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Great writing for design: Writing for naming

By Katie Ewer | strategy director

April 15, 2016 | 3 min read

In the lead up to next week’s D&AD Festival, Katie Ewer will be looking at what makes great writing for design in a series of blog posts this week. Katie is part of the 2016 jury for Writing for Design.

Naming can be one of the one of most enjoyable and also one of the most stressful parts of a branding exercise. As any parent will tell you, the risks of getting it wrong are far-reaching and very public.

Unlike most other kinds of writing, naming is highly visible. People have opinions on names and whether they’re any good or not. We may not care about a change of tense, but we care a great deal about a change of name. Consider the national wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanies big rebrands like Consignia and Centrica. Taking on a rebrand like that seems like a poisoned chalice to me.

Why do we care so much? Perhaps it’s because we all feel ownership of language. After all, we learn to speak five years before we learn to write, whilst design is a skilled art that takes years to master. But we’re all experts at naming. The first time a human being uses words, it’s usually to name something.

Fraught with risk it may be, but when you create a great name, it’s a thing of beauty forever. ‘Orange’ conjured notions of optimism, modernity and possibility with its metaphorical name, and ‘Blackberry’ made scary technology seem approachable and easy without compromising its credibility.

‘Games Makers’ was the name given to volounteers during the 2012 Olympic Games - a name that implicitly suggesting how essential each person was to the success of the event. And my alltime favourite - ‘black holes’ – the brilliantly illustrative alternative moniker for had hiterto been known as ‘gravitationally collapsed objects’.

Naming isn’t everything, but it’s our start point for any relationship with a brand, product or service. Names are shorthand for stories. When they work well, we’re hooked from the first word.

Katie Ewer is strategy director at JKR. Catch up on parts one and two of the series: How to inject personality into your branding without becoming irritating and How to write with clarity

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