When Good Firms Get Bad Chi
By Christine Y. Chen

(FORTUNE Magazine) – It's only natural to blame the downfall of companies like Enron on managerial malfeasance. But perhaps the real culprit was something less evident to the untrained eye: bad feng shui radiating from Enron's off-kilter logo. Or so argues independent New York feng shui consultant Meihwa Lin, who says the traditional Chinese art of arranging surroundings to create harmony and balance doesn't just apply to office space, but to office emblems as well. Here's how Lin rates eight well-known corporate logos based on color, shape, and the enabling or blockage of chi, or energy.

AOL TIME WARNER At least FORTUNE's parent company got part of the logo right. On the plus side: its shape. "It looks very balanced, like there's a yin-yang shape inside a triangle with a solid base," says Lin. The colors could use some work, though. Since a triangle represents fire, it should be red, which is also a lucky color for the Chinese.

MERRILL LYNCH Since white is the color that symbolizes metal, Merrill's bull is not only the symbol of a booming market, it also evokes the clanging of coins. But the company might want to consider moving its name from the right side to the left side of the creature. Advises Lin: "It's never a good idea to be facing the rear of an animal."

CIGNA The insurance and financial services company has a "very powerful symbol of growth." The green tree signifies new beginnings and healing, which bodes well for the company's future, as well as its health insurance customers. And the uplifting color is good for energy too.

CINGULAR Cingular's logo might be cute, but its chi is off. "There's a symbol of only one person, and the company name makes me think 'single' or 'alone,' " she says. "When you're talking, mobile phones actually connect you with another person."

UNITED AIRLINES United's logo is in better shape than the company's balance sheet. "The two U's linked together are very yin and yang," observes Lin. She also likes the slant to the right, "as if it's moving forward."

TARGET Retail may be suffering these days, but the discount chain's logo is right on target (pun intended). "It's wonderful, like two circular shapes of heaven, one inside the other. The bull's-eye matches the company name perfectly."

AT&T Once Ma Bell finishes breaking itself up, expect a healthy battle over who inherits this logo. "Anytime you use a globe, it's a good symbol for international business and high recognition," declares Lin. The blue is appropriate too, representing heaven, waters, and skies. "There's a reason the company's been around so long."

ENRON If Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling had consulted Lin, they might have spared themselves a lot of trouble: Enron's logo is a model of instability. "It looks like it could topple over at any minute," says Lin. Had it been enclosed in a square box (which symbolizes the earth) or a circle (heaven), the company might have had better luck.