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Name My Company!
January 9, 2004 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I've been trying to come up with a company name for six months now, and have thus far failed. I need your help! [more inside]

Our current name was a temporary one, and after a year of operation, it's time to shake it off and get a real name. I've been postponing getting business cards too long.

I've got some basic criteria worked out, so at least it's not just a free for all, but for the life of me I can't seem to find a name that just seems right. Nothing's clicked yet.

So, if you've got some brilliant ideas that you don't think you'll use yourself, you'd make me a very happy guy!

Overview: It's a web design and development firm, working primarily with setting up low-end content management systems (highly customized MovableType, etc.), and designing clean, CSS-based websites.

Here are the criteria I've worked out so far. The name should be:
  • Non-descriptive: I've had a lot of people advise me that the name should describe the business, but then my own observations tell me that the best brand names (e.g., Yahoo, Google, etc.) aren't necessarily the most descriptive (e.g., Infoseek, LookSmart, etc.)
  • Easy to spell
  • Easy to pronounce
  • Not a completely fabricated word, though it could be a modified play on an existing word.
  • Not be overly specific (while clean design and content management are our bread and butter, we offer several other services as well).
  • Explainable with a straight face. While names like "Ted," "Virgin," "Tickle," "Gargoyle," etc. may be excellent names for some companies, I'd personally have a hard time using one as my own firm's name without being embarassed. Many of my clients are quite serious, and the whimsy wouldn't go over well.
  • Plain English words are good.
  • Names that evoke a sense of history or nostalgia are good. I've found many names I liked among presidential surnames, county names, scientists, authors, etc. (though nothing quite right)
  • The name should be sufficiently uncommon that I could register a .com domain name (though I expect I'll have to use an addendum like "...consulting.com" or "...design.com"
  • It doesn't have to be a perfect name, just a good one that feels right. I don't need a name to make my business successful, I just need one that won't hold my business back (either in practice or just in my head)
Sorry to have rambled on so much. Any suggestions you could make would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance!
posted by oissubke to Work & Money (59 answers total)
 
(By the way, if anyone can come up with something that clicks right, I'd be more than happy to take a look at your Amazon wish list....) ;-)
posted by oissubke at 9:51 PM on January 9, 2004


Quite an interesting AskMe post! The very first thing that came to mind was "PUNCH!"

Punch! Consulting
Punch! Design
posted by davidmsc at 9:58 PM on January 9, 2004


People used to pay for this kind of advice.

Brownhouse.
posted by Keyser Soze at 10:21 PM on January 9, 2004


OissubCo!
posted by quonsar at 10:21 PM on January 9, 2004


Charter Consulting
posted by konolia at 10:36 PM on January 9, 2004


Keyser: People used to pay for a lot of things before AskMe came along. :-)

quonsar: I'm afraid anything involving my name violates the "easy to pronounce" and "easy to spell" principles. :-)
posted by oissubke at 10:36 PM on January 9, 2004


Never mind. I just googled it. It's been done.
posted by konolia at 10:38 PM on January 9, 2004


Defy Design
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:41 PM on January 9, 2004


Webdev?
posted by konolia at 10:42 PM on January 9, 2004


Dammit! Nevermind.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:42 PM on January 9, 2004


The Dragon Syndicate.
posted by The God Complex at 10:48 PM on January 9, 2004


Bossa Nova (Consulting, Fabricating, Repowork, whatever) Incorporated, est. AD MMIV
posted by five fresh fish at 10:49 PM on January 9, 2004


I like city names.
London Consulting.
Sydney Consulting.
Des Moines Consulting.
Ok, maybe not the last one.
posted by adrober at 10:50 PM on January 9, 2004


"Dammit! Nevermind Consulting" has a nice ring to it... j/k ;-)

By the way, the name doesn't necessarily have to be completely unique. I don't know if there is such a thing as a unique business name anymore.

I'm going to be operating locally anyway, so I'll probably be okay as long as it's not taken in my state already.
posted by oissubke at 10:50 PM on January 9, 2004


adrober: I found lots of potential in place names (counties are also especially good). I never did find anything quite right, but one of you might!
posted by oissubke at 10:51 PM on January 9, 2004


I think part of your problem is that you want it to be simple and in "plain english words" but your good examples are "yahoo" and "google", which are both juvenile sounding company names. I mean, it's hard to come up with a name that evokes a sense of a "presidential surname" unless you just want to have your design company sound like a law firm. I mean, do you really want Kennedy Design House as the name of your company if nobody that works there actually has the name Kennedy?

If I was you, I'd just grab a dictionary and flip through it for awhile and just try and find a word that strikes your fancy. It seems like it would have to be fairly specific to satisfy your personal requirements.

If it was me, I'd go with "Crying Robot Designs", but that's because I'm lying.
posted by The God Complex at 10:53 PM on January 9, 2004


pervasive? or alternately the frenchy variant: pervasif.
posted by juv3nal at 10:54 PM on January 9, 2004


Spyglass
Monacle
Token
Cutlass
Sage
(Feel free to append Consulting/Media/Design/Extravaganza as desired)
*ahem* wishlist
posted by Galvatron at 10:54 PM on January 9, 2004


Nevermind Studios?
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:56 PM on January 9, 2004


I think it was Ghandi who said "What's in a name?" one day while he was toiling for long hours and low pay at the gas station on third st, and I'm inclined to agree with that crazy son of a gun.

I think going with something quirky is your best bet, though.
posted by The God Complex at 11:06 PM on January 9, 2004


I think part of your problem is that you want it to be simple and in "plain english words" but your good examples are "yahoo" and "google", which are both juvenile sounding company names.

A good point. I think what I was trying to convey was that they have nothing to do with that the company does, whereas the more accurately descriptive names seem to flop.

Some perhaps better examples might be "Behavior," "37 Signals," "Pelago," "skinnyCorp," and "twothirty," all names of prominent web firms that I admire. I can't say that there are many firms like (hypothetically) "eBusinessDev," "WebPros," or "AwesomeWebDesign" that stick out in my mind.

[on preview]
God Complex, I agree about the quirky thing. I want a name that the client will think about just long enough to remember it, but not so long that they're dwelling on it.
posted by oissubke at 11:13 PM on January 9, 2004


Terragon. (Try saying it in Voiceover Man's voice, as if he were pronouncing it in small caps: "This site built...BY TERRAGON.")
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:18 PM on January 9, 2004


Archipelago is a wonderful word; it's too bad someone has already used "Pelago" as the name of their firm.

As for actual names, I'm afraid I can't be of any real service. Interesting names never seem to strike me when I'm actually looking for them, only when I'm not. Perhaps you should just think about words you find aesthetically pleasing; I, for example, am fond of the word vulture, although the connotations might be too negative for a business--which is really a shame, because, at least as far as animals ago, it's at least as noble a bird as the Bald Eagle is (they probably eat equal amounts of carrion, at any rate). It's like the black sheep of the bird family.

You also chose two names for design firms you like that included numbers, so if you find an aesthetically pleasing phrase or word you could always work that in somehow. Really, just be quirky and vague and then make up an interesting story about why you chose it later (a vulture ate your nephew, etc.).
posted by The God Complex at 11:28 PM on January 9, 2004


I've always liked Excursus, even if the definition (an aside, deviating from the main point) might not be the message you're looking for.

Or look through dictionary.com's Word of the Day archive. Neoteric sounds pretty nifty (recent in origin; modern; new).
posted by lychee at 11:40 PM on January 9, 2004


Thinly veiled Simpsons references are good, but carry the risk of the copyright police. I like "Forbidden Donut Design."
posted by PrinceValium at 11:59 PM on January 9, 2004


Stampede Designs

or

Blow Torch Consulting
posted by Hildago at 12:03 AM on January 10, 2004


45Words Design

64Numbers Group

Blackrobe Consulting

Glory Hole Advertising
posted by sebas at 12:16 AM on January 10, 2004


Try these.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 12:37 AM on January 10, 2004


As far as locale-based naming, try native names - names of things/creatures/features native to your region or arena. I'm thinking of Weta Digital, Peter Jackson's digital effect house that worked on the Lord of the Rings. A Weta is a large insect native to New Zealand.
posted by kokogiak at 1:14 AM on January 10, 2004


Try taking two words that you like and putting them together. I owned a web co for a few years called Alien Tomato and always got compliments on the name and it was very easy to remember. You'll also have no probs getting a .com.

That said... Wombat Media, Three White Guys (or whatever your co is made up of), The 212, (Design by) Fate, Punctuation, Prompt Media, Falling Down in Public, Plain Toast...

I also like to head to m-w.com and scan through the back issues of word of the day. Recently got bludge.net (avoiding work) by doing that, which I like.
posted by dobbs at 1:55 AM on January 10, 2004


lucidus - latin translation: shining, bright; clear, lucid
posted by will at 1:57 AM on January 10, 2004


I am very fond of the word "Agog".

Then again, I worked for a company named after an obscure Star Trek reference. So maybe you just need to get the really obscure pop culture going.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:18 AM on January 10, 2004


I take it CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet is out of the question...
posted by Phatty Lumpkin at 3:05 AM on January 10, 2004


Vibrate?
posted by triv at 3:08 AM on January 10, 2004


(or any variation on that theme of mefi words such as pancake/vibrate/pony etc)
posted by triv at 3:09 AM on January 10, 2004


sub-k

i think it's pretty cool. fits most of your requirements. ties in with your name. if the "sub" thing is too -ve (to me, it sounds like something from very low temperature physics, but maybe i'm odd) maybe k-sub would be more acceptable.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:10 AM on January 10, 2004


ooh. I love questions like this! Well, let's see: Ambriel is the angel of communication, and a nice name that starts with "A", which can be a plus. Nebo was the Sumerian god of writing and speech, and comes with a built-in trademark, since his symbol is the stylus, plus it's a short name, probably easy to remember. Hermes/Mercury as the god of communication has been done to death of course, but his mother was Maia (one of the Pleiades, and daughter of Atlas), and "Maia Media" sounds pretty good. Iris was also a messenger of the gods. Woden is the norse god of communication (and father of the Norse pantheon) and also comes with a variety of symbols - spear, wolf, triple triangle, and raven. This last is particularly interesting, because he had two ravens ("thought" and "memory") who flew to all corners of the earth during the day to return at night and tell him all they had learned. Generally, throughout various cultures, ravens have been seen as messengers, so, the name Raven itself is also a thought. Pyxis is a constellation, and means "compass box", which is good. Other nice constellation names are Vela (the sails), Corvus (the Raven again), and Lyra, which of course is the lyre, an instrument invented by Hermes, our old friend the messenger god.
posted by taz at 4:27 AM on January 10, 2004


Pink Elephant (Design)
posted by nthdegx at 4:31 AM on January 10, 2004


Thinly veiled Simpsons references are good, but carry the risk of the copyright police.

Actually, there are no copyright problems with this. Short phrases are not copyrightable subject matter. Further, a Simpson's reference most likely does not function as a trademark, although it is possible depending on the name and the context in which it is being used.

I'm going to be operating locally anyway, so I'll probably be okay as long as it's not taken in my state already.

Not true. Even if you are just operating locally, if your name, in the context of the business you're in, is likely to be confused with a federally registered trademark you should stay away from it. Although trademarks are almost always only analyzed along with the goods and services they are being used with, there are instances (state and federal dilution laws which deal with "famous" marks) where your goods and services may not be related to a senior users goods and services and you could still be liable for infringement. There is also always the possibility that you could also be infringing an unregistered mark. If you take the business seriously it's worth it to have a professional search done and get it reviewed by a trademark attorney. FYI, state trademark registrations have limited value and often end up only being used for evidentiary purposes. They're often not even very good for that.

As for names, I like year numbers. Specifically years with historical significance or significance to you. Just make sure you do a trademark search.
posted by anathema at 5:17 AM on January 10, 2004


'Stop Consulting'

or

'No, Really'
posted by armoured-ant at 5:51 AM on January 10, 2004


A couple of suggestions... I think made-up names are great for products, things that you want to define based on attributes you assign to them. As yours is a service-oriented company, not a product-based one, you may wish to focus more on tangible attributes that define your company and your audience.

Geographic descriptions are always smart, assuming you're not trying to go global. If your county name is Washington, Washington Web is great, descriptive, and would sound fine coming from someone answering the phone. I'd suggest things like river names, as well, not just political boundaries, as they tend to be especially neutral in people's minds.

The second concept I'd say to focus on is your audience. What are you doing for them? If you're customizing small CMSes for them, your larger focus should be improving their communications. So again, if you lived in Lincoln County, Lincoln Communications would tie you to place while addressing the larger task you manage.

Does it sound overly stuffy or formal? That's fine; Those names age better anyway.
posted by anildash at 6:51 AM on January 10, 2004


Everyone -- excellent advice all around. I've seen some great names come out of here, and I hope there are more yet to come!
posted by oissubke at 8:17 AM on January 10, 2004


Follow Jello Biafra's advice and name it simply MONDALE. "This site designed by Mondale" has a ring to it.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 8:59 AM on January 10, 2004


For some reason the first thing I thought of was "Bamf" - Bamf Design, etc. I think this is the word used to describe, in Marvel Comics X-Men, Nightcrawler's teleportations, but I could be remembering it incorrectly. In any case, it's really fun to say, "BAMF!" - go on, say it outloud!
posted by thunder at 9:54 AM on January 10, 2004


numbers of any sort, unless it is an accepted part of a commonly accepted name (like 3 musketeers or spirit of 76) scream unprofessional. especially with anything related to computers... first thing i would think would be "screen name".

everything about jello biafra is out of date.
posted by the aloha at 10:07 AM on January 10, 2004


Bigass Consulting Corp sounds good to me...

You could go for a name that will be actually meaningful to the people looking for you. As a company name, "Google" sucks a whole lot in comparison to, say, "Ultraseek" or "SearchMagnet." The latter two at least say what they are. Until Google become the defacto topdog, it wasn't a name that exactly rolled off people's tongues.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:27 AM on January 10, 2004


Trojan Pony, or what fff said.
posted by theora55 at 10:55 AM on January 10, 2004


A short list of favored but somewhat archaic English words to be combined with "design", "services", or "consulting" as you like:

Utible (useful)

Catena (chain, series, or sequence)

Bonifate (fortunate)

Nidus (a place where something originates or develops)

Condign (fitting)

And may you find your aptronym!
posted by vers at 11:25 AM on January 10, 2004


As a company name, "Google" sucks a whole lot in comparison to, say, "Ultraseek" or "SearchMagnet." The latter two at least say what they are. Until Google become the defacto topdog, it wasn't a name that exactly rolled off people's tongues.

fff, I understand your point, but based on my own experiences, it seems like descriptive names almost never become the top dog. There are exceptions of course, but the biggest, most popular, and most valuable brands almost universally fail to describe their product or service.
posted by oissubke at 11:49 AM on January 10, 2004


Er, you mean like "General Motors" and "General Electric" and "General Foods" and "Standard Oil" and so on?

Of course, those names date back to when you could get a trademark on things like that. These days companies tend to go with made-up names to protect their trademark.

I think you need to read "The 22 Laws of Marketing." It'll explain to you why the "top dogs" are top dogs -- and it has nothing to do with their names.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2004


I keep looking for business names too -- not that I need one -- it's just a fantasy. One of the things I've been attracted to are names with ready-made logos. Like brands. That is branding irons: Lazy Z, Bar-O etc. (Sorry for the really crappy examples.) My favorite in that line of thought is _-bar. I hesitate to give it up as I hoped that some day it would be the name of my bar. The missing letter is related to an earlier comment. Knowing how smart everyone is around here many have likely already guessed it.

I just Googled it -- been a while since I had done so -- and it is already taken. Well, it could still be a nice name for a bar.
posted by Dick Paris at 12:32 PM on January 10, 2004


I always thought "Sloth" was a cool word which also lends itself to a cool logo.

Example:


posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:00 PM on January 10, 2004


Lucid Media
Tech Speak
Nerds on Call
Focus Communications
Divine Media (divine meaning both "good" and "to find")

INcorporate Solutions
Acumen
Insight
Congruent
posted by whatnot at 1:55 PM on January 10, 2004


In the vein of archaic words: Bespoke (means "custom-made").
posted by kindall at 2:24 PM on January 10, 2004


I think you need to read "The 22 Laws of Marketing." It'll explain to you why the "top dogs" are top dogs -- and it has nothing to do with their names.

I've read it three times. It's one of three books sitting next to my toilet right now, actually. That's why I indicated earlier that I don't need a perfect name, I just need one that feels about right. It's my responsibility to actually add meaning and value to the brand.

As I said, there are exceptions my comment about naming -- most of them are quite old, and came from a time when those sorts of names inspired confidence and trust. These days, firms like "General Internet," or "General Web Design" would have a heck of a time digging their way into the public's perception, because people don't really go for those sorts of names anymore. They don't engage the mind or the memory. They don't evoke anything.

Once upon a time, a company's name may been considered essential because there weren't many ways to advertise other than your name on the side of a truck. These days, no company exists in a vacuum. There is always a context that can be used to give the reader an immediate understanding of what the company does.

If I'm in the phone book, Yahoo, and DMOZ under "Web Design," I'm in online directories of web designers, my articles are published in web design magazines, my business card explains exactly what I do, and 90% of my business comes from people saying "Hey, I know this great web guy," having a descriptive name is not only unnecessary, it's downright redundant. :-)
posted by oissubke at 8:06 PM on January 10, 2004


I went through several rounds of name concepts with a small design firm in new york. Literally 300-400 names which we narrowed down to about 20 before they decided to use the two owners names hyphenated!

my favorite was Colorbee. I had some awesome logos in the works too!
I would also like to say that Trojan Pony is pretty good too!
posted by darkpony at 8:59 PM on January 10, 2004


Anagrams of oissubke?

Bike sous
Kobusies
Skibouse
Issuebok or Bokissue

Or of carlosoissubke?

A BLOCKIER SOSUS

Or of coissubke?

Sobuckies
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:38 PM on January 10, 2004


er... So Colorbee is yours for the taking...

If I can have Trojan Pony!
posted by darkpony at 1:19 AM on January 11, 2004


Trojan Pony is awesome.

But you have serious clients.

How about "content management services, inc."

Boring. But serious. Let's see, you are someone who creates and provides tools for other people, enabling them to be independent and saving them time.

WebTools

I like names with "rain" in them.

Rainbook
Raintree (is that a hotel chain?)
Raindance (perhaps in use?)

The "serious client" thing is really limiting. Otherwise you could go crazy, and just choose indie band-ish names:

Chunkwistle
yomama
chickenfingers


Or go for the time honored locale name:

Ankeny st. productions

Third St. content management

Or take key words from your description and play with Thesaurus.com

I like "reality engine".

p.s. please contact me before you grab something off my wishlist, I haven't pruned it for a while :)
posted by mecran01 at 7:00 AM on January 11, 2004


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