Thenamegame_ppspring2015

Features / Writing

The Name Game: Seven design studios explain their weird and wonderful names

First published in Printed Pages Spring 2015

Words by

Rob Alderson

Illustration by

Gordon Armstrong

From films to free association, happenstance to historical revolutionaries, what’s really in a name? Graphic design studios across the world have all manner of weird and wonderful back stories for why they’re called what they’re called…

She Was Only, London
After graduating, the studio’s founders lived in Wimbledon in a house where the previous occupant, an old man, had painted “She Was Only 16” above the door number (also 16). Because they started working together from that address, they chose the phrase as their name. “We don’t really know why he painted it on the door, although it is the title of an old Sam Cooke song so maybe it was a reference to that.”

My Name Is Wendy, Paris
They’re keen to keep the exact reason ambiguous but they reference Wendy Darling in Peter Pan, the Lars von Trier film Dear Wendy, and (a couple of times) the wife of Jack Nicholson’s character (Jack Torrance) in The Shining.

Experimental Jetset, Amsterdam
Named after a 1994 Sonic Youth album Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star. The plan was actually to call the studio International Jetset after a song by The Specials but the clerk at the Chamber of Commerce said it was too vague and they switched it on the spot. “It is actually a very impractical name, especially in The Netherlands. When asking for a receipt in a store, or trying to order something through the phone, you always have to spell it out several times.”

Ice Cream For Free, Berlin
Founder Oliver Wiegner was with a friend playing around with certain words – he said “ice cream” and she immediately added “for free.” He admits: “The story behind it is much less interesting than the name maybe suggests. But the German design magazine Form wrote that my work is reminiscent of sorbet so maybe the link of my name to my work is much deeper than I’m aware of.”

Fivefootsix, London
Both founding partners Algy Batten and Mark McConnachie are five feet six inches tall. “There is nothing deeper or more intellectual to our name than that! But for us it worked, we wanted something friendly yet memorable.”

Two Arms Inc, New York
The studio’s founders’ friends were in a band that had a song called Two Arms, Two Arms. “For us the name of our studio is really about our roots as screen-printers. It’s a bit of a play on words – it takes two arms to pull a squeegee, but it also sounds like a call to action.”

Warriors Studio, Glasgow
The families of founders James Gilchrist and Beth Wilson had dinner together and through great aunts and uncles they realised that their ancestors fought together in the Wars of Scottish Independence against England which began in the 13th Century. James descends from Robert The Bruce and Beth traces her family back to William Wallace (of Braveheart fame). “We realised that our ancestors were warriors, and we are their counterparts today.”