A Non-Designer’s Design Guide: Simplified Logo Terms + Definitions

My husband is an electrical engineer. Most days as we’re lingering in the kitchen unpacking the empty tupperware from our lunches, I’ll ask him about his day at work. As I listen I try to envision the concepts and tasks he is learning and doing on a daily basis. But here’s the deal: I have to ask a lot of questions. If I didn’t stop him to define a term, explain a process, or even sketch it out for me, I’d be lost.

When he pauses and simplifies it for me, I’m ready to learn more. And I often remember those specific terms or processes the next time we talk. It’s kind of fun to impress him with the little knowledge I retain from day to day 🙂

Over the years, I’ve found out a similar dilemma is happening in the design industry from the designer to the client.


Dictionary.com defines jargon as: “Special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand”. Jargon can be a tricky thing to balance—simplifying a concept enough for clients/customers to understand while still appearing as an expert in your specific field.

We cannot assume that those who are not working with these terms on a daily basis should know their meaning or purpose. However, if I can catch on to my husband’s engineering lingo, I know you can learn the purpose of each logo type and understand how to apply them well to strengthen your branding and marketing.

A Non-Designer’s Design Guide

A Non-Designer’s Design Guide is a blog post series I’m developing to help bridge the gap between designer and client, specifically targeting jargon. I want to provide a resource you can refer back to that simplifies and visually explains terms, processes, file types (and more!) that are used in the graphic design industry. This series will also lay out practical tips and steps to apply what you’ve learned within your own marketing.

In this first post, I’m explaining the differences between the primary logo, the secondary logo, and the logo sub-marks; how you as a business owner (you don’t have to be a graphic designer!) can better apply the different logo types to strengthen your marketing; and why this is so important.

The Primary Logo

The primary logo is the official logo of the brand identity, and where the secondary logo and sub-marks stem from. It will typically include the maximum information and details that may be left out of other logo types. For example, the primary logo may include the date your business was established, your location and/or tagline, whereas the secondary logo may only be made up of your business name.

The Secondary Logo

The secondary logo will be a simpler version of the primary logo. Sometimes designers will provide a few variations of the secondary logo if the brand application would call for a stacked logo (a more vertical variation) and a horizontal logo variation.


Logo sub-marks show attention to detail, add creativity and depth to the brand, and allow for flexibility throughout marketing design. Sub-marks can come in many different forms, but I have noticed a few patterns in my experience. Sub-marks tend to use the imagery seen within the primary logo, the initials from the primary logo or a shortened version of the name, or the tagline designed with elements from the brand.

Below you can see how the secondary logo and sub-mark pull elements used within the primary logo.


By understanding the purpose for each of the different logo types, you are now equipped to apply them in a way that will provide the most impact for your business and marketing.

Primary Logo

Use the primary logo whenever possible to create strong brand awareness. You’ll want viewers to catch on to the face of your brand—the primary logo. Typical uses and application: Website header logo, the covers of print/digital PDFs or workbooks, and as an overlay on social media banners and ads. There are many other possibilities for application, but the key here is to establish your primary logo as the face of your brand.

Secondary Logo

The secondary logo(s) is designed to be an alternative, as it lacks some detail found within the primary logo (such as the date established, the location, or the tagline). Ideas for application: Blog post graphics, the footer of social media posts, and print/digital material. I believe the secondary logo can be used in similar ways as the primary logo, especially when combined with strong brand messaging where those details that are included within the primary logo are being provided elsewhere on your website or within marketing material.


Sub-marks have the most impact when they are used to complement and add detail to the brand. For businesses with long names, sub-marks provide a simple alternative to the primary logo. They are perfect for social media profile images since they are smaller and fit better in a circular shape. Other application ideas: Website favicon, adding detail to print/digital materials, branded stickers or stamps, creating texture and layers by enlarging the sub-mark and setting at a low opacity on a colored background.

And that’s it for Simplified Logo Terms + Definitions! I hope this post helped you understand the differences between logo types and learn to apply the logos to work together and add depth to your branding and marketing. Your business will thrive from having professional brand visuals and creating brand awareness through consistency.

If you have any further questions with how to apply your logos and sub-marks, please comment below, get in touch through the link below, or email me at tessa@tessadejongdesign.com. I’d love to hear from you! Stay tuned for the next post in this series.


3 thoughts on “A Non-Designer’s Design Guide: Simplified Logo Terms + Definitions

  1. Great post! I am excited to learn about more design components and how they all fit together to create a complete brand identity!

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