What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

In addition to The School of Design (which used to be called designtrack) I’m working on a series of digital products. This is part of a strategy to [[diversify my income streams]] in order to build an [[antifragile]] business.

One of the products I’m working on is a workshop and a product marketing system, that introduces the idea of Growth Design (1) for startup founders and micro-product businesses.

I’m working on it with my friend and sometime collaborator, [Mr Ben]. The problem at the moment is that it doesn’t have a name, and without a name, it’s hard for us to reference it amongst everything else we’re working on.

One of the other products I’m working on – which is, in a way, related – is a beautifully designed content marketing system, created by digital product designers for digital product designers. This product is called ‘Vessel’.

We can reference it quickly, because we say: “Could you spare me five minutes to talk I about the copy for Vessel?”

Vessel (Formerly, Vehicle)

Vessel started life as ‘Vehicle’. I contacted the designer who is designing and building it with me – Jasmin Winiarski – to inform her that ‘Vehicle’ was just a working title, something to get the ball rolling.

There was something about the name Vehicle that didn’t quite fit. To start with, I couldn’t help but think of a car emitting pollution every time I referred to it (that’s not a concept I’m happy with at all). But the name served two purposes:

  1. It gave us a ‘working title’ that we could refer to amongst the other day-to-day work we’re doing at Mr Murphy Ltd..
  2. It helped the product to feel real.

Point number one is useful, it cuts through the noise, acting as a shortcut to the project and a shorthand for the concept. Point number two is where the magic happens, however.

When I’m teaching or running workshops for professionals, I often refer to the power of visualisation. Athletes use visualisation to pre-imagine a race. They see themselves at the very moment they cross the line, winning the race. All in their mind.

Vehicle might not have been the right name, but it got us to the point of creating a beautifully designed skeleton system you could ‘pour content into’, which is where the idea of a Vessel came in.

Untitled (Goose Game)

I wouldn’t recommend using ‘untitled’ as a working title, it doesn’t have enough to hang on to. My forthcoming podcast with [Fabio Basile] is currently called #untitled, we chose that because my other podcast with [Adam Procter] is called #uneducators, but #untitled just isn’t cutting the mustard.

We need a name – and fast – because the quicker we settle on a name, the quicker everything feels real (and the quicker everything fees real is the quicker we start building in earnest (and the quicker we start building in earnest is the closer we are to launch!)).

So, what is ‘Untitled Goose Game’ and why is it untitled? The game is a puzzle stealth game, developed by [House House] and published by [Panic], purveyors of beautiful digital products.

According to the team behind it: The game’s unusual name came from a last-minute decision when submitting an entry for a games festival. The team enjoyed the festival and the name stuck.


Sometimes when you conjure up an idea for a name, it doesn’t sit right, but – over time – it settles into place and grows on you.

I remember the moment when Lee Munroe pitched the name Lookaly to me, during an office hours meeting. Lookaly was an online business directory that allowed users to rate and review businesses.

My reaction? “Eurgh.”

No matter how much Munroe explained to me that Lookaly was a portmanteau, which was a mashup of ‘look’ and ‘locally’, it just didn’t sit right with me. However, a few weeks later – after having heard it repeated in the studio countless times – Lookaly soon started to feel ‘just right’.

So, it pays to live with your name for a while. If it isn’t right, you’ll know and if it is right, it’ll grow on you.

In Closing…

Don’t waste hours and hours and hours trying to think of the perfect name for your product. That time is far better put to good use, building your product.

If I had a pound for every beautifully wrought name that never made it off the drawing board, I’d be an incredibly wealthy individual. The riches that flow from imagining, designing and building products accrues to the makers, not the talkers. Give your product a name – you can change it later – and you’ll make much faster progress.

Always give your projects a working title. Do so and they’ll feel more ‘real’, just the act of naming your project will help to bring it to life.


(1) I first learned about the term ‘Growth Design’ during one of our Founder Firesides with Andy Budd, of Clearleft. Budd mentioned Lex Roman – who I believe coined the term – and I was hooked.

I was never wildly enthusiastic about the term ‘growth hacking’. In stark contrast to the original meaning of the word ‘hacker’, it’s subsequently taken on a less positive aura. As such, the term ‘growth designer’ very much appealed to me.


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