Name Art & Science

This post inspired by:

The Weird Science of Naming New Products by Neal Gabler
New Yorker Artilcle About Lexicon

Linguistic Concepts:

“Fricatives” convey speed
(f, s, y, z — these consonants are a class because they are all consonants spoken by forcing air through the narrow channel between tongue and front teeth)
“Plosives” or “Stops”
(b, d, p, t — these consonants are a class because they are all consonants in which air flow is blocked)
“Morphemes” — those parts of words that convey meaning
Plato’s Cratylus — associated sounds with physical characteristics

Naming/Branding Agencies:

Landor
Ideo
Lexicon (David Placek is Founder)
Catchword
Interbrand
Character
Namebase
Zinzin
Idiom (and their system Lingtwistics)
Anthony Shore (lone operator, formerly with Landor for 13 years)

Linguistic Experts
Will Leben — Linguistics Professor at Stanford.
His “Sounder” Study (“the physical characteristics of sound are what determine associations”). Note this study focused on the first syllable – either consonant, vowel, or both.
“Sounder II” was conducted in 2002 to determine whether sounds could be associated with emotional states. Answer: YES. Note this study focused on the first syllable – either consonant, vowel, or both.
“Sounder III” was a study to determine.

These studied revealed:
– voiceless stops like k, p, and t are more alive and daring than voiced stops like b, d, and g. voiceless convey less luxury than the voiced.

Websites:
onelook.com (how words work with other words)
sketchengine.co.uk (how a word appears in many texts)
rhymezone.com (how a word rhymes with other words)
Glossary of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology, and Inventions

Apps
UniversalTextCombinationGenerator — combines fricatives and stops

Cool Names:
Thrillium
Virch
Thrall
Howl
Mezmer
Livit
Tactene
Tethager
Lash
Velop
Engulf
Zyde
Glidesight
Zonic
Popover
Skylume

Important Ideas

“Placek maintains that the best brand names, like poems, work by compressing into a single euphonious word an array of specific, resonant meanings and associations. But he prefers to emphasize the practical aspects of his work. “I’ve learned that if I use that with prospective clients—‘Hey, what we’re creating here is a small poem’—you can see people sort of get concerned,” he told me. “Like, ‘This isn’t really about art here. This is about getting things done.’ ”

Brand naming has existed for centuries. Italians made watermarks on paper in the twelve-hundreds. During the industrial revolution, companies sought to inspire consumer confidence with names borrowed from their owners’ families: Singer sewing machines, Fuller brushes, Hoover vacuums—all names that are still in use. Before the First World War, there was a wave of abstract names ending in “o” (like Brillo and Brasso), followed, in the nineteen-twenties, by one of “ex” names: Pyrex, Cutex, Windex. But, according to Eric Yorkston, a marketing professor at Texas Christian University, modern brand naming—with its sophisticated focus groups and its linguistic and psychological analysis—began in the years after the Second World War, when the explosion of similar products from competing companies made imaginative naming an increasing necessity.”

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“Most projects at Lexicon start off with free-associated Mind Maps—large diagrams of words that spread out like dendrites from a central concept. A map of hundreds of words, generated at the pace of a brainstorming session, can take less than ten minutes to produce and can resemble a Cy Twombly scribble painting. The maps help to stake out linguistic territory, and to bring forth the deeper associations that a particular product evokes—“the words underneath the name,” as Placek puts it.”

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“Placek …had become a devotee of the 1970 book “The Practice of Creativity,” by George Prince, a former adman who, with the inventor and psychologist William J. J. Gordon, created an organization called Synectics, which ran workshops on how to increase creativity in small groups. The method stressed openness to ideas that seem irrelevant to the problem at hand; one of Gordon’s maxims was “Trust things that are alien, and alienate things that are trusted.” At the workshops, Placek said, he developed many of the techniques he employs at Lexicon. He guided teams on “excursions” that elicited creative responses by introducing unexpected stimuli, “maybe passing out sports magazines if we’re naming a women’s cosmetic.”

References

Creativity and Synectics