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Choosing a name for your business and things to watch out for

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…

News business cartoon

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.

Aka Spiderman

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.

Business naming cartoon

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…

Mail chimp cartoon

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.

Business name outing

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!

Logo design with subtle hidden messages

In logo design, a message doesn’t have to be obvious. In fact it could be years before you notice the message or never at all. This fantastic infographic from madebyoomph.co.uk looks at some great ones.

logo design messages

London 2012 Olympics logo

When bad design is inexcusable – That’s you London Olympics 2012

I’m writing this fully six months after the London Olympics 2012. An Olympics which were highly successful, particularly from a British perspective, both in terms of organisation, sporting success and spectacle.

olympics-opening-ceremony-london-2012

From the sheer genius of Sir Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony (above), the 2012 Olympics was a complete success. Then there’s the logo. Released a couple of years earlier to widespread derision. Not helped by the £400000 price tag.

Many of those attempting to defend the logo at the time of the release said it would grow on us. That it was visionary, we would ‘get it’ later. Well now we are in the future, let’s have another look.

london-olympics-logo

It is atrocious. The colours, the font, the shapes. It had to be pointed out to me, the shapes represent 2012. Thank goodness the brand became the opening ceremony, the stadium and the athletes. Showing an excellent product can survive a terrible logo. But it must be truly exceptional.

When you are in a hole stop digging

I found this interview with the logo’s creators Wolff Olins on Wired magazine. www.wired.com/design/2012/08/olympic-design/.

‘Wolff Olins didn’t try to clamp the same exact image on everything. It’s a factor of their design that allows schisms — the logo, the colors, pretty much everything they created can be adapted or altered to fit the needs of different users.’

‘Schisms’? So different versions and variations of a logo subject to different needs. So, pretty much what every brand does with it’s logo then. Look for example at the variations used on Carlsberg or Coca-cola lorries, as opposed to their product packaging. Different environment, different solution, but within some shared rules. Although the more inconsistent the logo, the weakening of the brand, and shows a lack of confidence in the core logo. A clear sign Wolff Olins knew from the beginning, their logo didn’t work.

Dig dig dig dig

“The logotype emerged from what we called an energy grid,” says Wolff Olins chairman Brian Boylan. “Its shape comes from a grid which lies behind, and that grid in turn was used to create pattern which was used for the look of the games. If you look at the stadium itself, the color pattern for the seating is taken from this grid.”

Really!? Did you manage to say that with a straight face? The dreadful font, best described as ‘comic sans sharp’.

‘Pleasing the crowd wasn’t part of the goal, says Ije Nwokorie, Wolff Olins’ managing director.’

So, having been told by pretty much everyone they didn’t like the logo, they then claim that that was deliberate, like a particularly obnoxious spoilt child, that must always be right.

If only Wolff Olins were as good at design as they are at talking ‘branding bollocks’.