What’s in a Name?

8 October, 2008

I have spent the last few days trying to settle on a name for our new business venture. Names are difficult things. What do they say about us?

Our new venture is an art photography online gallery, selling work by established artists at accessible prices. Art for everyone is where we are headed. Our current business, a photography agency working in editorial and documentary photography is called Troika. We liked the Russian graphics that went on the business card and perhaps as importantly it didn’t have any reference to photography, which we thought marked us out from the crowd.

Our logo

We still like the name Troika, but will it work for a different type of business? Therein lies our dilemma. To get a handle on this naming process I have been rummaging around on the web. The choice for art galleries seems to fall into two areas. Many chose a name that has some personal meaning, the owner’s name, or the name of the road or building where the gallery is located can often be a successful solution. I particularly like Paradise Row and Riflemaker. An alternative naming process is to use a word that references art, or in our case photography, such as Lensculture, newbloodart, aperture. This is more about using a name that describes what the business does. But in the end how much does it matter what you choose? If a business is successful its name will take on a life of its own. Magnum is a famous photography agency and also a bottle of champagne yet in the photography world, the fame and success of Magnum has banished all thoughts of champagne and we just associate the word Magnum with legendary photographers. Foto8 has used an association with the photographic process, yet the success of the magazine has enabled it to rise above a mere descriptive label and foto8 has taken on its own identity. And that is what you need from a name, a marriage between a word or a phrase that will be memorable and its connection to a specific business.

So, will Troika do it? Can Troika become synonymous with an art photography site? We have been thrashing this out in our offices on Farringdon Road for days now. [We have rejected Farringdon Road as too long]. We have sought advice from friends and family. It is the very thing that attracted us to the word in the first place, its foreign derivation, which is now proving to be our stumbling block. Will people think that we are selling Russian paintings?

We have tried out the enigmatic. Dazzle Ships, Dover Beach, Saffron Cross and Watling Street have all been thrown into the ring and thrown out again. We have tried art and photography word association. None of our ideas have had that eureka moment. Until from out of nowhere came Litmus Paper. We like it. For now anyway.

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