October 28, 2004

What's in a (Corporate) Name?

This is a brief story of why I chose Orange Hues as the name for this site and the blog. This is not advice on how to name your company. Just an account of things I considered important when I went about naming mine.

Since this site was to be my official home (for UX services), I spent an inordinate amount of time and thought in choosing just the right name that would evoke a positive feeling, create interest and reflect the character of this site. I later learnt that there are basically two kinds of names: evocative and descriptive and that the former should almost always be given preference.

My last site had a clever descriptive name that I grew to dislike - milkyour.com, {read as MilkYourDotcom as in, make the most of your online entity). Although humour works when used appropriately, trying to be clever with your name is never a good idea in my book. There are always some people who won’t get it at the first instance and it’s a little embarrassing to have to explain.

Poor descriptive names like eMarketer, OpenSourcerers, All Computer Solutions Inc and User Interface Engineering are everywhere. They do serve the purpose of explaining which industry the organisation caters to, but they hardly offer anything else. Descriptive names are almost always dull.

Change Sciences is a rare descriptive name that actually works. Electronic Ink is a clever descriptive name that is rather ordinary. OnClipEvent is another clever descriptive name that some of us will instantly recognise [I think it’s to do with flash programming] but the rest will end up feeling confused. It’s a great name though if you are only catering to that small audience.

I was also certain that I didn’t want a flashy intimidating name, like X-istech or HyPerformix. I want to persuade with thought not hype or intimidation. Nor did I want a name that was a tweak or fusion of one or more common business/industry terms. Many corporate names fall in this category, like, Strategux, Compucredit, Performics and SystemSoft.

I wanted a very simple, harmonious name that evoked a positive and curious feeling. Rare Medium, Virgin, Apple are some excellent evocative names. Creative Good and Good Experience are exceptionally good, highly evocative names that have the rare honour of also being descriptive at the same time. Another of this kind is CSS Zen Garden, which is, clearly indicative of its content and is also very evocative at the same time.

Corporate names based on the names of founders are the most uncreative variety. Names like Weinschenk Consulting Group and Sanford C. Bernstein and Co. Inc do not elicit much respect. Such names work only when the founder is/are renowned people. Like the Nielsen Norman Group and The Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management.

How a corporate name is perceived however, may also depend upon the type of industry as well. Newspapers have a lot of descriptive names [New York Times and The Times of India]. A significantly high proportion of financial and law firms are named after their founding individuals.

Then there are names that are either so generic or complex that they evoke absolutely no feeling at all. Method, Adage, Airgid and Lextant fall under this. And finally there are plain silly, stupid names.

Agreed, Orange Hues is not a remarkable name but it’s one that fits. It has its share of weaknesses though. I’m not sure if Hues part of it is very memorable besides it’s a plural. But I’m hoping it will be reinforced by the visual theme of the site for those who actually pay a visit. However it’s only a small percentage of people who come across the name that make an effort to visit the site.

The Orange part of it though should be memorable. It evokes all positive feelings for me. The fruit, the color, the smell and the taste - few words carry such multi faceted personality. Moreover, Silicon Valley has a historical connection with Oranges. Over half a century ago, it was part of the fruited valley with thousands of acres of Orange grooves in cultivation all across it.

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