How not to name your project

Today we revisit one of our past posts, which explored ‘how to name your project’. This was one of our most popular posts, and really resonated with architects and designers everywhere…


When you start a new project, you probably don’t know much about it except for the address and the client’s name, so it’s no surprise that internally you’re going to use titles like ‘The Smith House’, or ‘21 Herbert St’. That’s fine in the beginning, but as soon as your project has a public face it’s worth thinking about its ‘stage name’.

But why?

When it comes down to it, you want your project to be memorable. But finding a ‘catchy’ name can be a minefield – and where do you even start? There’s actually a lot of psychology in names – why we label things – but here are several reasons why naming your project well helps when you want to get it published:

  • Your project name becomes your story pitch

    A really good project name captures a building in the smallest number of words possible. It sums up what makes your project unique, or interesting, and draws people in to know more. Think of the names Falling Water, Hello House, or Hill House.

  • Street and client names tell me nothing

    Unless your client is George Clooney, naming your project after the client doesn’t tell me anything. The same goes for a street address. An exception to this however would be a well-known brand. If you’re designing the next Apple offices, or working for a prominent non-profit, or a university, then including their name in your project title has value.

  • Your project name becomes your project’s search phrase

    In our Google-centric world, we locate things based on search. That doesn’t mean we necessarily find something via search. We may stumble upon a project via social media, a blog, or a magazine. But when we try to find a project a second time we’ll likely try to search for it by words. A project name, therefore, that is obvious and/or memorable can be a very valuable attribute.

  • Naming something gives it an identity and significance

    We’re all hardwired to respond to names, but names that engage emotion or visual memory are far more powerful. The ‘Smith Street House’ (a home with a dedicated sound-proofed music room) is definitely still a name, but a name such as the ‘Music Box House’ instantly tells a story and connects with imagery and emotion.


Tips for naming your project

 

  1. Identify what makes your project different: [See our ‘unique or sexy’ post] This is our number one rule for all projects because journalists are looking for new, or different. And by new we don’t mean newly built, we mean a new idea. If you can identify that difference then chances are it will make for a strong project name.
  2. Look for the obvious name: Not all projects will have an obvious name, but some do. For example, the Hello House has the word hello on it’s exterior wall (see the project here). When someone walks past the house, what are they going to naturally call it? It’s obvious right? If your project has a very strong visual aesthetic, you might want to consider opting for the obvious name because your photography will probably lead viewers to create their own name based on the obvious visual association. That ties into the previous point about a project’s search phrase. If someone walks past a building and then later tries to find it online, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to find it.
  3. Name it after a story: Some projects have a powerful story attached to them. Maybe it has something to do with the design process, maybe it was a client’s approach, maybe it was something else. For example: you’ve designed and built a house for the Johnsons, who work in theatre. They asked for a house that opens up, using sliding walls and a raised platform, into a large space for small performances. Calling this ‘The Johnson House’ misses the wonderful opportunity of calling it ‘The Theatre House’ or ‘Stage House’.

 


Naming a project can be far more complex than the things we’ve discussed above. You often have to consider your client as well as the power for buildings to ‘assume’ an identity you hadn’t intended (think about the new ‘Pantscraper’ proposed for Melbourne for example). But, essentially, we’re saying that it’s important to take the time to actually think about your project’s name – rather than running with an irrelevant working title and crossing your fingers.

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