When you start you own business, you are beginning a "brand," if you will. The product has a name. There may be a reputation associated with the product — a documented history of achievements, accolades, failures and more. Interestingly enough, this product has the same name as you when you go to introduce yourself to a potential client, a possible future employer, a peer with whom you may one day collaborate or a vendor who will be able to help you out of a bind.
In their book Off-The-Wall Marketing Ideas, Nancy Michaels and Debbi J. Karpowicz stress the importance of making a good first impression in any industry. They write, "As a small business owner, you become the embodiment of your company; you also become a public person, which has its ramifications. Whether you are running a grocery store — or a business meeting — it is important that you create a positive reflection of your company."
My own identity went through a process of evolution. When I found myself working independently as a designer in the fall of 1980, due to the job-lite economy, I had not yet made a name for myself as a professional or a business. Initially, I thought I would come up with a clever, attention-getting name. The result was art•werks, ink. A problem surfaced immediately. Nobody knew who I was. The name I personally like soon faded and was replaced with the much more banal Jeff Fisher Graphic Design.
In late 1986, after almost eight years as a graphic designer using the name Jeff Fisher Graphic Design, I determined I needed a business name that reflected my interest in logo design, combined with a lifelong fascination of toy trains and actual locomotives. I originally intended to use the name, Logo Motive Design. The first drawing was executed in ballpoint pen on a notepad, recreated with a Rapidiograph pen (this was before most designers had computers), and then reversed out to final art. The logo only appeared in one print ad. It was not met with positive feedback from friends and clients, who felt the emphasis on my personal skills and talent required my own name in my business identity. So, the idea was shelved and I continued as Jeff Fisher Design.
As more and more of my design work being involved in identity efforts I revisited my original concept for the business name Logo Motive. I attempted to create a logo combining the necessary text and a symbolic art element in an integrated emblem, while also conveying my own creativity and identity design ability. I again received negative feedback from clients and associates in regards to such a name making my efforts seem impersonal and too corporate. Still, I began using the business name Logo Motive in 1995 to give identification to what was unintentionally becoming my primary business focus. Frustrated because it did not convey a strong enough image, I again halted my own logo project, and resuming the effort became a low priority due to an ever-increasing workload.
By 1997, about 80 percent of my design projects involved logos. Clients, potential clients and friends frequently asked why a logo designer did not have a logo of his own, so I decided to finally finish the logo project I began ten years earlier for my worst client: myself. Embellishing the rough design of a few years earlier by simply adding my name to the design, I was able to "brand" myself... giving the logo the personal sense it had been lacking. The result was a logo with which I was pleased at last. Numerous new clients tell me they have made the decision to hire me based on my personal logo. It has become my greatest — and most recognizable — marketing tool.
(See the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives identity evolution here)
Jacci Howard Bear, guide for the About.com Desktop Publishing forum has some common-sense advice for beginning the quest for a business name. She says, "Choosing a business name can be fun and frustrating. To do it right you need to pick a name that you can live with for a long time, reflects the nature of your business, and isn’t already being used by the business down the street."
This basic principle of using your own name worked very well for Houston designer Mark Wilson, a designer of logos — or marks. He named his Mark of Design, linking his first name and his area of expertise. He even goes one step further with the directive tagline "Make Your Mark."
Some firms tackle the naming game from a totally different perspective. Pigtail Pundits, the Mumbai, India Web development firm founder Ranajit Tendolkar, is not a name one is likely to forget; it stirs up all kinds of interesting mental visuals when you read or hear the moniker. "Christening our organization was one of the first tasks we set about as soon as we decided to set up shop, Ranajit Tendolkar says. "We wanted to create a name that is unique, Indian yet international, easy to remember, capable of standing above the clutter, and of course with visual possibilities."
It seems to have worked. Every potential client has inquired about the name, making it a success in (the firm’s) eyes. No matter what your naming strategy, coming up with a clear, explanatory, clever name is always a challenge, but it can be your most important introduction to the world at the same time.
Note: This excerpt from my book, The Savvy Designer's Guide to Success: Ideas and tactics for a killer career, originally appeared on the website Commpiled.com.
The Savvy Designer's Guide to Success was released in 2009 as a PDF on CD from HOWBookstore.com
© 2009 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives