Creating New Brand Identities: What Types Of Names Work Best?

Choosing a name is one of the most important marketing decisions a company can make, from a start-up seeking its identity to an established business looking to launch new products or services. But for the designer and client alike, the process can sometimes feel like alchemy, the pseudo-science of turning ordinary metal into gold. So how can you help guide the team to develop a name with true design and branding potential and increase your own firm’s capabilities and value at the same time?

As the chief naming officer at any agency that partners exclusively with graphic designers, we believe that insisting on a name with an available matching .com is often a mistake. In our opinion, names like Spling, Jiglu and Ookla can be the unfortunate result—names which aren’t meaningful enough to become memorable or don’t provide any kind of visual and conceptual “anchor” for your design ideas. A URL is not a brand, and the .com issue can be solved with the simple addition of a few short, descriptive words that make good sense anyway.

Many of the best brands that have emerged from our work with designers have focused on names that combine strong linguistic clues with just the right amount of cleverness and personality. Recent examples include SkyQ, for a new cloud-based professional assessment tool, and TreeBorn, for a food processor whose mission is the “rebirth” of the American chestnut industry!

These types of brands are the sweet spot, we think, and our theories are reinforced by some early testing which indicates they are not only preferred by actual customers, but are likely to be easier to imprint in customers’ minds over time. Some of the most impactful names of the digital era—Pinterest, Instagram and Knewton—bear this out, as do many of the world’s most valuable brands—like Cuisinart, Band-Aid and Steelcase—which have endured for decades.

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About the Author:

Marc Braunstein is Chief Naming Officer of viz., an agency focused squarely on what is often the first element of brand content – the company name. In his career, Marc has named everything from bicycles to business jets.

viz. works closely with graphic designers, the gatekeepers of a company's brands. Why should designers consider partnering with a naming expert like viz.?

Marc believes one reason is because “we take a reasoned, strategic approach to developing names, and staying objective regarding name development is something that’s almost impossible for company insiders to do. In today’s crowded, multi-channel marketplace, a company's brand names need to help jump-start the business or product introduction. From a designer's point of view, names also have to present exciting graphic opportunities. Few companies have the patience or resources to build awareness for a lame name.”

We invite AIGA members and visitors to learn more at and to take a look at the viz. process for brand naming here: