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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.)

Great Logos and Why
March 2004

The company logo is probably the most important marketing tool on your business card or on your website. It gives your company a competitive advantage and will help you achieve company goals. This is not the role of just any logo. You must have a POWERLOGO.

This article tells you the eight must criteria your POWERLOGO must have to be successful.

These criteria are based on the teachings of logo design legend, Saul Bass (AT&T, Rockwell International, United Way, Alcoa, Minolta, United Airlines, Continental Airlines circa 1968 -1982 among many others). Saul’s teachings were refined in university-supervised research, which I conducted as part of an advanced degree in Communication* that later became the premise of my best-selling book, The Power of Logos: How to Create Effective Company Logos. NY: Wiley, 1997 (fourth printing).

  1. Logos must be credibility-based. This is essential. It is based on a simple principle: credibility persuasion. Just as credible people are more influential, so are company logos on the business card or letterhead. Many studies in people to people communication conclude that if a person as the source of the message is competent or knowledgeable as well as trustworthy, then the message will be more readily accepted by the receiver. The person is considered credible and more influential.

    The research I conducted several years ago supports my premise that if a company logo as the source of the message is also designed as competent, knowledgeable, or expert in its field of business as well as trustworthy, then the company’s message will be more readily accepted by the receiver – most often the customer. My study was the first ever to validate this premise and is the core of what we do at Powerlogos Design.

    Knowing “what” to put into the logo in the first place is 90 percent of the logo design job! Design is important. Content is more important.


  2. Logos must symbolize the company business to be credibility-based. Ok, how does a logo become credibility-based? It is easy to understand that when a computer wiz talks about the best compact to buy, he will be more influential on this subject than, say, a chef. And, if a chef talks about a new restaurant in town, he will be more influential on this subject than the computer wiz (well, in most cases).

    The person most “expert” on the subject will be more persuasive. This is how credibility persuasion works between people assuming both are trustworthy.

    How does this same principle apply to designing the company logo? The first thing a competent credibility-based logo designer does is symbolize the company business in the logo. Voila! This says that the company is an expert in that business. Like the shoe repair or key shops with their signs depicting their business. We know their business specialty. This is the key to a successful logo, but there is more.


  3. Logos must also be designed to communicate that the company is trustworthy. This gets a bit more tricky to understand, but here we go. Jeanne and Clifton Fuller wanted a redesign of their logo for Access Referral Network. This company is a one-stop website to locate professionals and information about them. The company’s trustworthy traits are: “highly professional,” “uses cutting-edge technology,” “competent,” “efficient” and “provides quality” information. These are traits which contribute to our believing that the company is expert in its area of business.

    We started with symbolizing their basic business which is their area of expertise: a one-stop portal of information about professional services. Then, we added design forms which would “non-verbally” express the desired trustworthy traits. Most often a contemporary motif will do this.

    This is where the expertise symbol couples with trustworthy traits to become a great, credibility-based logo as shown here in the final Access Referral Network logo design. It is strong and communicates with high impact as well. A must for all applications, particularly use on the internet.

    All companies have different trustworthy traits. An airline might want to communicate “highly technological” and “efficient service.” A public transportation system, “professional” and “friendly.” An antique shop, “been around a long time” and “neighborly.” A website designer, “cutting-edge knowledge” and “highly creative.” And a bank, “stable.”

    Other trustworthy attributes include: large, conservative, innovative, exciting, dynamic and traditional. They always support the company being expert in what it does. They are also a true statement about the company.

    A third prong of company credibility is forward thinking. This is a company which is innovative. Recent research indicates that this is a high enough attribute to be included with expert and trustworthy. Being innovative is accomplished when a designer makes the whole logo come alive with a contemporary motif.

    Besides Housen Painting, several examples of credibility-based logos are at the end of this paper.


  4. Logos must be planned. A great logo doesn’t come out of thin air. It has a basis for being. Logos have content and they have design form. Content and design must work together to communicate what the logo is to “say.” This requires a plan.

    Our planning process is based on substance. We want to know what content and what design form the logo is to “say” to be effective.

    Powerlogos Design first asks our clients to fill out a questionnaire. What do we look for when we analyze the questionnaire? We look for traits which make this client credible.

    That becomes the logo design strategy which we include in our Logo Planning Report. The report actually verbally describes the client’s ideal logo, it’s content and design form. Our design team uses this plan as a guide to design client logos. We refer back to this plan when our final logo is presented for approval as a basis for judgment.

    We are the only logo design firm using this process to plan and design logos based on credibility principles. It saves many hours of otherwise wasted time without a plan. Like most improved processes, we are able to bring our logo planning and design fee down to an affordable $550 value.


  5. Logos must use the symbol over (or beside on the left) the company name. There are three trademarking systems almost all logos fit into:

    There is the name only:

    There is the monogram:

    There is the symbol over the name:

    The first two trademarking systems limit the company in expressing its area of expertise and trustworthy attributes. The name and monogram trademarking systems are intended only to be just what they are: a name and a monogram – with little or no credibility traits. The more a designer takes the name or monogram and tries to add credibility traits, the less recognizable the name or monogram become.

    Only the symbol over the company name allows credibility communication to be effective. Further, the symbol over (or beside to the left of) the company name is the only trademarking system which communicates well on the Internet.

    Besides being credibility-based, the logo must also be bold, express authority, and be interesting – in an instant! All this without losing the prime objective that the logo must be credibility-based. This is quite an undertaking for a graphic designer.

  6. Logos must communicate, communicate, communicate. Here are the most common mistakes:
  • Adding too much to the symbology so that the whole logo is confused and cluttered. Less is more. Often designers have to explain each detail in the logo. There should not have be an explanation that the “O” stands for the sun rising; the “wiggly lines” stand for “the lush landscape;” the “spaces between the wiggly lines” stand for the water flowing through the landscape; the “red” color stands for...etc. Everything in a logo must be simple and evident. A great logo needs no explanation.

  • Making the name font compete with the symbol. This is the font that is a design statement in and of itself. It is always complex. The name font should always be simple, supporting the symbology. The symbol carries the burden of communicating credibility. Not the name font.

  • Placing the company name within the symbol. The name and symbol must always be separated, with the symbol over or beside to the left of the name. Otherwise, the visual confusion is obvious. Many logos have the name curl around the symbol, causing the head and eye to follow each letter to read the whole name. We call this “visual gymnastics.”

  1. Logos must be very prominent in application. Frequency and consistency are the key points here.

    Frequency means that all areas of public contact must be utilized: Business cards. Stationery. Forms. Trucks and vehicles. Shop or office signs. Site signs. Employee caps, shirts and uniforms. Giveaways. Brochures. Advertisements. Proposal covers.

    Basic psychology tells us that the more frequent we experience something, the more likely we will remember it. And it should be the same, or consistent, each time.

    Consistency is the most common breakdown in logo application. Try this. Put up a “logo wall” somewhere in your office with all areas of current logo application. More often than not, this is normally a hodge-podge – as either no one is responsible or implementation just happened without consideration as to the logo working as a brand communication system.

    The cure is to appoint a “Keeper of the Logo” with responsibility for applying the logo to all possible applications (frequency) and do it each time the same way (consistency). A Logo Design Implementation Guideline is often prepared to assist in this important requirement.
    The result is integrated brand promotion which gives the logo, as a key member of the overall brand, important equity and awareness.

    It also demonstrates the importance the company places on the management of resources. By managing the logo well, the company is often considered to be well managed in all areas.

    Feng Shui followers rejoice. Having consistency means having order and alignment, reducing clutter. Energy flows from a living, meaningful logo that perks up the senses when used frequently in ready reach and in your control. This is positive workflow within and outside your workspace.


  2. The logo symbol and name must work together. Logo symbology and the company name must both express credibility traits. The symbology is a “visual” expression of company credibility. The name is a “verbal” expression of company credibility. Names like Mail Boxes Etc., The Closet Factory, and United Parcel Service are all good descriptive of the company’s expertise. They are therefore credible names.

    On the other hand, names like Cebit, Retrospex and Hebasco do not describe the company business, thus negating the opportunity to express their expertise in their respective fields. These names are also hard to remember.

    Trustworthy attributes can also be incorporated into a company’s name. Names like Compaq for the personal computer is not only descriptive, but with the “q” at the end suggests “high technology.” Zippy’s Restaurants sound like a quick place to get a meal. Le Nouveau Riche Gourmand restaurant connotes something more formal. And better to check the wallet before going in.

    Company names should also have longevity, as they are what we recall as the company brand. If the credibility-based logos which express the brand image are in the symbology, then the name must support the symbology for the entire logo to be effective. (Already well-established names excepted.)


The following logos are credibility-based. A brief description tells why they are particularly great logos.

(Buyers Broker of Florida, Powerlogos Design/Keith Rollman)
Comment: Buyers Broker is unique in that it represents the buyer, not the seller. The logo symbolizes this area of expertise. The design motif is contemporary which projects the look of highly reliable and efficient. We can believe that this company is credible.


(Movie Tours, Powerlogos Design/Anastasia Beltiukova)
Comment: Movies Tours is a Kauai, Hawaii, based movie location tour company. Visitors tour where Jerassic Park, South Pacific and many other films were staged. The logo symbology captures the “tour” essence of this business, its area of expertise. The fun image furthers the believability that one would have fun on this tour. Done in a contemporary design, it is a perfect example of the three elements for a credibility-based logo design. The logo also won the Award of Excellence in the 2004 Advertising Federation Awards Competition.


(CIDE/UCLA, Powerlogos Design/Cygnus Advertising)
Comment: CIDE is part of the Graduate School of Education at UCLA. It’s mission is to promote international development for political and economic purposes through the dissemination of educational information world-wide. The book symbolizes its area of expertise as a repository of information for networking. It looks like a large organization which is cutting-edge, learned, stable and highly trusted. This design character projects a feeling of trustworthy or believability about this renowned education repository resource.


(Housen Painting, Powerlogos Design/Cygnus Advertising)
Comment: This is a perfect example of a credibility-based logo for small business. It was planned and created on this website. The "house and paint brush" symbolizes Housen's expertise in house painting. The logo projects Housen Painting as "highly professional company" doing only "quality" work – great trustworthy traits. The contemporary design further signifies the company as being know-ledgeable about the "latest paints" and "painting techniques." These traits were planned from the questionnaire section of this website.


(Access Referral Network. Powerlogos Design/Cygnus Advertising)
Comment: This company is a one-stop website to locate professionals and needed information about them. Providing information through a single website portal is this company's field of expertise. This is the main symbolism. The company is also highly professional, cutting-edge, competent, efficient and provides quality information. The contemporary yet stable design motif non-verbally expresses these trustworthy traits. The logo is very strong with high impact. This is a must for companies on the internet.


(Catalina, Powerlogos Design/Cygnus Advertising)
Comment: Catalina Island is just thirty miles off the coast of Los Angeles. The focal point of Catalina since the 20s has been the great Casino in Avalon. It is to Catalina what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. It is only fitting that Catalina Island Vacation Rentals and its sister company, Catalina Island Real Estate, feature the Casino. It says "Catalina." It is says "we know Catalina." This is the company's expertise. The design style is contemporary which communicates that the company has the latest technology to serve its customers. High personal service is also a key trustworthy trait.


(Earth Tec, Powerlogos Design/Cygnus Advertising)
Comment: This company provides offshore webhosting and services from Panama. This is its area of expertise. It employs leading edge technology to give reliability, secure, speedy and comprehensive services. The contemporary design tells us this and gives us trust in the company.


(Earth Keeper, Powerlogos Design/Cygnus Advertising)
Comment: Earthkeeper Foundation is a humanitarian money fund based in Panama. The symbolism communicates that the fund helps people which is its area of expertise. It also communicates that the company is highly competent, people-oriented and stable, which gives it trust in what it does. We can believe in the company. A contemporary shape tells us that the company is forward thinking in its use of funds.


(Marquee, Powerlogos Design/Cygnus Advertising)
Comment: Marquee Printing is a quality based printing company with very low prices for small business. Business printing is its area of expertise. The form is contemporary so we know that this company uses the latest printing technology to give us quality printing at low prices. We feel that the company is trustworthy and forward thinking. A great place for "value" in printing products.


(Prince&Phelps, Powerlogos Design/Cygnus Advertising)
Comment: This company consults with business in employee issues such as drug abuse and workplace violence. It "helps" people at work, hence the subtle communication of the word "helps." This is its area of expertise. The use of typography is perfect for this company, giving it the dignity of the organization. We get a feeling of trust and forward thinking from the contemporary character, communicating the true character of this consulting organization.


(Vaccum Lady & Co, Powerlogos Design/Cygnus Advertising)
Comment: Vacuum Lady & Co is a small shop, which sells high quality vacuums and cleaning products. This is its area of expertise. The company has grown on the basis of its high attention to personal service, care, clean/fresh store, honesty/trust and long relationships. These attributes are included in the symbolism to round out a feeling of trust. The contemporary shape tells us the company has the latest products available, and is forward thinking in this regard.


The following logos are not credibility-based.

Comment: Unlike the AT&T logo which is credibility-based as it communicates "world-wide communication," Verizon does not express its area of expertise, which is also worldwide communication. The "V" swoosh doesn't communicate anything except "V" as in "Victory" as one company executive explained. It is slightly trustworthy expressing "technology" and "efficiency." It is also slightly a contemporary design form. The AT&T logo is blue – a good "technology" or "electronic" color while Verizon is red.


Comment: Avaya's slogan is "communication without boundaries." It is also in the communication business which is its area of expertise. This is not expressed. The company name does not help to understand the company business. It is also not trustworthy or contemporary looking.


Comment: This company is worldwide, but neither the name nor other symbologies express the company business, therefore lacking expertise. It is also a dated form looking "slow" and "sluggish" two trustworthy attributes which are probably not intended. It is also not contemporary.


Comment: This is a good company name with appropriate symbology expressing the company business and therefore giving the company expertise. It is also highly "likable" but lacks other dimensions of being trustworthy for a moving company such as "highly efficient," "latest packing techniques," or "on time"…. These attributes could have been expressed just by making the whole design contemporary – which is also lacking.



* University-supervised research as part of an advanced degree in Communication (with highest honors). Master of Arts thesis: Credibility Compared with Likeability: A Study of Company Logos in Marketing Communication. This later became the premise of his best-selling book, The Power of Logos: How to Create Effective Company Logos, John Wiley & Sons, 1997 (fifth printing), New York. William L. Haig, 2943 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815 Phone: (808) 922-4042 bill@powerlogos.com.

© William L. Haig, Ph.D. or Bill Haig, Ph.D. 2006

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.