person sitting at a desk with four logo variations

Four logo variations that every brand needs to know

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

While a logo is a singular visual expression of your brand, it can—and should—take on many forms. That’s where logo variations come in. A logo variation is an alternate version of your primary logo design. The variation gives your brand the ability to be cohesive, consistent and recognizable in many settings. It makes you adaptable.

Think of it this way: a social media image, a website and a business card may require different logos in different shapes and styles. Rather than relying on a sole logo to do all the legwork, your brand can have flexibility by developing several logo variations.

Any brand can benefit from logo variations, but some brands will need more variations than others. It depends on the style of your logo and your business industry and needs. We’ll go over four key types of logo variations—primary, stacked or secondary, submark and favicon—to help you find out which ones you need.

Primary logo

Building your logo variations begins with the development of your primary logo. This is your most complete and complex logo. It’s also the one you’ll use the most often. The primary logo is the one that will include the most details, such as a brand name, tagline and date of establishment. From bold signage to corporate T-shirts, it’s your go-to logo and the front-and-center representation of who you are as a brand.

Primary logos are frequently horizontal, but this can vary depending on the design and theme. Sometimes, you get a stacked logo for your primary, like Strange Lane Homewares (above example on the left). If your primary logo contains color, don’t forget to also have a black-and-white version on hand.

To emphasize the importance of your primary logo, ensure that it always has room to breathe and isn’t overpowered by other design elements. The primary logo should be gripping, memorable and adaptable to make sure it’ll look as beautiful in a website header as it does in large print. Let it be the star.

Most brands settle on one primary logo for consistency. However, we’ll occasionally see a unique exception, like Adidas. The brand has three primary logos which are used interchangeably depending on the collection. They maintain cohesion by using the same font and continuing their signature three stripes throughout every logo. This is an unusual approach that won’t work for most brands, especially if you are still growing your business. But as the second-largest athletic apparel manufacturer worldwide, Adidas gets a pass.

Three Adidas logos

Three Adidas logos via ZenBusiness

Rather than the Adidas route, most brands go with a primary logo that has several variations, like a secondary, submark or favicon, which we’ll go into below.

Secondary logo

Once you’ve established your primary logo, it’s time to establish a secondary logo. The main goal of a secondary logo is that it should have a different arrangement from the primary version. For example, if your main logo is horizontal with a symbol next to the text, the secondary logo can be stacked with a symbol above or below the words.

Think of the secondary logo as a reflection of the primary logo. It should have the same fonts, same line weight and same general aesthetic in order to uphold your brand identity in a consistent way. A secondary logo will be useful for times when space is a bit limited or if the space doesn’t fit your primary logo.

Different places have different space requirements for a logo, for example, a horizontal logo might be better suited for a letterhead template or business card.  Or a social media profile image might be better suited for a vertical, stacked logo. In this sense, your secondary logo is there to support and fill in the gaps where your primary logo can’t fit or doesn’t look the best.


Once your primary and secondary logos are set in stone, it’s important to create your submark. This is the most simplified and condensed logo variation and it will come in handy at times when you need to put a logo in a small space, both in print and digital forms. Remember: not all primary and secondary logos are meant to be scaled down. That’s when a submark will come in handy.

primary, secondary and submark logo variations

Primary, secondary and submark logo variations by ✦ᎪᏞᎥᏟᎥᎪ✦ via 99designs by Vista.

The two most common types of submarks are circles containing text and/or symbols, or a submark that is solely a symbol. Depending on the size and layout of your primary and secondary logos, you may or may not need a submark, but when in doubt, it’s good to have.

In print, submarks are as common as footers or watermarks, and they’ll also make a great sticker. In digital spaces, a submark is perfect as a social media avatar or at other times when you need to use your logo but want it to look more refined.


Last but not least, creating a favicon is a useful part of developing logo variations. A favicon is a tiny icon that sits at the top of an internet browser. It’s often just a symbol but can also fit a few letters depending on the design and layout.

The purpose of a favicon is to create a visual reminder of brand identity. For those who keep many tabs open at once, a favicon can also help your customers find your website easily. Look at it as the best of both worlds. With a favicon, visitors can quickly locate your website while you boost your brand awareness and identity.

While a favicon may not always be necessary for your brand, it can certainly come in handy because it can also pull double-duty as an app icon. Think of the many apps on your phone and how some icons stand out more than others. A well-designed icon will serve you well, making a positive impression on your brand as a whole.

Mix it up with logo variations

Your logo is the most recognizable aspect of your brand as a whole. Not only should it be beautiful and memorable, but it should be able to adapt to different forms. By using logo variations, your brand will be prepared to make a bold impact at any time and in any place. A primary logo, secondary logo, submark and favicon create the ultimate visual brand experience.

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Author: Aviva M. Cantor