Spring is here, which means that in Cleveland, droves of water lovers are busy launching boats on our neighborhood seaway, Lake Erie. Though it's season three with my own boat, this fine vessel, freshly rigged for summer fun, still sports no official name. Now, all boaters know that this is a supremely unlucky state of affairs: Putting a nameless boat to the drink beckons the wrath of Poseidon himself, and is considered very risky business.
A colorful name can go a long way in buoying the sales of motion components and designs, too. Consider ScrewRail, alpheno, LO-COG, Productivity3000, POWERLINK, iAdapt, OPTIPACT: These memorable designations have sticking power that transcends that of names generated by traditional manufacturing conventions.
Let's face it: Motion System Design magazine details controls and mechanisms and building blocks of productivity and efficiency, and these industrial components can seem impersonal pieces-parts. It naturally follows that the vast majority of these products have relatively logical, straightforward designations consisting of combinations of letters (which typically indicate a series, product family, or special capabilities such as washdown resistance) and numbers — which usually denote a torque or power rating, design iteration, and the like. Because these aren't consumer products, most don't rely on clever marketing for increased sales. Instead, engineers considering their specification need to know 1) That these parts exist, 2) How they work, and 3) Quantitative facts about their functions and output, to determine their appropriateness for the larger design.
Even so, some products sent to market with austere labels must have had nicknames during development.
Have you and your coworkers ever christened one of your own designs with a nickname — whether silly, abbreviated, or unapologetically affectionate? If not, have you ever nicknamed a particularly cherished automobile — or unpredictable lawnmower — or have a good boat name on hand, by any chance?
In any case, I'd venture to guess that nicknamed designs are some of the best industrial designs — those that inspire the most passion and devotion of effort in the teams that give them life.
Of course, there's a whole science to naming products before they're released to market. The pharmaceutical industry's own zany (and well-funded) approach to branding probably gets the most commentary. However, myriad companies for every industry specialize in strategic naming. Check out lexiconbranding.com and namedevelopment.com and namebase.com for some examples — and don't underestimate the good fortune that a name can bring.