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How to figure out a name for your next project?

bgord profile image Bartosz Gordon ・3 min read

I have a confession to make. I'm unable to work on a project unless it has a name. So the ability to verbalize an idea is a crucial part of my side projects. It also makes it easier to manage them in productivity tools of all kinds.

In the beginning, I have to speak of something. There's no definitive guide for finding names, and what works for me, doesn't have to work for you. Still, techniques I describe below are rather universal and applying them will increase your chances.

Straight to the point, I am going to explain my thought process by example.

How to figure out a name for your next project?

Let's say we want to find a name for a new shiny habit tracking app.

Setup

It's important to design your environment in a way that it's least likely to distract you. Switch off your phone, don't look at Twitter, and tidy up your desk. Grab something to write on and something to write with. I prefer physical notebooks, but do whatever suits you.

It may be a good idea to set up a timer for, say, 10-20 minutes.
This will be your creative freedom time!

Have a few deep breaths.

Ready, steady, go! The clock is ticking.

Keywords

The first thing I do is writing a list of keywords describing the idea.
Usually, less than ten of them are enough.

For example:
— habit
— tracking
— measurement
— progress
— beating procrastination
— atomic
— automation

Associations

The next step is to create a list of whatever associations you may have for every keyword you listed.

For example:
— habit (action, cycle, loop)
— tracking (follower, chart, line)
— measurement (ruler, meter, mile)
— progress (growth, steady, bar, chain)
— beating procrastination (boxer, kick, bite, beat)
— atomic (proton, neutron, small, tiny, electron)
— automation (machine, computer, bot, robot, terminator)

At this point, you have already established a solid base to produce lots of different names. The next step is to jot down every possible idea that comes to your mind. The important thing is not to judge any of them, not now. You can use the techniques I've listed below.

Techniques

— combine words
— skip some letters
— change order of letters
— double some letters
— think about emotions or feelings connected to some keyword/association
— think about other languages (French, Latin, German, you name it)
— think abstractly, have more associations
— look through your window
— look at your surroundings

To give you a sense of what can be an output of following them: habitline, habeat, smallbites, hauto, measurebot, habitto, habitree, neutrica, habiterminator (ok, this one is terrible :D).

As soon as your timer plays the final sound, put off your pen, close your notebook or your note-taking app. Let your brain cool down after this crazy run. Don't look at the list for at least an hour. Let your relaxed thinking come in to play.

Review

The final step is to review your ideas. You can judge them now.
Underline the good ones, strike through the bad ones. If you have found your Holy Grail, the job had been already done! If you haven't, you can reiterate on the good ones, or repeat the process.

Thinking outside the box

As you can imagine, not every app/company figured out their name using a technique like this. Sometimes, it doesn't have to be descriptive at all. Think about names like “Apple” for a tech company or “Amazon” for an e-commerce marketplace company. That's another route to take. There's no silver bullet.

We can increase our creativity through exercise, like any other muscle.
It's worth training, so go to the “gym” and enjoy your creative time.

PS. Buy domain names as soon as possible ;)

Happy brainstorming!

Discussion

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I do something different - I try to name them after ancient gods or philosophers that have something in common with the area. For example an app, that sends messages could be Hermes or Iris, a CRM for a production facility can be be Hephaestus, something about time and habits can be Cronus (best bet any combination and mis-spelling of this is taken) or maybe Palaestra - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palaestra_(m...

Extra benefit - you will learn interesting things and fun facts about the mithology, philosophy etc.