What's in YOUR name?

Choosing a name for your business can often be tricky, so how and why did you choose your business or trading name? Go on, spill the beans!

(Ed says: Don't worry, this isn't another column where Malarkey talks about XHTML naming conventions... (You can wake up now Jason)).

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Drive through most towns in the UK (and probably elsewhere in the world) and you'll see a hairdresser in the main street. Perhaps it's simplistic of me to think that they are all run by ladies called Audrey, but one thing I do know is they often have fantastically cheesey, pun-related names. One look through my local Yellow Pages found these wee gems,

Silly I know, but these cringe-worthy names are probably still better than 'Audrey's Hair Fashions'. When it comes to web studio names, what does the Yellow Pages reveal? Feast your eyes on Cosmic Web, DesignWeb, Homespun Webs, or even the classic (and straight to the point) 'Bloody Brilliant Web Design'.

(Ed says: So what's the point to all this Miiiister Malarkey?)

Well, choosing a name for your business can often be tricky. When we chose Stuff and Nonsense we wanted names which would not limit the scope of our activities. Although 95% of our work is seen in a web browser, we knew that this might change over time and wanted to avoid calling ourselves Malarkey Web Design.

Of course in certain situations, names can either be directly linked to a key person (cue obligatory link to Hicks Design) or they can be sooo obscure as to truly hide the activities of the business; Tiscali, Wanadoo or Consignia (the disastrous new (and aborted) name for the UK postal service) spring to mind.

Go on, spill the beans!

So how and why did you choose your business or trading name? Go on, spill the beans! Or if you're plain ol' Ivan The Internet, what names of businesses have made you howl with laughter or cringe with incredulity?


  1. #1 On March 30, 2005 10:45 PM patrick h. lauke said:

    as naff as it sounds, "splintered" as a reflection of the variety of interests i have (and, as a result, would like to get involved in). not much more to it, i'm afraid...

  2. #2 On March 30, 2005 10:51 PM Scott said:

    I picked out the name "Wishingline" partially based on a song by a great little Canadian group called Spirit of the West. I liked the play on words of 'fishing line' and 'wish'. Tossing ideas out and seeing what you can pull back in... that sort of thing. Originally I had thought of the site being for something else entirely, not so much as a business name though it's turning out that way.

    The domain was originally held by a lottery company in Boston, but they let it go and I snatched it up a few years ago.

    I recently finished the initial round of branding work and am gearing up for the long-overdue launch of the business site in May.

    The lengthy work has led me to really find an identity that is both generic and specific at the same time.

    I purposely left the word "web" or "graphic" out of the name since I have a background in both web and print design and prepress production so not to limit what I can do (if I feel so inclined). I kind of like the idea of "your wish is our command". But only to a point... I won't be a slave to a client or employer as none of us should be.

  3. #3 On March 30, 2005 10:56 PM Hans Nilsson said:

    I had several different names lined up when I first sent in my company registration papers, but they were all occupied by others, so I ended up with the much inspiring H.N Media & Music. Feels pretty good though, 'cause you do get a feel for what it is I do by just reading the name.

    Oh, and it's a nice site you have here.. you know all that "long-time reader, first-time poster" thing...

  4. #4 On March 30, 2005 11:16 PM Ian Fenn said:

    Chopstix Media came about because I'm primarily a Non-Chinese Chinese food writer... that's a non-Chinese person who writes about Chinese food. The changing of the CKS in Chopsticks to X just seemed a bit Western, or non-Chinese.

  5. #5 On March 30, 2005 11:22 PM Justin Perkins said:

    I bought this domain name (enjoybeing.net) in 2000 as a personal site. I've since stopped updating the site and it's sitting in a decrepit state since 2002/2003. I, however, took that domain name and used it to start my personal business under the name Enjoybeing Software. It's nice because I've had the name long enough that the term "enjoybeing" pretty much points to me in most search engines. Extra bonus!

  6. #6 On March 30, 2005 11:34 PM chet said:

    Hmm, my two sites aren't quite so creative. My personal site, FreshTracks (freshtracks.us), comes from my love of skiing. As a skier, the most important thing to do out west is to make fresh tracks in the fluffy powder before anyone else comes along to mess it up.
    My web design site, Citadel Studio (citadelstudio.com), came from my love of the different castles in Europe. I chose studio for the same reason you mention. It can then be used for print, software, etc, so it leaves room for expansion.

  7. #7 On March 31, 2005 02:01 AM pixeldiva said:

    pixeldiva, way back in the mists of time, started as a nickname that grew out of having the mickey taken out of my control-freak perfectionist tendencies (particularly in relation to 3d art and webstuff) and I quite liked it and so it stuck. I'm still narked I missed the .com domain name by 4 days or so tho'.

    As for ace business names, there's a kids clothes shop near the Trongate in Glasgow that's called Weans World. It just makes me giggle.

  8. #8 On March 31, 2005 02:20 AM jordan said:

    My theoretical business name is Ratafia Design - theoretical, as in "there is no such company at this time". Anyhow; the Ratafia part came from an older, very crappy site engine I coded in PHP. Choosing this name took much hard thought and one random dictionary-flip (like most of my project code-names).

    I like the name, and it's pleasantly vague so I can go pretty much any direction I choose. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with a .info name since some company registered the .com and .net variants as a redirect to their software that has nothing to do with the word "ratafia".

    Now that I think about it, I may change the "design" part to something else, since it sounds just about as trite as using the word "web" or "net" in your ISP name.

  9. #9 On March 31, 2005 03:12 AM jordan said:

    At first when registering a business name (sole tradership) I has hoping to register simply "jord". Simple and ambigious, but still some branding toward my name. Unforunately some steel manuacturing firm had that name so i progressed to Jord Design, and the finally decided to go for the slight play on words and end up with Jordesign.

  10. #10 On March 31, 2005 03:12 AM Milan Negovan said:

    Well, I was laughing when I saw a van which belonged to a local business called Pooper Scooper (basically, dogs*** scoopin'). I'm still not sure it's a good name or not.

    As to Karova... I was wondering. Ain't it spelled with an "o" ("корова")? It's pronounced as an "a", but still...

  11. #11 On March 31, 2005 05:29 AM Jess said:

    A few years ago, I made up a company name for class. Superlative Associates. Sure it sounds generically professional, but it abreviates quite nicely to Super Ass. I use that name for the business I am supposedly representing when I go to conventions as I'm still a student. Having that on my badge is a great conversation starter.

  12. #12 On March 31, 2005 05:36 AM Sean Fraser said:

    I've got three recent electronic, i.e., internet, names: Electrolibris, The Menehune Foundry Co, and Vitreous Type.

    Electrolibris was an on-line booksellers that was removed from view pending a redesign with all of the usual standards: XHTML, Css, Accessibility et al. I thought it fit selling books on the web.

    The Menehune Foundry Co is my very much neglected portfolio webDesign site. [It's pronounced, men-a-hoo-nee = Hawaiian elves or imps.] Kinda like an Arthur Rackham image of elves toiling over anvils or toiling over x-heights or being pranksterish (as the links on the first seen page will attest to).

    And, Vitreous Type was newly forged for a pending site. I had wanted to name it "Vitreous" but that name was taken by a name farm in Hong Kong (which - when furthered linked - leads one to a holding farm in South Korea [that is written in Korean] ). So... after various variants, Vitreous Type worked: what a person "types" is viewed with "eyes" or "Type", e.g., words, that have a transparent appearence like glass.

    They're not tinny but all good woody names.

    Though, as Malarkey has noted before, waaaaaay too subtle.

  13. #13 On March 31, 2005 07:23 AM Tim Parkin said:

    Pollenation came from a acquaintance in Manchester who wrote a book called Pollen. The word fitted in with the requirements of being available and having few negative connotations. The internet bit is just their to make sure people don't think we're a florist :-)

  14. #14 On March 31, 2005 07:48 AM nikki said:

    I am sorry to have to report that Hairizona of Selly Oak, Birmingham have recently ceased trading. (Fortunately their sign is still up though!)

    I've earmarked designphile as an umbrella for a multitude of sins and it's only recently as I've started to think about logos that I've realised it has my initials nicely in the middle of it!

  15. #15 On March 31, 2005 08:16 AM Matthew Pennell said:

    I ended up choosing 29digital for three main reasons:

    1. The 'digital' part is fairly generic, and could easily encompass other related pursuits like software, music, etc.

    2. Having a number at the start of your name puts you right at the top of alphabetical lists, phone books, etc.

    3. I was 29 when I started the business.

    It has the added bonus of being easy to spell (how many times have you had to spell out 'Karova' to prospective clients, Andy?) and fairly short.

  16. #16 On March 31, 2005 08:18 AM Jon Hicks said:

    I chose Hicksdesign because I couldn't think of a non-pretentious name. Everything I came up with sounded naff, so I went with unimaginative instead! I' wasn't keen on the name, but I've grown used to it.

    Also, make sure you check out Jeremy's New Media company name generator.

  17. #17 On March 31, 2005 08:25 AM Pete Smith said:


    You've gotta get in touch with the publishers of that magazine:

    A - Becuase I think you would be an ideal featured "Mullet" on the front cover.

    B - Because I can't find a Web site or eMail address for them (I really wanted to send them an eMail with the words HAHAHA repeated over and over).

    Go on Andy build them a website.

    "The Accessible Mullet - Online Community"

  18. #18 On March 31, 2005 08:29 AM Daniel said:

    I chose deeper productions, mainly as i find myself in the deep end in most contracts.
    Currently im doing ethical hacking contracts but eventually will move out of IT Security and back into the music production side, so the name seems to fit well with the genre of music i produce

    and yes, the website does break badly under IE, and i have no idea why!!

  19. #19 On March 31, 2005 08:31 AM Malarkey said:

    @ Jon Hicks: Jeremy's widget is a classic

    @ Matthew Pennell: About 47 times a day

    @ Milan Negovan: корова IS correct, damn it! But when, you say it outloud...

    @ Molly: Mmmmm, Little Mary Woodcutter sounds like a 60's folk singer. Maybe you 'were' born to be in San Fran!

  20. #20 On March 31, 2005 08:55 AM Les said:

    I was thinking of a name for a Limited Co. for when I went IT contracting a while back, and I was struggling until I looked around my surroundings a little:

    I played basketball in the US a few years before, for a high school team; D.W. Daniel Lions. My letterman jacket (yes very 'happy days'!) was folded over my chair and the stitching on the back had obscured a few letters - spelling Da Lions - sooooo...

    Dalions Ltd was born - it means nothing to anyone but me and it allows for any possible work. I've since closed the company, but have kept the domain name - and some day (i.e. May 1st) the new site will be released.

  21. #21 On March 31, 2005 08:57 AM Anthony Casey said:

    A sort of business never-to-really- happen name I have with a mate is RichAnt. Not surprisingly becuase our names are Richard and Anthony, but I kinda like it.

    The main reason I'm posting is because I always remember going past a hairdresser in Liverpool that was actually called "It'll Be Alright When It's Washed"...

  22. #22 On March 31, 2005 09:00 AM Phil Baines said:

    Not my company name, but Wubbleyew came about as a bit of a gag. One of the girls I used to work with would always say wubbleyew instead of doubleyou when reading out domain names. So www.malarkey.co.uk became:

    wubbleyew wubbleyew wubbleyew dot malarkey dot co dot uk

    One day I just thought I would check if the domain was available...and it started from there.

    As for our company...Netring...I don't know. I'll have to ask Duncan. It seems to work though, because it sound IT-ish, and Internet-ish, without saying Web Design, or IT Services, or whatever. Of course, the current full name is "Netring Media and Technology" which winds it down a bit for customers, but everything after the Netring is changeable. We are actually Netring, Ltd.

  23. #23 On March 31, 2005 09:06 AM Ben Sekulowicz said:

    beseku - [be]n [seku]lowicz.

    Had it as a user name at school and needed a name for a GCSE project and its stuck ever since - quite good since it means nothing but something, and could be used for a business, personal or anything I like.

    Also quite unique, I don't I have encountered it registered before me on anything!

  24. #24 On March 31, 2005 09:13 AM dotjay said:

    Quite straightforward in my case. November 5th is my birthday. I never particularly liked using it for a business name, but a couple of friends bought me the first domain during a time when I was unemployed and things stemmed from there.

    I somehow ended up starting my own business and couldn't think of anything better that didn't sound even more crap or wasn't already taken. And I didn't want to be doing just Web Design further down the line, but I know wherever I go, it'll be to do with the Web, so "November 5th Web Solutions" became the name. When I eventually register as a business I might decide to change it, but for now it's a good conversation-starter. So many people ask me about the name, or where "dotjay" came from.

  25. #25 On March 31, 2005 09:36 AM Kitta said:

    There used to be a bakery nearby called 'Nice Buns' and whenever I went past it I'd always say "Nice buns" aloud and everyone in the car would reply "Where? Who? Huh?"

    That bakery has since closed down, which is a pity, not only did they do fantastic bread, but I also really enjoyed saying "Nice buns" aloud.

  26. #26 On March 31, 2005 09:37 AM Rob McMichael said:

    I just wanted to add to your names for hairdressers:
    The ever so popular - Cut above
    and my favourite from Brighton - Fat Boy Trims

  27. #27 On March 31, 2005 10:56 AM Gerald Fischer said:

    We choose suXess for our agency. Does anybody need an explanation why :-)

    I think the trick in choosing a name is to pick a non-generic one, that is flexible enough to cover a wide range of services/products/whatever, because you'll never know what'll happen down the road in the next ten years.

  28. #28 On March 31, 2005 11:28 AM Atle Lillehovde said:

    I'd love to call my company something clever and cool, but in the end it's my clients I'm trying to communicate to. And since part of my focus is on simple and straight forward visual communication, I decided to have a simple and straight forward name, my name. It makes the client at ease when I answer the phone with my own name, and makes for a personal connection. I never saw the point posing as a company with a staff, so when I talk to clients I use the words "I" and "Me" . By the way, the names I use are: Atle Illustrasjon (Illustration) and Atle Webdesign. Simple and straightforward, I'll show my creativity in the work I do.

  29. #29 On March 31, 2005 12:01 PM Paul Brownsmith said:

    I got my name from the back of .NET magazine here in the UK. They list 10 good/interesting/silly available domain names every month. Fuzzyoutline.com was one of them a few months back, and it struck me as different but related to design/graphics in a way. I think. Anyway it enabled my previous domain (brownsmith.net) to become the family photo album again!

    Only thing is, some people KEEP calling it fuzzylogic.com...

  30. #30 On March 31, 2005 12:40 PM Andy said:

    The name I chose is logohere new media.
    This is because its something that you see on a lot of design comps. For me, whenever I see "logohere" written anywhere it suggests design immediatly.
    This is something that I hope other people will associate with design too. I also didn't want to go down the route of having "web design" in the title as I may want to venture down other roads.

  31. #31 On March 31, 2005 12:57 PM Ross said:

    Mediatube chosen for my wife's company name.

    Media because she deals with PR, marketing and advertising all media based activities.

    Tube because I happened to be staring at a mountain bike inner tube sat on my desk!

    Daft I know but people do remember the name.

  32. #32 On March 31, 2005 01:02 PM Rebecca said:

    My dad actually help me pick "Out of Sight Designs" because I wanted something retro sounding and fun.

    I would have liked to have used my last name, but everyone pronounces it wrong so I didn't think it would work well.

    I always thought 'The Kurl n Kut Hut' salon was always a groaner...

  33. #33 On March 31, 2005 03:20 PM Sharif said:

    When I started up a side business last year, I wrestled with names forever � only to find that most of the ones I really liked were taken.

    So, I "settled" on 28, my birthdate and my high school jersey number. After playing with it for a while, I'm really happy with my choice.

    Oh, I too avoided using "web" or "internet" in the name, so as not to pigeonhole myself down the road.

  34. #34 On March 31, 2005 06:19 PM Mark Priestap said:

    I went with DeSIGNWiSE because it's my middle name and it sounds design-y...and wise too.

  35. #35 On April 1, 2005 05:36 AM AmyO said:

    What a great question. I've enjoyed reading everyone's answers, too.

    I named my production company a couple years ago when my two oldest were then 3 and 2. My daughter's favorite color was purple, and my son thought the word macaroni was hysterical. Thus, Purple Macaroni Productions was born.

    I do have to endure the odd piece of mass mail advertising for an auction of used food processing equipment. Or the occaisional sales call from a company that wants to finance the expansion of my pasta plant. It's kinda funny to hear the disappointment in their voices when they realize they aren't getting a commision out of me.

  36. #36 On April 1, 2005 07:24 AM Ms. Jen said:

    Mike P. over at Cruftbox asked a similar question recently : Where did your domain name come from?

    A portion of my response:
    "In late 1999 or 2000, I decided to reserve a personal domain whose name derived from the name of my favorite Western bird - the Black Phoebe. During that time, a black phoebe nested in my brother's backyard and we all discovered that not only was it a beautiful bird, but highly fierce belying its small size and cuteness factor. I decided that it was my totem bird."

    I now use Black Phoebe to represent both my personal site and my web design / music consultancy business, as I like the idea (or maybe myth) of being small, cute and fierce.

  37. #37 On April 1, 2005 12:25 PM Robert Wellock said:

    I don't have an online business albeit it was a fairly easy name to think of during early 1999 when I began hammering markup in notepad.

    Although it wasn't until 2001 I actually brought my current domain before then I was on free hosting.

  38. #38 On April 1, 2005 02:09 PM Dom Blair said:

    Harking back to my childhood and memories of Sesame Street I always think of Burt & Ernie, in particular Ernie and his rubber ducky.
    I wanted a name that would make people smile whenever they heard it, vaguely hoping that maybe they would remember it for that reason if nothing else.
    I think the hardest part was resisting the temptation to plaster the site with pictures of Ducks (clearly These guys couldn't resist http://www.rubberduckdesign.com)

  39. #39 On April 1, 2005 03:10 PM Henri Bergius said:

    We went with Nemein, an ancient Greek word for "to distribute, manage" for our consultancy.

    The idea was to build Open Source software to enable organizations to manage their increasingly distributed and mobile, nomadistic workforce and projects.

    And of course, nemein.com was free :-)

  40. #40 On April 1, 2005 07:11 PM Belle Liu said:

    We chose the name BeansBox.

    It makes it much easier to design our corporate site, LOL!

  41. #41 On April 4, 2005 01:54 AM Yoki said:

    Well, 10two seemed like a really good idea at the time. I was initially wanting 10four, but of course, that was taken. I worked my way back until I found a cool sounding name that was free.

    Also - not calling it "ecommerce-and-marketing-consulting-111.com", like every other bladger, seemed wise (still does - 10two is brandable and if I want to start selling chickens online in two years, I can do that with the domain name as well). Domain names should be for life - not just for passing fads. :)

  42. #42 On April 4, 2005 04:56 AM Mike Pepper said:

    VisiDigm: to see things differently through a visual paradigm shift. I spent a couple of days with Tommy Olsson battling away with numerous ideas for a simple yet memorable name which reflected our views on accessibility. The full name - VisiDigm Creative Insight - offers both a better descriptor and the opportunity for abbreviation, VCI, which likely sits well with the American market.

    Now all we need to do is finish the bloody site :o)

  43. #43 On April 4, 2005 06:44 AM Mikey McCorry said:

    My highly unimaginative business name is Mad Web Skills. I originally wanted Mad Skills Media or something, but the madskills.com domain was already taken (and someone I worked with mentioned I had "da mad web skillz, yo" which I found amusing).

    I had planned to prefix my web applications with the word "mad" (ie. madSite, madChat, madPoll, etc) but feedback from a corporate client suggested that they didn't like the idea of using products that suggested mental illness :)

    My main project is a CMS called cmsharp. I chose that name because it contains the acronym "cms" as well as the word sharp, which allows me to use the sharp symbol (in musical notation) as a logo device, and also implies sharp thinking, or (getting back to musical terms) one step higher than the normal. Again, having the domain name available for that one clinched the deal.

  44. #44 On April 5, 2005 02:00 PM Phil Sherry said:

    Freakindesign. It seemed apt. Although, I seem to be more "freak" and less "design," these days.