A good name generator finally steps up

Many, many years ago I saw how two top naming agencies were doing their work and immediately thought to myself, being an ex-techy, I can do better! I thought it was like the chess problem – with enough time and attention computers could learn how to master the game of chess. Today IBM’s Big Blue chess program has solved that problem though it took more AI programming and horsepower than anyone had ever expected. And so with the help of a partner I started my first naming agency. Over the years I reviewed many weird and wonderful attempts to make a computer name generator that would provide suitable names for a given client project. Almost all of them were a waste of time, though I did manage to introduce new back-end tools that greatly reduced the administrative load of processing hundreds of names to find one suitable and legally available winner.

While I have managed to cobble together some crude tools that greatly help in generating variations of names once a given word or root has surfaced, I have come to realize that computers would never solve this problem. Computers don’t understand tone, emotions, feelings, musicality, sharpness and other nuances that humans just instinctively know. On top of which, we as humans register these reactions differently from each other. Even a team that has worked together for a while will show the variety of opinions of different personalities. And how on earth can you teach a computer what the boss is thinking when even he doesn’t know that answer until presented with certain candidate names.

Nameup Logo for Name Generator software

But finally a real naming guru, who just happens to be a good programmer, has put together a name generator that makes great strides in the right direction. In particular, NameUp, as it is called, lines up a number of names for you. It doesn’t try the impossible task of finding your team just one great perfect name that all of management will embrace immediately. This NameUp generator recognizes that the path to a successful naming project is definitely that: It is a project. Many name candidates need to be generated so your naming team can then narrow down as they tweak and check them in a gentle cascade of names until a short list of finalists names is developed.

You can’t lock in on any name until at least some basic and availability checks are done but NameUp is magic in that it makes a great start in that direction by checking a wide range of domains. This makes it a bit more suitable for generating company names rather than product or service names, though it can still be of great use to any team that is stuck creatively for a wide range of names and a process to facilitate management consensus. For product and service name development, as well as company names, we will still have to examine trademarks and other registrations manually, but at least we will not be wasting our time checking names that don’t have a majority vote in the first place.

I have often said that naming is like photography. We can all do it. Heck, after all, you named your cat, your kids, your boats. And the world takes millions of pictures a day with their cell phones and own cameras. But there is a still a need for the professional photographer – or an amateur with good gear. I think NameUp might be the first good tool for amateurs and professional alike and can’t wait to experiment with it more – especially with popular roots and sounds we know work for coining English-like names. After all, many popular brand names were not originally dictionary words. And unique, new names provide for much cleaner trademark searches.

Posted in Branding, Domain Names, Industrial Products Naming, Name Origins, Naming News, Naming Resources, Trademarks

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See his industry naming commentary (where he takes a critical look at names) via the blog on this site