The Science and Art of Naming
Everyone has an opinion on a name. As a person who can write and speak, they feel qualified to come up with names. But the name for your company and your consumers shouldn’t be left up to luck or a bar conversation.
Naming requires work from both the left and the right sides of the brain. There is no singular formulaic approach that pops out perfect names every time– if there was, trust us, we’d have a computer do it. And if it was all art, each name would sound beautiful, but would lack the substance to support an organization and lead the brand to greatness. For consumers (ahem, people), we must create names that both connect emotionally and deliver commercially.
Naming is hard. Face it—anyone who has named a child, a pet, or even a company knows it’s a challenge that includes emotions, past conceptions and misconceptions, legal risk, ideology, practicality and more. And before we even get into naming, we need strategic confirmation that a rename is worth the time, energy, and implementation efforts it will cost the business.
The science of naming is in the rigorous and regimented process, with a minimum of twenty-five steps built with twists, turns, and cycles. After 50 years on the job, we don’t have to overthink how we will go about our naming. Our best-in-market formula is ready to hit the ground running so we don’t have to use precious time and energy debating about process. We have our “scientific method” down, we just need to input our variables.
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Each one of our steps improves the result in some way, ensuring we’re not just leaning on a stroke of genius. With our client’s input, we build a hypothesis and some scaffolding for the type of name they are looking for. Then the naming begins: thousands of names, generated and iterated.
Quality names are unlikely without quantity. We create those thousands of name ideas to get past surface level ideas and force our brains to go beyond expected. And after, we throw away most of them. Sure, there are times when we get lucky and the right name comes up quickly, but most of the time, it’s about creating thousands to find the few names that will stick.
To maximize our exploration, we need to understand and apply taxonomy, etymology, pronunciation, phonetics, linguistics and translations. After leveraging those more scientific components of words and names, we meld, clip, borrow, and adjust to formulate a name that delivers on our specific criteria.
Then, it’s about precise selection and elimination: winnowing, tinkering and ultimately screening those names by the realities of a crowded market and the needs of consumers. Common law, trademark, and URL searches are good for screening, but we look beyond basic availability, ensuring a real-world adoption. Because naming is incredibly subjective, we apply an analytical approach, align with criteria, and ensure we save space for opinions and likability.
If we were to skip the science, we’d skip hundreds of potential names. Without the volume of names, we could miss the ONE that ultimately becomes the name of a company. Without the science, we could end up with the same old idea, something that can’t be trademarked, or worse. It’s the precision and attention to detail that result in names that represent the organization and ultimately introduce the brand to the world.
The beauty of naming comes from the creativity and inspiration unveiled as namers take on the challenge. As we take on crafting the names themselves, each namer’s approach is different, much like an artist creating their masterpiece.
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We love our namers for their individual imagination. Some lean into associations and perceptions—creating and finding meaning in the symbols and metaphors that create impactful, real-word names. Others lean into the syllables and phonemes, stringing together letters with lyrical beauty or even aggressive and jarring sounds. And it’s not just about how letters come together in words or names, but also how they create a visual identity in the letterforms themselves, e.g., tall letters or two of the same letters in a row. By starting to visualize the name itself, we can start to see the company come off the page.
We play with rhymes and alliteration. Visualize and imagine new worlds. Add suffixes and prefixes. Clip and eliminate letters. Find names for colors and shapes and textures and then use those to go further down the wormhole. Each name, each idea is fodder for the next. After the first 100 names or so, we find more unique parallels, intriguing spelling options, or end up in a whole new world exploring the geology of a specific region in upstate New York. And when we feel like we have gone as deep as the ocean floor, we reach to each other. We reach for our full palette of ideas, layering on the ideas of our teammates, each with different backgrounds and perspectives.
Without the attention of art, we’d miss names that roll off the tongue or catch someone’s eye. It’s the art that creates interest and ownable identities. It’s the art that changes naming from an exercise to an exploration. One that ultimately results in a name that intrigues hearts and minds.
We stretch our naming beyond expected and into names that will work hard for each organization. We don’t pull from a giant list of names hiding somewhere in the basement. Instead, we create, analyze, and deliver names that are designed and made to work. And that art and science doesn’t end with a selected trademarked name—it continues as we launch the name into the world. We must intentionally explain its meaning and its origin. We must determine its reveal—as part of a broader launch or to signal there’s more change to come. And of course, we must ensure that it invites conversation rather than starting a debate.
Are you ready to combine science and art to come up with a name that reaches your consumers? We love digging into naming and its implications, reach out to us – we’re here to chat!