The isotype is the graphic representation or symbol used to identify a brand, company, organization or entity without the need to include its name. It is a fundamental part of a brand’s visual identity. While the logotype includes typography and is often the name of the brand, the isotype is only the symbol or icon.
A classic example of an isotype is Apple’s bitten apple. Without adding the name “Apple“, the apple alone is enough for people to recognize the company it represents.
In graphic design and branding, it is very common to break down the visual identity of brands into different components. We are going to briefly describe the different components so that you have a clear idea of how each one of them differs:
- Logotype: It is the typographic representation of the brand name.
- Isotype: The symbol or icon associated with the brand.
- Imagotipo: It is the combination of the logotype with the isotype.
- Isologotype: It is similar to the isotype, but the name and the symbol are integrated in such a way that they cannot be separated without losing their identity.
Keys to the design of a good Isotype
The power of the isotype is the ability for a brand to be recognized directly through an image that does not include any text. Think about the Apple apple example mentioned in the introduction. How many brands can you recognize directly from their isotype? We are sure there are many. This is the result of creating a powerful brand.
Although branding goes far beyond the isotype, here we are going to tell you some of the key guidelines or principles that we should keep in mind when designing an isotype for our brand that is memorable:
When designing both logos and isotypes, it is essential to keep it simple. A simple design is more easily recognizable, memorable and reproducible. Companies such as Apple, Nike or McDonald’s have managed to consolidate simple isotypes that are recognized worldwide.
The main objective of a brand is to remain in the public’s mind and to be remembered, right? A memorable isotype can be a good start. Once the public sees it, they should be able to remember it and associate it with the corresponding brand. One way to achieve this is through a unique and distinctive design.
A good isotype should be versatile, meaning that it can be used on different platforms and media without losing its essence. Whether on a business card, a giant advertisement or a mobile app, the isotype should maintain its clarity and be easily recognizable regardless of the medium it is in.
While fashions and trends change over time, an effective isotype transcends fads. It is important that the design is not perceived as obsolete after a few years, but remains relevant and current. Think of brands like Adidas or Nike, whose isotypes have stood the test of time.
The isotype should be appropriate for the company or brand it represents. For example, an isotype for a law firm and one for a toy store will have very different approaches in terms of design and what they communicate. The logo or color palette will be completely different in both cases (or so we hope)
In case you are not clear about the concept of isotype or just want to see some examples, here are some of the isotypes of well-known brands: