EPA Communications Stylebook: Logo Guide

Last revised 2009

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A Couple of Preliminary Ideas About Logos

Logos and a variety of similar graphic symbols are discussed in this section because they are essentially visual, however, it is central to an understanding of such symbols that they are not simply design elements. Logos communicate large ideas, in most cases a set of related ideas.

Logos can fulfill many overlapping functions as graphic design, identifier, sign, symbol, signature, label and others. To understand the design elements of EPA communications, the most fundamental aspect of the logo should be understood at the outset the signature and label of the Agency; it identifies a product as ours. An EPA logo says and signifies that EPA produced (or co-produced) the material.

As you might put your signature or photograph on something to identify you, EPA uses its seal and logo in the same way. For that same reason, we insist that it be used in some standard fashion, so that people can predictably, reliably, and easily know that something is our product, and represents us, that we, in turn, stand behind it.

The identity of people, of organizations, vouches for and stands for the credibility of their statements and products. When we sign and label our products and statements with our seal or logo - be it in partnership with others, or alone - that directly relates to our credibility. It is to be regarded and used with utmost seriousness.

A key consideration in understanding the use of the EPA seal and logo is strictly prescribed by Administrative Order. An Administrative Order is the most serious form of procedure by which a federal agency determines its own internal operations. This is not a guideline, recommendation or procedure; it is called an Order because it is an order. There are actually several orders which prescribe various applications and uses of the EPA identifiers. View Order 1015.2A, the 1978 order on the EPA Seal and Agency Identifier (PDF) (4 pp, 144 K)  Intranet; view other EPA orders  Intranet.

In the following pages, you will see the meaning and application of those ideas, as well as the practical application and use of all identifiers in the context of graphic design, formatting and production.

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Ethics and EPA Logo Usage

Fundamentally, every EPA employee is bound by the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 CFR Part 2635, which includes specific prohibitions against misuse of position:

  1. Appearance of governmental sanction: An employee shall not use or permit the use of his government position or title or any authority associated with his public office in a manner that could reasonably be construed to imply that his agency or the government sanctions or endorses his personal activities or those of another (5 CFR 2635.702 (b)).
  2. Endorsements: An employee shall not use or permit the use of his government position or title or any authority associated with his public office to endorse any product, service, or enterprise except: in furtherance of statutory authority to promote products, services or enterprises, or as a result of documentation of compliance with Agency requirements or standards or the result of recognition for achievement given under an agency program of recognition for accomplishment in support of the Agency's mission (5 CFR 2635.702 (c) (1) and (2)).

Taken together, these provisions mean that employees cannot allow the use of the EPA logo to endorse any non-federal product, service or enterprise. It is important to know that the Agency's many voluntary programs do not have any statutory authority to endorse. Only Energy Star enjoys specific statutory authority to promote products. The other voluntary programs do not, so employees cannot allow the use of these voluntary program logos for promotional purposes by outside entities, including the voluntary program partners. If the partnership program marks include the line at the bottom "A US Environmental Protection Agency Program", then those marks SHOULD NOT be used by the non-federal partners.

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Other Rules and Orders

EPA Graphic Standards Systems

EPA Order 1015.2A (PDF) (4 pp, 144 K)  Intranet establishes the EPA logo and requires all EPA visual communications to follow a common "EPA Graphic Standards System". That system is designed to:

  • Clarify Agency policy regarding logos, labels and other graphics
  • Inform Agency stakeholders of the process and strategy for graphic unity
  • Guide internal and external stakeholders on our logo standards

This logo guidance describes the approval process for proper use of the EPA logo, existing program or partnership logos and/or graphic identifiers. The process seeks to:

  • Eliminate competing, inconsistent or ineffective logos
  • Ensure that outreach correctly communicates the intended Agency message and identifies EPA as the organizational home or program sponsor
  • Reduce unnecessary work and expenditure for Agency communications

Make clear that some existing logos, such as sub-Agency organizational identifiers, are prohibited by EPA Order 1015.2A (EPA Seal and Agency Identifier) (PDF) (4 pp, 144 K) )Intranet and will be discontinued.

This guidance is intended to be instructive in enhancing our public outreach. Agency communications must comply with EPA logo standards. Communicators must confer with Product Review Officers and Web Council members from content through design and placement. As with all aspects of the Product Review process, OPA is required to ensure an effective product and process, including notification of division and office management.

The EPA Graphic Standards System stresses "themes" for programs, partnerships, projects or events that need a specific identity, but one that has a clear EPA identity. Products are required to use both the approved program or partnership logo and the EPA logo as illustrated in the Logo Classifications section of this Logo Guide (PDF). If the print area restricts the use of the two logos together-- products are required to use the signature line. As emphasized above, you should consult with your Product Review Officer and Web Council members at the concept stage as you consider whether and how to use appropriate graphic identity.

Product review, the EPA outreach development and approval procedure, includes these principles on logo usage:

  • Firmly established interagency partnership logos previously approved by OGC are grandfathered as long as they continue to be effective programs.
  • Ensure that an EPA signature line or EPA logo is used with all current approved program or partnership logos (see the Logo Classifications section of this Logo Guide (PDF). The only exception to this requirement would come if OGC determines that in a specific case it could create a legal issue.
  • OPA will assist communications and public affairs staff (in particular Product Review Officers in the product development and Web Council members) in Program and Regional Offices in the product development and approval processes. A case-by-case review by OGC is necessary to ensure proper trademark searching and licensing has been done and that no ethics standards will be violated.
  • Follow logo guidance to ensure that logos have integrity, are consistent and not defaced.

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Basic Elements

Due to the number of graphics in the Basic Elements section, the Basic Elements section is best viewed in PDF format.

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EPA Logo Policies

Logos and similar graphic identifiers can be powerful visual representation of an organization, program, partnership or event. Their proper use, consistent with logo standards that promote a unified EPA brand, is therefore mandated in outreach products, whether printed or electronic. The absence of an obvious association dilutes the public's understanding of and trust in the Agency's important mission and accomplishments.

EPA Order 1015.2A (PDF) (4 pp, 144 K)  Intranet establishes the EPA logo and requires all EPA visual communications to follow a common "EPA Graphic Standards System". This system is designed to:

  • Clarify Agency policy regarding logos, labels and other graphical representations
  • Inform Agency stakeholders of the strategy and process for logo unity
  • Guide the internal and external stakeholders on the Agency's logo standards

This logo guidance describes the approval process for proper use of the EPA logo, existing program or partnership logos and/or graphic identifiers. The process seeks to:

  • Eliminate competing, inconsistent or ineffective logos
  • Ensure that outreach correctly communicates the intended Agency message and identifies EPA as the organizational home or program sponsor
  • Reduce unnecessary work and expenditure that could be spent to promote the agency and its programs
  • Make clear that some logos in existence, such as sub-Agency organizational identifiers, are prohibited by EPA Order 1015.2A (EPA Seal and Agency Identifier) and will be discontinued.

This guidance is intended to be instructive, not punitive, in enhancing EPA's public outreach. Agency employees and contractors are required to comply with EPA logo standards, and to confer with product review officers and Web Council members from concept through design and placement. As with all aspects of the product review process, failure to comply will be handled by OPA and OGC as needed case-by-case, including notification of division and office management.

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Touchpoints

Aligning "touchpoints" with one clear identity/name equals consistency. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to strengthen the Agency name and communicate the Agency message.

  • Announcements/press releases
  • Brochures
  • Business forms
  • Certificates/awards (internal and external)
  • Conference materials
  • Customer service/employees/field work
  • Direct mailers/postcards
  • DVD interface
  • E-mails (graphics, headers and footers)
  • Exhibits/billboards
  • Fact sheets
  • Handbooks
  • ID in office environments (interiors/exteriors)
  • Letterheads/biz cards
  • Manuals
  • Newsletters
  • Packaging
  • Photo ops (signage, banners and backdrops)
  • Podium seals
  • Posters
  • Presentations
  • Press headers
  • Printed publications
  • Promotional giveaways
  • Reports
  • Signage
  • Site sgnage
  • Uniforms/hard hats/hats/tee shirts/vests
  • Vehicles/boats
  • Video productions (headers and credits)
  • Web sites/banner ads/podcasts/videos
  • Written word/speeches

The remainder of the Touchpoints section is best viewed in PDF format due to the number of graphics.

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EPA Logo Classifications

Due to the number of graphics, the EPA Logo Classifications section is best viewed in PDF format.

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