It's tough enough to create an effective and memorable logo design (opens in new tab), let alone one that uses typography (opens in new tab) alone. But often getting down to the bare essentials is where the most remarkable solutions and brilliant ideas emerge. Sometimes it's a beautifully thought-out ligature that nails it, or an imaginative use of letters. At other times it's clever use of colour, scaling or re-arranging of letters or even subtly removing something from the logotype that gives it a twist of brilliance.
Take a look, and you should emerge freshly inspired and challenged to look at typography in a new way...
01. Science Museum
For the Science Museum's recent rebrand, design consultancy North decided to make a statement with a typographic logo that sees the lettering narrow down as the reader pans from left to right. The rebrand is part of a wider project to bring the Science Museum in line with other institutions under the NMSI (the National Museums of Science and Industry) umbrella.
When the new logo was released, it prompted some unkind comments (opens in new tab) from Johnson Banks – the agency behind the identity scheme the museum had sported for the previous seven years – on Twitter. Although these were later retracted (opens in new tab). Who says type can't cause a stir?
Probably the mark that Pentagram is most renowned for, the late Alan Fletcher's identity for the V&A Museum is breathtakingly simple and brilliant. The V and A mirror each other in form and the ampersand simply creates the crossbar of the A, ridding the need for any further detail on it. Brilliant.
The logo was designed in 1989, but remains as effective today as when it was first released. As the museum approached its 150th birthday in 2007, Wolff Olins was brought in to reinvigorate the institution's branding (opens in new tab), but the logo remained unchanged at the heart of the scheme.
British indie magazine NME (short for New Musical Express) is a music industry institution, and its current logo design – launched in October 2013 – simplified its well-known typographic logo further. The confident use of simplified, all-caps type, set in Sharp Sans, a sans-serif font by Lucas Sharp, assert the title's authority wonderfully.
04. Action on Hearing Loss
Simply underlining or striking through letterforms can convey an enormous amount of information. In this typographic logo, Hat Trick Design (opens in new tab)'s use of underlines and strikethroughs helps highlights the positive aims of the company – namely taking action to help people hear and communicate – and transforms the logotype into an inspiring call to action.
05. Cutting Room
MadeThought (opens in new tab) captures the essence of Cutting Room (opens in new tab)'s editing suite by contrasting two very different typefaces next to each other. The result is an elegant solution that is superbly executed across its website and packaging design. The identity is especially masterfully executed on the carrier bags, having been chosen to make full use of the corner of the bag. Brilliant.
The handwritten logo for popular email newsletter platform MailChimp (opens in new tab) reflects its informal and friendly nature, and along with its simian monkey mascot, forms a central part of the brand's appeal. Typography guru Jessica Hische (opens in new tab) is the designer behind the current version.
Hische lightened the weight of the previous logo overall and improved the vector drawing, with the letterforms revised for legibility, especially at small sizes. The end result, as shown above, is a more refined, refreshed look that still embodies MailChimp's playful ethos.
South by Southwest – styled as SXSW (opens in new tab) – launched as a music festival in 1987, and has since grown into a mega-event incorporating music, film and design. For a long time, the festival commissioned a new logo each year, but in 2017 the organisers asked Austin-based agency Foxtrot (opens in new tab) to create a permanent identity. The result is a clean, typographic logo with a self-explanatory directional arrow.
08. Visa (opens in new tab)
The Visa logo has gone through a few redesigns over the years, and here's the current look for the global credit card company. The new logo tweaks the classic design, removing all traces of yellow. But few will blink an eye: the iconic typography is so firmly embedded in the public consciousness that it's still instantly recognisable without it.
09. FedEx by Landor (opens in new tab)
No typographic logo list would be complete without FedEx. Designed in 1994 by Lindon Leader, the then-senior design director at Landor, the FedEx logo is proof that simple, clever type-based logos can still look as fresh and smart 20 years down the line.
Impossible to ignore once you've spotted it, the FedEx logo contains a very appropriate directional arrow, indicating FedEx's commitment to speedily delivering parcels on time. Cleverly, the FedEx logo also changes in colour to indicate different sectors of the company one is dealing with.
The big daddy of typographic logos is Cadbury. Minor tweaks have been made to this logo, based on the signature of William Cadbury, since it first appeared on transport livery in 1921. But it's remained essentially the same almost a century later – a true case of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.