Stuck Thinking Up a Name for Something? These Techniques Could Help.

Charlotte Fountaine
Feb 9, 2017 · 4 min read

Naming your organisation, product, band, baby, new gallery space, exhibition, book is tricky.

A baby ready to be named! No known copyright restrictions from Flickr.

If the name just comes to you in the middle of the night, it’s amazing. More often that not it doesn’t. Having struggled with naming ideas/projects I’ve had before I’ve put down my favourite techniques for naming things.

Brand circle helps you to clarify the personality your brand should have. Print and fill it out.

Start with a brand circle

This is a useful tool to think about what you’re actually trying to encompass with your name.

Screen grab from Witek and Golik’s website.

Think of existing names and words you like

What is it you like about them? Try to think of names you like that are unrelated to your idea. If you’re thinking of a name for a book, look at restaurant names. If you’re naming an app, look at names of TV shows. And vice versa.

I really like You Can Now, and It’s Nice That so maybe when I’m trying to think of a name I should find a 3 word phrase. I also like the name of Scandanavian textile duo Witek and Golik, maybe I should think about using 2 surnames for my name.

Write down the names you like, and look at what prefixes and suffixes they use. Could you use those in your name?

Another Language

This is a tip from Service Designer, Bethan Mitchell. She created an education service called Lara. ‘Lara’ means ‘teaching’ in Swedish. She thought about what she wanted the brand embody; teaching done well. Then she thought about what country is great at education — Sweden. Think of a few key words you want your brand to embody and stick them in Google Translate.

theverge.com/2017/8/2/16082494/ikea-solar-battery-storage-uk-price

Acronyms

You could also find a word you like, and assign the letters to meaning. So let’s take Bethan’s Lara. L could stand for Learning, A for action, R for responsive, A for… OK I can’t think of anything. Acronyms can make good names though: IKEA, stands for Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd which came from the founder’s initials and hometown.

Image from Dundee Service Jam on Flickr.

Post Its

Now, armed with your brand circle, the names you like, acronyms and other languages. Start writing down words, phrases that you associate with the idea that you’re trying to name.

Grab a few of the post its — could any of them go together? Is there any that stand out to you? The trick here is to not care whether or not the stuff you come up with is good at first. You can always edit later. It’s also a good idea to get a pal to help you with this part.

Now Edit

Most of the post it note ideas would make terrible names. And that’s OK. You’re only looking for ONE NAME. Pick out ones you like, see if there’s any that could make names. Facebook message someone and say ‘Which of these do is a cool name for my new design studio/pet underwear laundry service/app for people with dementia?’ And whatever advice they give you, take it on board.

Check if the # and the website is taken

It is isn’t it? I’m really sad for you. If it’s a good name someone’s already got it. So now you can think about taking the word or name you have, and adding something to it.

Add words at the end and the beginning

Here are some suggestions of words to add to it. Let’s say the name you chose was ‘Form’. There’s plenty of design studios and magazines called ‘Form’ already. Now let’s put it through the pre-fix, suffix machine.

Super Form

The Form

Form Club

Form Collective

Form School

Form Project

We Are Form

This Is The Form

Just add an S on the end — Forms

Just Say It Twice, like what they did with Cous Cous — Form Form

Or 3 times? — Form Form Form

Formation

Other Form

Another Form

Formland

Feel free to think up your own prefixes and suffixes and use them.

That’s it, I’m out of ideas. I hope that helped.

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