Choosing a name for your business is an important, fun, and sometimes very difficult task when setting up a business. Iain Cameron Design and Illustration couldn’t be more practical or dull. But my company very nearly had a whole different name, with some other very interesting connotations, that involve sex and animals. I’ll get to that story later…
It is interesting to look at company names, and how they work for a business. Should it be memorable, or descriptive, or visually appealing, or trustworthy? Does it even matter? The word will take on the meaning of the brand. For some people the word ‘virgin’ implies an older man with a beard who wants to go into outer space. For others it implies Richard Branson.
A number of freelance designer/illustrators brand themselves with a different name. They do this to stand out, be memorable, and to grab the URL (web address). Designing around a brand that isn’t actually your name is also a lot easier than designing for yourself. When starting my business I considered this a good direction to follow, but ultimately couldn’t live with the idea that other people would think I was giving myself a nickname.
The other issue with the AKA thing, is it always implies to me some 35 year old surfer, DJ, music video director wannabe who happens to be ‘slumming it’ with Photoshop and Illustrator until his (always a he) film, sorry ‘movie career’ takes off. Sorry guys, don’t take it personally, but AKA and a one handed shuffling movement just kind of roll off the wrist…
Look at the little monkey with the letter!
Which brings me to a company with a great name. I love Mailchimp, the email marketing service provider. I love the name. It’s simple, it’s sweet, it’s warm and cuddly like a monkey that delivers emails. Their website is also very well designed which will always give me a warm glow brand wise. I have a poor memory for names, but am very good at remembering important stuff in a round about way. I once said at a meeting in a previous job, ‘why don’t we use the monkey mail company’. They knew who I meant…
Dog gone it
Before I finally went with my company name being ‘My Name and what I do’. I very nearly gave it another name. I searched for weeks for a company name. I combined colours and animals, various other random words, significant words, references to song titles, bands, lyrics, clever stuff, stupid stuff, but ultimately nothing I could live with. Or someone got there first, or the URL wasn’t available.
Until I came up with ‘Bad Puppy Design’. With an image etched in my head of a sweet puppy dog with a guilty look on it’s face. And the URL was available!!
Bingo, I’d found it! But just before buying the domain name, I thought I’ll just see what’s on BadPuppy.com, might turn out to be another design company. Well apparently not. It’s one of the world’s largest gay porn websites.
So a lucky escape. Although from what I’m not sure. I’m not homophobic, so it’s the porn bit that is the issue. But somehow ‘gay porn’ made it even funnier. The thing is it may well have generated traffic. On telling another designer this story he replied, with his head slanted to one side, ‘but would that be the sort of traffic you were after?’. Which is a point. But if none of us wanted traffic that at some point was on their way into or out of porn sites, none of us would have any traffic… Although predictive text on Chrome made for interesting reading typing in the address.
As of right now the domain name is still available. You can have my ‘Bad Puppy Design’ company name suggestion for free!
As a web designer the issue of web hosting is a regular concern. When I began ten years ago I started with a quite small Danish company call B-One. I chose them as, they advertised to me, they were cheap and I had nothing to measure them against, so I took a punt. A few years later they changed their name to One.com and now have their headquarters in Dubai, and have very large Danish offices at Kalvebod Brygge (See picture above) where WordPress Copenhagen held their conference a couple of years ago. I think it’s safe to say they have come along way in the last ten years.
As clients often have a different hosting company, I have come to learn how good a decision using One.com as a web host has been. The number of web hosts who insist that the Ftp client is FileZilla, and FileZilla only. My ftp preference is Dreamweaver from the Adobe Suite. I can use FileZilla, but for my work flow I want to use my preferred client. Then there is 24 hour chat support, with pretty much never more than a two minute wait on One.com. I have used a client’s very expensive WordPress specific hosting company where I have had to wait for San Francisco to wake up before I could get answers to a problem, and with a forty minute wait for an answer every time. And a whole number of other web hosting companies whereby the quality of support has been at best erratic, and often woeful.
I am no expert in hosting, or the issue of backend development, but from my experience if you are starting out with a website, or looking to move to a better one (or just to try another one) I strongly recommend One.com. A good quality, consistent service at a good price. Their support and website is available in Danish or English, and just having had a quick look at their site, quite a few other languages too.
Here is my affiliate link. You are of course under no obligation to use it, but if you click it I get a small amount of money, and you get a small amount of money reduction (the same amount) from your first purchase.
If this is all new to you, and you are just getting started, on clicking the link, put the name of the website you wish to purchase (domain name) into the search engine, keep trying until you find one available you like/can live with, then choose the cheapest option for hosting to get started. You can always upgrade later once your website is more popular. One.com will tell you when you have to upgrade it due to a large amount of traffic.
Art college is for many a great experience, however it doesn’t always go to plan. So I’m going to look at the less positive aspects of art college, including my own time at Robert Gordon University’s Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen.
The great portfolio swindle
No disrespect to art colleges but they are almost all thieves. At portfolio submission time to cover the cost of handling your portfolio, plus for sending to your second and third choice art institution, they require a fee of, what is it now, 50, 60, 100 quid? They receive how many applicants? 2000 x £50 = £100 000.
In return for a cursory glance at your work, you will be accepted or turned down. No feedback or advice. Any passing to second or third choice institutions does not happen. The vast majority of colleges are not interested in second or third choice students. They can argue they are underfunded, but it is immoral to take money from the pockets of the people you are rejecting to pay for the tiny minority you are accepting.
Those who can’t do… often teach art very badly
Art teachers. They know their stuff. Well maybe some of them do. Communication skills? Empathy? An ability to spot different students are at different places on their artistic journey? An understanding of which students need a kick up the backside, and which need some kind words of encouragement? An interest in teaching the whole class, not just their favourites – the ones that remind them of their younger, beautiful selves. An ability to hit on 19 year old students, despite being well into their forties, fifties, sixties, hello Operation Yewtree, how can I help you… Let’s put it this way, it’s not that hard to become an art tutor at an art college, but I suspect it is very, very hard to get kicked out.
So you may have picked up a little bitterness in this article. I was ‘asked to leave’ Gray’s School of Art in 1988. The head of graphic design Ian Cargill (the only graphic design tutor) had taken an instant dislike to me, and seemed determined to remind me whenever he got the opportunity that he hadn’t changed his opinion throughout my seven months in his class. I was far from perfect, but I was then, as I am now, a graphic designer.
I received a letter at my home informing me to meet at the Head of School’s office at an allotted time. On arriving for the meeting I was immediately informed by Head of School, Professor Eric Spiller ‘we have no option but to ask you to leave’. That was my first communication on the subject. In the corner looking at the floor was Ian Cargill. Next to me was Malcolm Brown, head of Textile Design at Gray’s School of Art.
Malcolm Brown leaned into me, face to face, about 15 centimetres nose to nose and growled/sneered, ‘So are there any mitigating circumstances to take into account, Iain?!’. Safe to say Malcolm Brown was enjoying the ending of a twenty year old’s education. Despite the fact he had never taught me, didn’t know me at all, had never previously been in the same room as me.
I just looked at him, speechless. Looked over at Ian Cargill, still looking at the floor, looked up at Professor Eric Spiller, stood up and left. I didn’t utter a single word the entire meeting. And that was me done with Gray’s School of Art, and full time education.
Not all bad…
But it would be wrong to end it there. George Craigie had taught for a few months in Graphic Design and was a great teacher. The artist Joyce Cairns taught me during a brief spell in the Fine Art department. She was excellent at her job, is a great artist and a kind and decent human being. Gordon Hamilton’s art history lectures engrained in me a love of the history of art I will never lose. And the library, oh the library, like a sweet shop for the creative brain. The lovely helpful librarian. The shiny new Creative Review magazine that arrived every third Thursday in the month, about 10.30am. The collection of back issues of assorted design magazines, which had it’s own cupboard, with a desk and chair. And the fabulous book collection…
The best of times, the worst of times.
Not to be sniffed at…
Perhaps I’m a little over sensitive. Or perhaps I’m correct and some of my friends really should be thrown of my fourth floor balcony. You decide.
I meet up with them, and whether it’s mine, theirs or at a neutral venue, they are full of the cold, or worse. Or on one particular occasion while visiting a friend with small children, ‘oh have you had chicken pox?’. After I’ve already spent about ten minutes with their bastard offspring…
I wasn’t happy about it when I had regular jobs, but now I’m self employed, whereby if I’m too sick to work equals no income, I’m livid with them.
So I write this article for my friends more than anything. If you are not well in any way, cancel. I do not want to see you. And unless some of you have become doctors or scientists specialising in germ contamination while I wasn’t paying attention, don’t come with any crap about ‘oh you won’t get this’.
Of course, my friends don’t read my blog, I’ll just have to go a bit Samuel L. Jackson on them.
Listen to The Joker
Working for free is a discussion subject that comes up way too often in the design world sadly. As the late Heath Ledger’s Joker character says in the film The Dark Knight above, “If you are good at something, never do it for free.”
There are a number of reasons for this, and a quick Google will find many other reasons not to work for free from other designers. But from my experience, it’s all about respect.
If you work for free, or offer to work for free, you may be liked by that person for doing it, but you will never be respected. And when you are not respected, your work and ideas are not respected. So that piece of work that you do for free, partly for experience, partly for your portfolio, will almost certainly be ruined by the client. Effectively becoming useless as an example of your work, and can’t be shown to future clients or employers.
Avoid business sharks
The other reason I strongly recommend not working for free, is the type of people who accept free work. They are generally awful. They are not a client for the future, and will never pay you for work at a later date, as they will just look for another ‘sucker’ to work for them for free. I saw a young designer post on a freelancers’ Facebook group offering to work for free. The people responding were like sharks circling wounded prey. Avoid these types at all costs.
With August about to turn into September, I find myself happily going up through the gears back into proper work mode. I’ve had a great summer, my first real break in many years. My batteries are recharged, and I’m raring to go from my base in Copenhagen.
One of the best aspects of living in Copenhagen is the work, life balance. The business side of the city clearly winds down a bit during the peak summer months, but then cranks back to life with everyone refreshed, with ideas and eager to explore possibilities.
We are three!
My design business will shortly be three years old. I am very proud of what I’ve achieved, and grateful to all the clients I have been lucky enough to meet and work with. Here’s to the next three years!
So if you want to see some of my work, here is web design.
This is for graphic design, specialising in logo design.
And my other core area Illustration.
Skål, Slangevar, Cheers!
There are many famous brands using WordPress. Sony Music, Renault, Vogue, Facebook, The New York Times and the BBC. There is an excellent Showcase page on the WordPress site that features many of the great sites using WordPress.
A favourite of mine is Facebook’s Company info page, in which Mark Zuckerberg is just another humble CEO, on just another humble About Us page on the internet. Sheryl Sandberg even mentions her fish.
So with around 20% of the internet, and 70% of the CMS market, and growing, if you are not already using WordPress, you really ought to, come your next new website.