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What are logo variations and how do you use them in your marketing?

Date Published:

May 4, 2023

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We’re walking through the five different types of logo variations to use in your visual marketing so that you can look professional, consistent and cohesive wherever your brand is experienced.

You’ve just wrapped up with a brand designer (or purchased a pre-made brand design) and you receive a file with your brand artwork. Inside you find not only your main logo but quite a few other options as well. It can be a little overwhelming, not to mention confusing – why so many and what on earth do you do with them all?

The short answer?

Because every business has different needs and applications for their logo, rather than sacrifice the quality and legibility, business owners can pull up the correct logo variation and make sure they look professional in all circumstances. Each logo variation is either slightly or distinctly different than the primary logo, allowing you and your team to create brand awareness without compromising legibility.

If you’re ready to demystify the meaning to all those files and better understand how to use your brand artwork within your own marketing efforts, read on!

In this article

Rather watch than read?
What is a logo variation?
Why are logo variations important?
How many logo variations do you need?
The primary logo
The alternate or secondary logo variation
The wordmark logo variation
The brandmark or submark logo variation


And in case you’d rather watch instead of read, check out the video below!


What is a logo variation?

It’s a modified version of your primary logo that gives your visual brand identity the ability to be utilized in a variety of different applications and use cases.


Why are logo variations important?

As your business grows, your logo will be used in more than one place. Sure, when you’re just getting started, it’s likely that your logo will only be used on your website and maybe a business card or social media profile.

But as your business starts to grow and evolve, the needed applications starts to expand. You’re now giving presentations and want to create a few printed marketing collateral items. And, that one logo doesn’t really look the best across those various use cases.

Enter: logo variations.

By having a variety of variations or iterations of your main primary logo, you’re allowing your brand to put its best visual foot forward while maintaining a cohesiveness and consistency.


How many logo variations do you need?

At the very least, we recommend you have a primary logo, alternate logo and brandmark or submark. This will cover most of the uses that you’d need for your business.

That being said, every business is different and it really depends on your brand’s experience. For a more personalized answer, start simple and ask yourself: Where is your brand showing up on a consistent basis? Think both digital and in-person.

Because it can be helpful to have a starting point here are common logo applications:

  • Website
  • Social media profile
  • Social media graphics
  • Blog post graphics
  • Podcast artwork
  • Sponsorship
  • Presentations
  • Business cards
  • Brochures or rack cards
  • Video
  • Letterhead
  • Thank you cards
  • Branded swag
  • Proposals
  • Postcards

Once you have a list of where your logo will be used, you can do an audit on whether or not your primary logo will be legible in all your brand touch points. If not, this is when it makes sense to have a different variation.

If you’re working with a brand partner on your visual identity, asking where your logo is going to be used is part of the design process. That way, you’re getting all the variations you need right from the start.


The primary logo

The primary logo is your main logo – the main identifier of your brand.

How to use it: When in doubt, use the primary logo. Because it’s the main visual identifier of your brand, it will always be the first choice.

Examples of where to use it: Well, ideally as many places as you can, without sacrificing legibility.

Quick tip: Make sure you also receive a black and white version of this logo to use in different applications, i.e. when you’re overlaying the logo onto an image or graphic. 

primary logo design for Dune Lakes Travel with black and white logo varaiation


The secondary or alternate logo variation

The secondary or alternate logo is arranged in a different composition than the primary version. For example, if the primary is in a stacked layout, the secondary or alternate will be in a horizontal layout. The goal here is allow for flexibility by emphasizing a different orientation.

How to use it: When you need a simplified version of your logo but still want to include the core elements of the logo.

Examples of where to use it: In use cases where you need a different orientation to maintain legibility; if it’s horizontal: presentations, business cards; if it’s stacked: social graphics, rack cards.

secondary logo design and alternate logo design for Dune Lakes Travel


The wordmark logo variation

If your primary logo has a logomark (a graphic element) the wordmark variation is just the text – no graphic or illustration element.

How to use it: When you aren’t able to have a lot of detail or need the brand name to be legible at a smaller scale.

Examples of where to use it: Watermark on images, branded swag, sponsorship mentions.

wordmark or text based logo design for Dune Lakes Travel


The submark and brandmark logo variation

This is the most compact version of the logo. If it’s a submark, it has your business name and/or tagline and is circular in composition. If it’s a brandmark or logomark, there aren’t any words – just a graphic element or monogram (your business initials).

How to use it: When you need a brand identifier but the scale is small, so words aren’t legible.

Examples of where to use it: Watermark over images, website favicon, social media profile picture.

brandmark logo design for Dune Lakes Travel


Happy branding!

All my best,


Additional Visual Brand Resources

Not sure which logo structure is best for your brand? This post walks you through the seven types of logos and how to find your best fit.

Learn how to utilize the power of color to help evoke a specific brand experience in this post.

Seasonal Brand Theory is an easy way to help you identify your brand personality. This post walks you through the process.


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graphic for logo variation blog post