Type Tales: Naming Fonts
It’s a challenge to come up with font names. There are well over 100,000 fonts out there, many names have already been taken, and this is only the beginning; there’s so much more to contemplate.
The most important part of naming is to reflect the nature of the design and adds meaning to it. The name also needs to allow the font to look its best, showing off what its unique characteristics are. Beyond that, there are several other considerations and questions I ask myself to set forth the font naming process:
• What are some adjectives that describe the look and feel of the design?
• Are there any themes that the design could represent? Such as fairy tales, nature, food, sports?
• What are the fonts possible uses? Packaging, editorial, logos?
• Is there someone that the font reminds me of that I could name it after?
• Who is the audience for this design?
I typically start by naming a font the first thing that comes to mind. This is usually just a placeholder and gives me something to work with (and name my files with) until I find a name that fits all or most of my requirements. I’ve spent countless hours going down the proverbial rabbit hole, starting with an idea, theme or word and then pursuing all of the paths it leads me down till I find the right name.
I scour websites such as Phrontistery, a dictionary of obscure words (such as Sepian,) Positive Words Research (Beloved and Adorn,) and, of course, the good ole’ Thesarus (Congenial.) I’ve also looked at names of nail polish and lipstick, paint, furniture, cities (Buckley), nature themes (Mandevilla, Azalea, HoneyBee and Hummingbird) and adjectives (Gioviale, which is Italian for jovial,) for further inspiration.
There are also some technical considerations in font naming. My preference is for short names that are easy to pronounce, memorable, and contain some of the more distinct letters in the design. In addition, I avoid names with repeat letters (such as the letter ‘e,’ used 17% of the time in the English language,) incorporate letters with an ascender (b, d, f, h, k, l) and a descender (g, j, p, q, y) to contribute variety and present a pleasing word shape. And last, but not least and certainly the most important consideration is whether the name is already taken!
Several of my fonts are named after friends and family members. Regina is named after my mother, Alana is my little sister, Liam is my nephew, Samantha and Alisha are my nieces and Sheila is my cousin. My husband’s last name is Grindel, hence the font named GrindelGrove. Ed’s Market is an actual place, a corner store in my home town that I frequented as a child. Yana has been a friend of mine for over 20 years, Nelson is the last name of my friend, graphic design professor and later on, a fellow instructor. Tiva, Shelby and Bianca are my dogs.
Naming fonts after family and friends can be tricky. If the font fits their personality, they have a unique name and they like/approve of it, it’s easy! It’s even easier when I name a font after a pet. I show it to them first for their approval, which I always get!
I have more family/friend names I plan to use, however, they’re fraught with entanglements. I will be releasing a new font soon, named Elaina. I was so excited to finally give a font her name – she’s been a close family friend for nearly 35 years. She wanted a script design, but insisted that the capital E have straight lines and not look like, “a backwards 3, which I hate.” My older sister, Kristina, has first dibs on all of my fonts to use her name, but she’s very particular. It came close with Winsome, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. She’s holding out for the design that resonates with her the most. I should’ve named Funkydori after my father, it’s his favorite. He has a custom version of it, named FunkyDad, as he requested an alternate style of the capital I.
Some of my font names are more personal. My lucky number is five. In the first grade, Mrs. Patrick requested our class to number ourselves in order of how we were seated, then conducted a drawing. I won a purple balloon! It also wound up as my softball jersey number, and I became awesome at pitching as a result. Number Five felt like classic Americana to me, as is baseball.
Ladybird’s name originated from a childhood memory of a neighbor, born and raised in England. I loved to play in her garden where there were lots of ladybugs – she called them ladybirds – a more common term in the UK.
Origins was sourced from its foundation of Italic letterforms; the penmanship style I was taught in school that launched my love affair with calligraphy.
In addition to personal stories about font naming, there are some funny stories that come from my font naming adventures. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run a name past my sister, Kristina, a technical writer and always hilariously honest, and have changed font names due to her reactions. “Really, Laura? That sounds like ___. You should choose something else, because the current name is too ___.” She often makes a convincing argument for change, and has named several of my fonts: Caprizant, Spumante and Winsome. At times I’ve disagreed with her and stayed with my name choice, such as with Tangelo. Kristina: “You named your font after a fruit? Really?!?” Me: “Yes, I named it after a fruit and I like it, so there!”
Here’s a list of my font names that Kristina hates and/or disapproves of. Boucherie: “Do you know what that means on Urban Dictionary? Goin’ have us a boucherie this Sunday, burn a sucklin’ pig over a slow fire, boil us some crabs and crawfish, tap a keg…”) Charcuterie: “You realize you’re naming this font after meat products, right? Eww.” Gioviale: “Too hard to pronounce!”
And then there are those tragic font naming tales… Such as when I submitted my font Harlean (formerly named Harlowe) to a distributor and was informed of a well known font named Harlow that may invite conflict. Another tragic event ensued when I named my font Juicy. I thought it was too good to be true, finding such a well suited name for the design that wasn’t taken… yeah, it was already taken. Neil Summerour had a font named Juicy and I had to eat a not-so-tasty crow and vomit apologies. Ugh, so sorry, Neil! But thank you so for being such a gentleman about it! Juicy was thence renamed to Jumble. I wised up when naming my font Voltage. Ray Larabie had a font named Dendritic Voltage. I reached out to him and received his blessing to use Voltage. Thank you, Ray!
In addition to the sites I review for inspiration, I keep a list of possible font names when I find a what could be a good name during my research, and I still continue down the good ole’ rabbit hole in my font naming pursuits.
Do you have any ideas for great font names? I’d love to hear them!