In my Creative Brief blog on June 23, I shared the importance of creating a naming brief before beginning any naming exercise. The creative brief helps keep the project on track by detailing directions on messaging, tonality, construction, and legal and domain requirements.
Once our creative brief has been approved by key stakeholders, we are ready to start naming. For all but the most abstract projects, we start by creating a project vocabulary. It is a great starting point for getting ideas down and free-associating with other words and metaphors.
Beyond just mixing and matching these words to form compound or blended forms, we might take key vocabulary words and translate them into Latin, Sanskrit, Italian, Hawaiian — whatever languages suit our communication and tonality needs. There are plenty of online dictionaries that can help with this.
We also take interesting prefixes and suffixes and add them to different words. Or, we play around with word endings or truncate some of the words.
After exploring all the obvious ideas — what we call “due-diligence creative” — we take off into blue-sky territory. We might look at the personal interests and hobbies of a company founder, song titles, new metaphors, or arbitrary (but interesting) words. We might take a short, expected word from our project vocabulary and try pairing it with something completely unexpected.
We make sure that several people work on each project to bounce ideas off each other both virtually and in person. Teamwork helps us ensure we are continuously brainstorming new naming directions and ideas.
When we have a substantial list together — for us, well over a thousand names — we then look at the list as a whole. New names start to form when we combine all candidates into one list and evaluate them together. We play around some more, modifying spellings, combining different roots, and just generally looking beyond the obvious.
When we’re satisfied that we’ve explored every possibility, we narrow down the list — we call this activity shortlisting. A good rule of thumb is to shortlist 10% of the total names. A day or two later, we look at the list with a fresh pair of eyes and hone it down even further.
Getting down to that final, perfect name is an iterative, non-linear process that usually involves legal and domain-name screening, building consensus within the client team, perhaps additional creative work, thinking about logo and other visual treatments, and so forth.
In my next post, I’ll talk about the various naming styles, ranging from highly descriptive to totally fanciful.