Monday, April 18, 2011

In Defense of Boring: Watch Out for “Clever” Names

One of the most exhilarating parts of starting a business is to dream up a name for it. Or it’s one of the most excruciating – depends how comfortable you are with words. If you aren’t, you may default to something generic like “Joe’s Yard Service.” In my early days as a business, I would have greeted such an approach with a big yawn. BO-ring. But sometimes boring can be your friend – read on:
When my then-associate and I planned our business launch, we agonized over the name issue. It had to reflect our values and unique flavor, and make us stand out from the herd. We finally had recourse to the dictionary, and found our perfect name in the A’s: anaglyph. An anaglyph is an image created by combining two points of view. How perfect, we thought – we’re combining our unique points of view to create images for our clients! So we became Anaglyph Art Services.
As time went on, we found that people had a hard time spelling and pronouncing it, didn’t know what it meant and generally found it obtuse. We kept using it because we loved how well it reflected what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. After a few years my associate left, but I kept the name because, I reasoned, my work reflected the combination of my viewpoint and my client’s. Still perfect!
However, the afore-mentioned problems with “anaglyph” continued. People continued to misunderstand, mispronounce, misspell and generally mangle the name. But as years passed, I got used to it and more than able to tune out signals that it wasn’t working all that well. Until one fateful day when the phone rang: I picked it up and a quavering, little-old-lady voice said, “Hello? Is this Analgram?”
Well. Talk about a wake-up call.
Without dwelling on the logistics or definition of an “analgram,” I lost as little time as possible in changing it. As it happened, I was about to move to a new town and would have to get new business materials, so it was a perfect time to become Laurel Black Design. Here’s who I am and here’s what I do – no mystery, no embarrassing or bizarro misinterpretations. It may be boring, but at least it’s clear. In the years since, I have tried to add meaning and interest to it by producing un-boring work.
So when you decide on a name, go for clarity first and clever second. That way no one will ever ask you for an analgram.


  1. My favorite post so far! I laughed out loud and am still smiling.

    I think we must be careful to listen to what our clients are saying. For instance, Analgram is completely memorable, easy to spell and incorporates an aspect of many a designers' business style. The logo symbol would be easy to design too, so many possibilities come to mind!


  2. Well said Laurel. A business name is a calling card and really needs to reflect who you are and what you do. You've done it with yours. Some say I have done it with mine (Art of the Pie) as well. Hope you are well and happy, my friend. Kate

  3. Ladies, thanks for your comments!
    @Ellen: You are quite right. Perhaps the universe was telling me something and I should rethink my rejection of Analgram.
    @Kate: Your name not only reflects the quality of what you create, but also the heart and soul you put into it. It's even better than "Pie Goddess" (my personal name for you).

  4. Verrrry funny Laurel, good job!

  5. Totally agree with you about the beauty of our business name being simple and to the point and letting our body of work speak volumes about how clever we are (or aren't). Great post- looking forward to reading more!

  6. Thanks, Kat! Hope you'll keep tuning in and weighing in!