More effort needs to go into name creation

The year has kicked off with an unexpected public debate about names. But with Dragon’s identity for The Post Office holding company Consignia following so close on Andersen Consulting’s rebirth as Accenture, it’s hardly surprising. Neither is it particularly enthralling – what is Landor Associates, designer of the latter identity, thinking about with that superfluous accent over the letter T? If that isn’t enough, both replace names long established in the UK culture.

What has been largely overlooked by the media is that these companies have no choice but to change their names, whatever you think of the outcome, for reasons common to a number of businesses. One was prompted by legal requirements, while the other was necessary to reflect the former Post Office Group’s global, possibly non-postal interests. With British Midland next in line, we can expect more of the same as business becomes more diverse across a wider geographical spread.

But the debate has thrown up the seemingly haphazard way in which names are chosen these days. There are dedicated naming agencies – groups of bright young things who work from lists, some say – but it might be the ad agency, the design consultancy, the client – or even the chairman’s partner – that picks the name. And with all businesses striving to have a strong digital presence, the choice is limited because the obvious candidates have already been registered by some enterprising person a couple of years ago. Hence the spate of meaningless monikers, from Diageo to Accenture.

The situation is grim. But it highlights the importance of words and imagery working in tandem to get a company’s culture across – and there is surely a great opportunity here for design consultancies.

A few of the more enlightened print design groups have long had writing at their heart, with wordsmiths working alongside the visual design team to get the best out of both media. For digital design it is even more vital. But even these few enlightened consultancies tend to limit the writers’ involvement to brochure copy, client proposals, website content and the odd strapline. Why not bring on board folk whose real forte is name-generation? Perhaps this is a discipline that The Partners creative director David Stuart might push forward when he takes on the British Design & Art Direction presidency at the end of the month.

Of course, we know that memories are short and the latest naming horrors will be accepted into common parlance before long. But wouldn’t it be better if they were more memorable and the turn of the 21st century went down in history as a golden age of naming?

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