|by Dr. William L. Haig
CEO Powerlogos Design
Co-author, The Power of Logos: How to Create
Effective Company Logos,
NY: Wiley, 1997 (fifth printing.)
Logo Design as "Surface"
Two questions often asked
are: (1) why is the principle of credibility in communication
persuasion important to logo design, and (2) how does graphic
design communicate credibility, or more specifically, how
does a company logo convey its credibility? Logo design
must be credibility based to be effective. Consumers look
at logos as a form of visual "surface" credibility
in a similar manner as they judge how people look from simple
hair or clothing cues.
Credibility Based Logo Design
The underlying theme throughout
the work of Powerlogos Design is that source credibility
principles in communication persuasion applied to non-verbal
graphic design forms to express the company personality,
also known as the company's credibility image. Most research
in source credibility has been in interpersonal, or people-to-people,
communication. The research I pursued is in source credibility
in company-to-people communication, with the company as
An early study in source
credibility research relative to company to people communication
was my MA thesis in 1979, Credibility Compared to Likeability
in Marketing Communication: A Study of Company Symbols.
The conclusion was that company logos which were perceived
as predominately credible would have more persuasion value
than company logos which were perceived as only likeable.
The thesis was written into a marketing book, The Power
of Logos: How to Create Effective Company Logos: NY:
John Wiley & Sons, 1997. My PhD dissertation in 2006 also
concluded that credibility based logo design has persuasion
value. In fact, my research with credibility based logo
design and company websites was very convincing. A company
website with a credibility based logo design was
up to four times more effective in influencing clickthroughs
to a product or service purchase than a company website
with a non-credible logo.
What is meant by source credibility
or source credibility communication persuasion? In its simplest
terms, credibility means trustworthy (sometimes referred
also as believability). People are more inclined to purchase
from a company or a salesperson if they believe the company
or person is trustworthy and hence honest. Credible sources
have attributes of expertise/competency and are believable/
trustworthy. Credible sources are high or low in these attributes,
meaning a range of dynamism. For example, a successful speaker
would be competent about the subject being discussed, is
trustworthy, and have a dynamic delivery. Company personalities
are often discussed in terms of people metaphors. Thus a
successful company would be competent relative to its core
business, trustworthy, and use its logo to communicate these
traits as a dynamic non-verbal graphic design message.
When discussing source credibility
applied to company logos it should be pointed out that there
are four categories of source credibility which Dr. B.J.
Fogg of Stanford University first identified in his book,
Four Categories of Source Credibility
is believed from a "simple inspection or first hand experience."
We form surface judgments about various things which come
into our perception world, such as a person's looks, hair
style, clothing, manner of speech, manner of walking and
so on. This is the world of non-verbal visual cues, such
as expressed in graphic design, to infer that the source
is ‘believable/honest’ and ‘competent/expert’. We look at
product packaging this way. A computer software package
which is dated looking, or looks like someone printed it
in their garage, will be skipped over at a computer store
in favor of a "professional" looking package design. A website
which is poorly or amateurishly designed will also be skipped
over as not being from a credible source. It is the same
with logo design. And it is the easiest type of credibility
a company can control because it is planned, created and
implemented by company management on a consistent basis.
It is important to note that logos fit into the 'surface
credibility' category initially, but can ultimately be part
of any categories which follow.
is believed from "general assumptions in the mind of the
perceiver." We form presumed judgments when we interact
with a source and presume from stereotypical generalities
that the source is credible, or not credible. For example,
car salespeople are generally not considered credible, while
other stereotypes are generalized as being credible, such
as the clergy, or physicians.
is believed from "third-party endorsements, reports, or
referrals." We form reputed judgments on the basis of labels,
such as an MD or PhD following one’s name or other endorsements
such as awards, referrals and reports on people or things.
A link from a respected website to another is another example.
is believed from "first hand that extends over time." This
is considered the most powerful form of credibility. The
cornerstone of this form of credibility is consistency
over a period of time. When a person is reliable
we infer that our dealings with that person can be expected
and will be consistent with each encounter and over a period
of time. It is the same with companies. We want our experience
with McDonald's to be the same each time we go for a quick
meal down the street or in another state. McDonald's has
Hamburger University and detailed manuals to learn and follow.
Other areas of consistency are the strict use of the company
logo and compatible graphics which convey the same credibility
based image. For example, a company's logo design and stationery
design must convey the same defined credibility traits.
This is further explained in my article, Consistency:
The Key to Branding.
In summary, company logos which are credibility based will
be successful when implemented up to four times greater
than logos which are not credibility based. This is because
we want to know that the company we are dealing with is
competent and can be trusted to work with. Surface credibility
allows a company to build its credibility on a consistent
basis from managed visual cues expressed through its logo
and various marketing communications. This is management
controlled branding to achieve Brand Credibility.
© William L. Haig, Ph.D. or Bill Haig, Ph.D. 2007
This is an original work of the author. All rights reserved. Copyright registration will be applied for. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, and recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the author.