|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
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).
- 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.
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.
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.
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
Logos must use the symbol over
(or beside on the left) the company name. There
are three trademarking systems almost all logos fit
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.
- 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.”
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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 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.