Blog | The Naming Lab

Abstract Painting – An Intuitive Analogy

“Composition VIII” 1923 Wassily Kandinsky, in New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

In today’s swirling media world…
we are almost daily confronted with new brands, some of them abstract – totally new with no apparent meaning. The idea of brand names with no meaning goes back a long way.

Kodak®, a notable example, was created by George Eastman in 1888. He applied three principles to create the name: it had to be short, impossible to mispronounce, and not resemble anything else.  In addition, the letter K – a “strong, incisive looking and sounding letter” – was Eastman’s favorite.

What a vision did Eastman have… about the power to build brand value simply around an abstract name!

Abstract painting and naming: a theoretical connection?

As a devotee of abstract art, I have been wondering for a long while about people’s initial reactions when they first saw abstract paintings by artists like Wassily Kandinsky or Jackson Pollock.  In those early days, did they just shrug their shoulders and ask themselves, “What’s that supposed to be”?

An intuitive analogy – between abstract images and abstract names – has formed and grown in me over the years. So let’s take a look at comparing the two: in their design, style and perceptual impact.

Both are constructed from a toolbox of tangible design elements that are non-representational – for names, a harmonious structure of letters and letter-strings, syllables and sequence, rhythm and stress, clarity and tonality; for paintings, a well-balanced arrangement of dots and lines, shapes and shades, symbols and patterns, texture and colors.

Doesn’t it seem similar?

As for style, we would find there is no such thing as an established abstract naming style. We are still in the early days and namers tend to come up with many types of abstract names simply by mixing the design elements and seeking an overall stylistic effect.

Some of the most celebrated painters also find their styles in mixing elements. They combine artistic influences and inspirations from various cultural sources. Picasso was a master at this; he blended an imaginative fusion of traditional African symbols together with modern geometry.

When it comes to perceptual impact, “abstractness” is the common denominator. Both abstract paintings and names have little or no tangible content. But when artistically crafted, they can affect us in many ways, with sensations of emotional appeal that are different from contextual reference.

Over time, a painting can become a cultural icon; likewise a name can become a piece of branding history.

Abstract painting and naming – an analogy or illusion?

Suppose we are visiting an imaginary exhibition of abstract art and we stop in front of this image.

Transparency, 1953-54 – Christel Sztankovitz, student of the abstract art painter, Josef Albers.

What do you see?
What feelings do you get?
Can you pick out a TT pattern in this artwork?
Could you imagine B. Y. E. T. T. A. encrypted in the image…?

Back to the pharmaceutical world… Byetta® is a well known Type II diabetes brand.

For us at ixxéo, crafting and presenting abstract names to marketers is like guiding connoisseurs through an art exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.