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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Are you having trouble choosing a name for your design business?

How much trouble are you having choosing a name for your design business? Do you already have a name picked out or are you wracking your brain thinking up and then discarding dozens of names hoping to find one that suits you?

One of the hardest decisions entrepreneurs face is choosing a name for their business.

In a previous episode of Resourceful Designer, I talked about the pros and cons of using your name as your business name compared to using a unique made-up name. Consider this episode a sequel to that one.

Why choosing the right business name is important.

Why is the name you choose for your design business so important? It’s important because word of mouth is and always will be a design company’s most lucrative avenue for acquiring new clients. Ask any home-based or freelance designer, and they’ll tell you that the bulk of their work comes from word of mouth referrals.

Therefore, choosing a good, memorable name could help propel your company by making it easier for clients to spread the word about your services. Whereas, if you choose a poor, hard to remember name, you could impede your company’s growth.

Imagine someone asking a friend about web design.

– “Do you know where I can get a website made?”

– “Yes, I heard of this place called ‘The Web Design Studio,' you could try there.”


– “Do you know where I can get a website made?”

– “Yes, I heard of this place called… ‘Stellarific Web Design'? or maybe it was ‘Synergific Web Design'? ‘Stunningific'… I don’t know, it started with an S and had ‘ific' at the end of the name. Sorry I can't be more helpful.”

Yes, your business name matters.

A process for choosing a name for your design business

Make the process of choosing a name for your design business easy on you by starting with a procedure you should be familiar with.

Chances are every design project you start begins with a design brief. It might be a multi-page document with a detailed analysis of what the design project needs to accomplish. Or it might be a 5-minute conversation where a client briefly explains what they are looking for. Either way, you have a brief to work from to create your designs.

Use the same method for choosing your business name. Create a naming brief. Ask yourself some standard brief questions to help guide you in choosing a name.

1) Who is your target audience?

If you are targeting a niche, it might make sense to choose a name for your business that fits in well with that niche.

If you are targetting small to medium size law offices, then a name such as Rock On Designs may not be suitable. However, if your target market is people in the music industry, then Rock On Designs may be a perfect fit. If you plan on targetting a niche, you may want to consider a name that suits that niche.

For example, Craig Burton's design company is called School Branding Matters. Can you guess who his target market is?

2) Descriptive or Abstract?

Do you want a descriptive name, something with meaning like Reliable Design Services? Or do you want something more abstract like Peacock Creative Agency?

3) Real or Made Up Words?

Do you want a business name that uses real words like Solid Core Creative? Or do you want to create a new word like Ryjo Design Services?

Rember that word of mouth is a key source of new design clients. If you create new words, make sure they’re short, easy to remember and easy to pronounce.

Be careful with the fad of dropping vowels from words. It may be cute and the “In thing,” but it could also confuse your target market. How many times do you think Chris Do has to say, “That’s ‘The Futur‘ without an “e” at the end.” I’m sure that can become tedious very fast.

There are no right or wrong names for your business. Names are subjective, just like designs are. What one person likes another won’t. Make sure you choose a name that feels right for you and the design market you are targetting.

Criteria for choosing a name.

Here are some criteria you can use to determine a name's effectiveness. Create a grid with potential names listed on the left and these criteria listed along the top. Then assign a score of 1 to 5 under each criteria for each of the names. Once done, add up the scores for each name, and the one with the highest score is probably the best choice for your design business.

Assign a score from 1 to 5 for each of the following criteria.

  • Distinctiveness (How distinct is the name? Ex. Joe’s Design Studio probably ranks a 1 or 2, whereas Joe’s Emporium of Creativity ranks a 4 or 5)
  • Emotional Impact (What emotional impression does it give clients? Joe's Design Studio doesn't enlist much of an emotional response, but Amazing Creations Design Studio does.)
  • Clarity (Do people know what the business does just by hearing the name?)
  • Pronounceable (Is the name hard for people to say?)
  • Memorable (Is the name easy to remember?)
  • Trademarkable (Can the name be trademarked?)

Do Your Research

Once you come up with a solid list of potential names for your design business, it’s time to do your research.

The problem with discovering the perfect name for your business is, if the name is that good, chances are someone thought of it before you.

Before you get too excited about a name, do some research to see if you can use the name. Start by Googling the name and see what comes up. Are there any other design businesses using it or a very similar name? Make sure you search broadly enough. There may not be another graphic or web designer around with the name you like. But what about interior designers, fashion designers, or even cake designers?

If you are in the USA, try searching through the U.S. Patent and Trademark website. It’s an excellent place to see if anyone has already registered the name you like.

Companies in different industries can sometimes have the same names providing there is no chance of mistaking one company for the other. For example, “Crowd Pleaser Creative Services” and “Crowd Pleaser Pool Installations.” There is little chance a client will mix up these two companies.

Just because another design company has the same name as you doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use the name. It all depends on where they registered the name. A name registered in the USA doesn't prevent someone from registering the same name elsewhere, such as in Canada or Australia.

Contact your local municipality's business resource center and get their advice on registering your business name. They’ll be glad to help.

I highly suggest you get a lawyer involved when it comes time to register your business name. It’s good for you to do your research, but a lawyer who specializes in business law will have more resources available to make sure the job is done correctly. Hire a lawyer to vet your name before you spend money trying to register it.

Simple names are not always the best names.

Something else to avoid is using common words or popular “keywords” when naming your business. Earlier I used an example of a web design business called The Web Design Studio. In reality, The Web Design Studio is not a very good name for a business because it will be almost impossible to rank for it in search engines since it's a term used by many web design businesses.

What it comes down to

The name you give your design business is one of the most critical touch points for anyone encountering your business. You can update logos and branding reasonably quickly, but not so much with a name. However, your business name, although important, is only one facet of your business. A great name won’t guarantee success, just like a less than ideal name doesn’t ensure failure.

It’s up to you to ensure that the business you are running creates a strong foundation for your business name to live up to. As long as the name you choose reflects your brand and values, you should be good.

How hard was it for you to come up with your business name?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Pauline

When you're brand new in business, should you price a little lower at first, or are you storing up trouble for later?

To find out what I told Pauline, you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Contact me

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

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