Designing a Name

Designing a Name
October 26, 2011 Séamus Byrne

What’s in a name?

There is an old design adage: the more simple a work of design appears, the more time that has been put into it. Genius design aside, us commoner-garden designers must resort to rounds of iterative ideation and feedback to come up with meaningful brands, products and services that resonate with the intended target audience.

This is no different when the project’s goal is to create a *name* for an offering, at least, that is what we discovered over the Summer when we were tasked with the job of coming up with a name for a new cutting edge portal at UC Berkeley.

The brief seemed straightforward enough, UC Berkeley were ramping up to launch the campus’ new collaboration and communication platform for students enabling academic collaboration to become more open, personal, social and flexible.
CalCentral Ideation at Graphic MintOur challenge would be to create a name that all at once, capture the essence of the product’s vision, match UC Berkeley’s brand and culture and, most importantly, simply and accurately describe the product’s purpose “on the (virtual) box”.

We started the project with extensive domain research. We unearthed requirements by conducting surveys and interviews with stakeholders and users and by familiarising ourselves with the functionality and features of the product. I had previously worked in educational technology, so I was somewhat familiar with what the product was setting out to do. We looked at other instances of the same product at other educational institutions, but we could not find many examples as this product was so cutting edge.

After completing our research, we started our ideation phase. Our goal was to conceptualise a *Story-world* upon which the brand and user experience could be based. As humans we are hard-wired to storytelling, so we set about conducting various activities to unearth the essence and nature of the product, to discover was it was all about, and the myriad of ways it could be communicated.

Our initial brainstorming and ideation was based on the research and brand attributes we had collated, and our output from this activity was over one hundred sketches representing ideas, metaphors and symbols that related to and/or described the product.

We captured these ideas and iteratively presented them to the stakeholders, distilling them down to twenty five, then finally shortlisting the ten strongest concepts. We began to flesh out the storyworld around each of the shortlisted concepts, to evaluate their potential, to see how scaleable, robust and appropriate to the brief they were. We presented the five final concepts to the stakeholders, to reality check and kick the tyres on how they worked with the brief and tone of the project.

The winning concept was *Berkeley Core*.

“This one-stop-shop for *everything* Berkeley, is a virtual meeting point, a gathering place, a 21st Century portal where you can meet, discuss, trade ideas, get things fixed, express your thoughts and get in touch with the community and bump into your friends.”

It was time to to design a name that matched the concept. I believe nothing is ever wasted from the research and ideation process, so we revisited and repurposed previous good ideas, trawling for potential names, through the lens of our final concept.  To the stockpile of names, we added suggestions from stakeholders and end users. In a similar fashion to our conceptualisation process, we presented and refined the names, based on feedback from stakeholders and end-user review.

After months of research, ideation and design, two final names were shortlisted, and the final decision was made by the stakeholders. We were very pleased with their decision as we believe it accurately describes what the product does…

CalCentral Screenshot

We wish *CalCentral* the best of luck, we know it will be successful because the product is outstanding with an apt and memorable name.

Séamus Byrne
Séamus is the Director of User Experience at Graphic Mint.