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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.)

Increase Sales with Credibility-based Logo Design
June 2007

     This is the first article of a Saul Bass legacy series. This article explains the philosophy behind successful logos. This philosophy begins with the teachings of my mentor, design legend, Saul Bass. Saul's approach to logo design produced many great logos for clients such as AT&T, Alcoa, Minolta, Warner Bros, Girl Scouts of America, Rockwell International, Continental Airlines (circa 1968), United Way and United Airlines among others. The author takes these teaching techniques and uses source credibility in communication persuasion as a frame of reference for planning and creating dynamic logo design which is verified by research as required for a PhD degree, in 2006.

The purpose of the Saul Bass legacy series is to bring company managers and designers closer together to better understand the philosophy, process and success prediction of marketing communication and branding in general. This article starts with logo design.

Saul Bass

     In 1964, Saul Bass hired me as a strategic logo design planner, account manager and director of new business contacts. I was young, not too many years out of UCLA. I was attracted to Saul's rational approach to great logo design in the 1960s which was a great step forward from what many called "the genus designer" or "If I designed it, it is right!" way. Saul was captivating as he described his reasoning why his great designs worked.

     What follows is another great step forward in rational logo design, eventually proven to be a successful process supported by my university supervised research pursuing higher degrees. (Please see footnote at end.) The process I termed credibility-based logo design. This new philosophy and resulting process happened one night in Saul's office.

The Night Saul Bass Had a Revelation

     In late 1967, Saul asked me to see him after work for some quiet time with no distractions for a very important meeting. He wanted to discuss logo design strategy for a new client, Continental Airlines. Eastern Airlines and Braniff had just launched the airline logo and plane markings boom. Now, this was a new logo and plane markings design image program for Continental and we had to give them a dynamic solution.

     I remember Saul saying something like, "If this were a 'western-oriented' airline we would just give Continental 'western' looking logo complete with an 'out west look' reminiscent of cowboy gear." But this was a different airline at the time, uniquely known for its high service image.

     Previous to this planning meeting, an associate and I observed and to photographed how Continental looked in reality. The objective was to show Continental management what the public saw at ticket counters, city ticket offices, inside their aircraft, outside their aircraft, baggage handling operations, ticket jackets, uniforms, signage, stationery, business cards, advertising and so on. Today what we would call this recording all "all visual touch points" for a client. This would be an eye opener for the client from the customer perspective. This would also help our planning and design phase as well as for ultimate changeovers.

     We came back with a photographic inventory of 1500 slides showing a dated and confused Continental visual appearance. What we found was a definite conflict with Continental's reputation for friendly and efficient service. The Continental visual look said the opposite. Plus Continental had no overall distinct character and looked rather like most other airlines at the time.

     After discussing several themes, such as the aforementioned "western" look, nothing seemed to work and frustration set in! I had an idea and I wanted to please my boss. My psychology/communication education at UCLA kicked in and I had an inspiration which might work. Suggesting it to the great Saul Bass, however, was like speaking before the "great Oz."

     I mustered my courage and suggested to Saul that since Continental is already known for their high service image, why not extend this image and communicate Continental in all areas just like Continental conducts itself in real life? Let's make the logo communicate Continental as a high-quality service airline. Let's begin with the logo communicating Continental as an "airline", its basic business. Then add to the "airline" logo symbology design motifs expressing "friendly", and "efficient" in terms of "high tech" and "state-of-the-art" which are the elements of Continental's high service image.

     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.

     This hit Saul like a revelation. Now WE continued.

  Go to Part 2, Designing the New Logo

© 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.

© 2007 Powerlogos Design. All rights reserved. 'Powerlogos Design', 'Credibility Based Logo Design', 'Logo Implementation Guidelines' and Logo Planning Report' are registered 
service marks of William Haig. Other brands or products are trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks or registered service marks of their respective holders.