[cap-talk] Logos or text, or both?

David Hopwood david.nospam.hopwood at blueyonder.co.uk
Thu Feb 10 20:02:50 EST 2005

Ian G wrote:
> David Hopwood wrote:
>> Ian G wrote:
>>> By logos, I mean a graphical image selected
>>> by the user among a list of graphics.  In
>>> principle, it could be any logo found on the
>>> site, or it could be a picture dragged from
>>> the user's photobook.
>> That was what I meant by icon. I don't see what the technical 
>> difference is.
> When I think icon, I think a limited set of
> pictures sitting at the top of my browser,
> doing a fixed job.

That wasn't what I was thinking. If the term "icon" suggests that to
some people, then we should use "logo".

> By logo, I think something that is individualised
> by the service owner.  As a particular extension
> to that, TrustBar allows the user to select *any*
> logo for a service provider,

While we're being picky about terminology, by "service provider" do
you mean exactly the same as "principal" or "identity"?

> thus changing the meaning to that more akin to the pet names
> one.

Yes, although still with the limitation that the logo needs to have
been pre-prepared. Maybe allowing the user to optionally add a caption
would get around that limitation to some extent.

> Having said all that, let me re-address these
> points you raised:
>>>> The disadvantages of icons are:
>>>>  - It isn't practical for the user to create an icon. Therefore it has
>>>>    to be provided in the introduction, which increases the 
>>>>    possibilities for confusion and social engineering. With textual
>>>>    names, the user can always choose a name that is meaningful to them.
> It is practical for the user to select an icon from
> any range of availables.  Certainly that includes
> something that an attacker presents, and this
> does put the emphasis on the Introduction.
> I think you may be correct in suggesting that the
> logo carries a cost in Introduction that the name
> may not carry.  Well, maybe.  If the attacker can
> suggest a logo in Introduction, then presumably
> he can suggest a name as well, although that
> becomes less effective if we have trained the user
> to always enter in some phrase.
> Against names is the fact that they are more
> mental effort and less aligned to how the brain
> works.

I'm not so sure of that, or maybe it's user-dependent. When I think
of websites that I use frequently ("amazon.co.uk", "erights.org", "C2",
etc.), I most often think of their names (usually, but not always the
domain name), rarely if ever their logos. If I visualize anything, it's
the name, not the logo (and not in any particular font that might be
used in the logo).

This is partly because the logo-to-website relation is one-to-many --
Amazon has a logo (which I'd forgotten even though I used the site
yesterday), but amazon.com and amazon.co.uk don't have separate logos.
Well, I suppose *technically* they do, but the difference is purely

Another reason is that it is easy to internally vocalize [is that the
right term?] a name as part of an arbitrarily complex thought expressed
in natural language, whereas it's more effort and much less common -- for
me, anyway -- to visualize things like logos as part of complex thoughts.
A real example - yesterday I thought something like:
   "I need to go to amazon.co.uk to change the shipping preference, or
    those CDs won't arrive for Mum's birthday.",
but wouldn't have thought:
   "I need to go to ..." <visualize Amazon logo> "... to change the
    shipping preference, or those CDs won't arrive for Mum's birthday."

I don't think people's ability to organize their mental activities in
terms of words should be underestimated. Many books and academic careers
have been based on debating to what extent language is "aligned to how
the brain works", but we don't need to get into that debate. We just
need to observe that in practice, most logos are just words with some
extraneous twiddles. More cynically, many marketing people's jobs depend
on promoting the idea that people remember visual logos, but there's
not much evidence that they do.

>>>>  - An icon can't be typed. It can only be selected from a list, or
>>>>    referred to indirectly via a textual name. This makes icons less
>>>>    expressive in the sense that you can't use them in many situations
>>>>    where you could use a name, for example in a command line interface.
>>>> I would be unsatisfied (both as a user and as a system designer) with
>>>> any system that allowed only icons to be used, i.e. did not always
>>>> permit a textual pet name to be used in place of an icon.
> Right, I think I expressed elsewhere that I think
> it would be good to have both features available.
> The both have merits + demerits, and working
> together they could cover more situations.
> (In fact, whether it uses logos or pet names or
> any of the other ideas is really a side issue in
> the process.)

Right, but I'm going to be picky again: a pet name system always uses
pet names, which may be logos. It's not "logos *or* pet names".

David Hopwood <david.nospam.hopwood at blueyonder.co.uk>

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