that doesn’t look like anything you recognize because it’s an abstract idea/design. (example: Pepsi’s logo without the text)

  • Mascot Mark:
    This is a design that uses the company mascot in it (example: KFC’s logo, with Colonel Sanders in it or Wendy’s logo with Wendy in it).

  • Combination Mark:
    This typically combines an abstract design or icon design with words also included (example: Burger King’s logo, with the whopper/burger icon & the text “Burger King” in it).

  • Emblem:
    This is more typical of someone with a complex logo (example: Harvard’s crest logo).

Here’s an example that uses several of those branding terms:

Walmart’s branding consists of the word “Walmart” (called a word mark) in that simple font. Their new colors are a lighter royal blue, white & yellow. They have an alternate logo (or submark), which is that yellow sunburst looking thing. You recognize them by either that yellow sunburst design or the text “Walmart” or when you see both side by side.

Their colors, their main logo (Walmart + sunburst), word mark only (just “Walmart”), submark (just the sunburst), their color scheme and font choices all make up what you expect from the Walmart company’s style. When you see those designs or words or colors in any combination, you know what you’re looking at & which company that styling belongs to, even if you don’t see the word Walmart on it.

Now if you walked into Walmart one day and they had randomly started using a font style like Times New Roman bold for their word mark and switched up the colors to red & white, you’d be very confused, right? (They’ve neeeever used red; that’s Target’s color!)

That is the exact reason why Branding exists.

During a Branding Design a set of Brand Guidelines is created once the branding design is complete & approved, to help the business owner, marketers & designers who work for that company stay consistent. That means, with those guidelines, they will know when to use which logo type, submark, word mark, fonts & colors and how to use them appropriately. The idea is to keep anything from being hard to read or hard to see and keep it consistent so consumers know what to expect and can begin to develop brand recognition because of the consistency they’ve come to expect from that company.

Brand loyalty is easier for consumers to develop when they know what to expect & what to look for on the shelves, right? For example, I ALWAYS know Aussie’s hair products because of their signature purple bottles, and TRESemmé because of their signature black/dark grey bottles. My go-to mascara is a purple tube of Covergirl, and my go-to powder foundation is a light blue Covergirl compact. See what I’m getting at here? I know what to expect from those products, and I’ve developed brand loyalty because of that. I know they work for me, so I don’t tend to try new ones often, because I know what I like and what already works and what it looks like and where I can get it, which keeps things easy for me as a buyer.

Costs & Pricing

The reason why logo design & branding design is typically expensive (or at least more than you’d expect “for just a design”) is because a logo or brand design isn’t intended to be used for a short time and discarded.

A lot more time, thought & consideration is involved in the creation of the final logo or company branding. It’s intended to be used for many, many years to come. It should be timeless so that a re-brand or logo re-design isn’t necessary every 10-20 years.

Another reason is that this design represents your company. It will be what people begin to associate with your company, and it will be what you use to market your company, which means eventually you will profit off having it.

Want to know what some famous companies have paid for their logo, or some iteration of it? Check out these stats below!

  • Coca-Cola: $0
    Designed by their bookkeeper in 1886

  • Google: $0
    (specifically the very first BETA version) designed by the company’s co-founder in 1998

  • Twitter: $15
    the original bird icon was purchased from iStockPhoto, the designer might have made about $6 on the purchase and was not credited.

  • Nike: $35
    the co-founder purchased their famous swoosh design from a design student in 1971

  • Enron: $33,000
    Paul Rand (a famous brand designer) designed the logo in the 90’s (Rand also designed logos for ABC, IBM, and UPS)

  • NeXT: $100,000
    Paul Rand also designed this tech company’s logo for Steve Jobs in 1986.

  • London’s 2012 Olympics: $625,000/£400,000
    Wolff Olins designed the logo in 2007, way beforehand and sadly it wasn’t received well

  • Pepsi: $1 million
    Arnell Group redesigned the Pepsi logo in 2008 and included a 27 page document explaining their design choices

  • BBC: $1.8 million
    Their logo was redesigned in 1997

  • BP: $211 million
    The ad agency Ogilvy & Mather worked with BP to change everything in their branding (logo, tagline) in 2001 to reinvent the brand.

Upwork, Fiver or Etsy

It’s a NO for me.

The reason why designers don’t recommend that you use services like Upwork, Fiver or Etsy and others like it, specifically for your logo or branding is because those are typically templated designs.

What I mean by that is that it’s very common for a designer (of any skill level) to create a set of designs and post them on one of those platforms and say something like ‘I can edit any of these to fit your business.’ They can offer that ‘service’ cheaply because they have a set amount of time in the design (not much) and it isn’t customized for your business specifically. They’re also selling it to multiple other businesses, so it won’t even be uniquely yours.

They might sell it to you for $5 on Fiver or $40 on Etsy, but think about how many times they’ve sold that slightly edited template to other people! You could be 1 in 100 using the same exact look with different text and maybe a different color scheme.

Ideally, logo and brand designers start from scratch. They create with your business, you (the business owner) and your target market (your potential customers or consumers) in mind when they create it so that it will resonate with them and make sense to use for your business type.

They also (ideally) create a design that won’t limit you to a certain set of products or services and this is something a lot of business owners start with when they begin talking about what they want in their logo.

I hear this a lot: ‘I want to show X, Y, Z in my logo because that’s what I do/offer.’ I always try to steer clear of that, because if you limit your visuals to just those things it makes it harder to expand your services or product line in the future, –or it rules out the other stuff you do because consumers/customers don’t know you offer anything else except what they see in your logo. Make sense?

Back to the templates though:
Someone selling you a template where they just edited the text to say ‘Your Business Name’ instead of ‘Example Text Here’ isn’t doing any of those customized things for you, and who knows how many other people chose that template too!

Plus, if you ever want to file for a trademark or copyright on that design you may not be able to if someone else beat you to it or if you don’t have the rights to the design in the first place (something you’d look for in a contract you’d have with a graphic design service from someone like myself).

Legal rights

Rights to the art/image/design/logo/branding

Part of what I give to my own clients (that’s included in the service & the fee paid) is the rights to the design I create for you, and the contract states as much.

As soon as you approve the design & make the final payment I send you vector (re-sizable without distortion or pixelation) art files and raster (lower-resolution & better for faster loading on web) files that you’d be able to use yourself, send to the printing company, upload to your website or social media as needed. My goal is to send you off with a design kit of sorts, so that you can go & use your new designs successfully without any further help from me, unless you want it.

You also receive the rights to do what you wish with that design; it’s 100% yours. I don’t retain ownership of the artwork itself, so you can use it however you need to legally, including applying for a trademark or copyright.

After all, I’m creating the design FOR YOUR BUSINESS, not mine. After we’re done working together I no longer have any use for it, but you do & that’s the whole point! I WANT you to use it and for it to help your business look more professional, more legit, and become more successful because of those things. So I also want you to have full access to it both legally and with files you can use without needing special design industry-standard software to open them.

Questions are always welcome, of course, but I work hard to think through everything you’d need & provide it for you at the end of our time working together so that you don’t feel tied down in what you can do or which files you can use, etc. (FREEDOM!!)


Whew! That was a lot. I hope that helped you understand the differences between branding, logo and design AND understand the differences between different types of logos. Hopefully you’re more informed now and can make a better decision for your own business when it’s time to work with a designer in the future. 😊