Increase Sales with Credibility-based Logo Design
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.
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
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.