“When we began creative development of the Hawaiian Electric’s new logo we were looking for a symbol that could capture the essence of the corporation’s relationship to the people of Hawaii,” said graphic designer Oswald Gouche. “We settled on a stylized rendering of the classic Chinese Handcuffs.”
According to Gouche the simple child’s toy that traps unwary children or slightly retarded adults (who instinctively struggle to free themselves by trying to pull away only to become more trapped) pretty much sums up HEI. “Being a monopoly has certain advantages,” says Gouche. “Hawaii may struggle, but they just get stuck more…we were just trying to make their predicament more fun.”
“We also looked at a rat glue trap, but couldn’t make it work visually.”
A HEI spokeperson, Cheryl Matsuura, noted that the Chinese Handcuff motif has nothing to do with “trapping” their customers or implying that they’re too dumb to escape.
“We don’t force anyone to use electricity,” says Matsuura. “If they want to use batteries and candles that’s fine with us.”
Some critics say that HEI executives already knew they were going to sell out to Next Era of Florida, so lost interest in the new corporate identity program and let Gouche do pretty much whatever he wanted.