The fonts behind famous wordmark logos

Alex Bigman

What really separates a wordmark logo from a font? Sometimes, not very much at all.

You might think that über-rich companies like Facebook and Google, or high-end brands like Giorgio Armani, would invest in completely custom-made lettering for their logos. In fact, this is not always the case.

Basing a wordmark on an existing font is a common practice no matter how high-profile your client is. As you’ll see below, it’s the little differences that matter. Lengthened ascenders, adjusted kerning and other such seemingly minor modifications can transform a commonplace font into the backbone of a recognizable brand mark. Check it out.

Facebook

facebook

Facebook’s logo is based on the font Klavika. Can you spot the differences? The two parts of the “k” are merged, the cross bars of the “f” and “a” meet at a parallel slant, and the “c” has been widened slightly. (We wrote about this at greater length here).

Google

google

Google’s logo is based on the calligraphy-inspired font, Catull BQ. The differences are quite tiny: the cross bar on the “e” no longer tapers at the end. It is mostly the use of color that sets Google’s logo apart.

Vimeo

vimeo

Vimeo’s logo is closely based on a font called Black Rose. Basically, the letters have just been squished a little closer together, merging the “v” and “i” and leaving less space between the “m,” “e” and “o.”

PayPal

paypal

No doubt you have heard of Verdana, that font that PayPal’s logo is based on. PayPal rounded the edges of the letters to attain a less severe appearance, and altered the bellies of the “a”s to make them a bit squarer and longer. The result looks kind of retro to us.

TMZ

tmz

TMZ’s logo uses the font Amelia. The “T” has been enlarged so it extends over the “M.” The letters may also have been widened somewhat.

Flickr

flickr

Unless there is a minuscule difference we aren’t noticing, Flickr’s logo does not modify its base font, Frutiger, at all. It relies entirely on color for its recognizability. (This would not be allowed in a 99designs contest, since a license for Frutiger bold could be purchased for far less than the prize amount).

Absolut

absolut

Absolut Vodka’s logo is based very closely on one of the most famous fonts of all time: Futura (here, condensed). If you look carefully, however, you’ll see that the Absolut logo adds tiny serifs to its letters, making them a bit more dynamic.

YouTube

youtube

Not much change to YouTube’s base font, Alternate Gothic No. 2. The words are separated by a greater length and, of course, there is a box enclosing “Tube” (making this not technically a wordmark … but pretty close).

LinkedIn

linkedin

Linkedin uses a bolded version of Myriad Pro, with tightened kerning. Can you think of any other awesome companies that use Myriad?

Giorgio Armani

armani

So-called modern serifs, which are characterized by the conjunction of thick and thin lines, have long been a hallmark of luxury branding. Giorgio Armani uses one of the most famous modern serifs, Didot LT. The kerning is tighter and the letters in “Armani” have all been connected.

Twitter

witter

Twitter has by now shed its wordmark in favor of a standalone symbol – the bird. Definitely a good idea, if you ask us. Previously, the lettering was based on the font Pico. The pair of “t”s and the “e” were modified.

Skype

ype

Skype gets away with using a rounded variation of Helvetica, perhaps the most ubiquitous font of all time, for its logo. It tightens the kerning so the letters touch, and encloses them in a bubble outline.

99designs

9d

Here’s the other logo that uses Myriad Pro – ours! No major alterations – just tighter kerning and, of course, the flip book frame around the “99”. We’ve made some touch-ups to the original contest winner by Bonic, but at its core the logo remains the same.

Do you think these famous wordmark logos are distinguished enough from their base fonts? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Cover photo: Package Inspiration

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