(Did you miss the first episode of this series - Episide 0? Check it out here. Much better way to explore all these coming soon, I promise.)
I might love nothing more than creating products and ushering them out into the world, but there’s one part of it that I really don’t like - naming the damn thing, and creating all the logo and branding that goes along with it.
I get it, names are important, but since usually suck at coming up with them, I tend to downplay their importance. Nonetheless, you’ve got to have a name, and so off we go.
What’s in a Name?
There are a lot of opinions out there about names. People (generally branding companies) pontificate about what makes a great name, swoon over clever combinations of words, and go on about the importance of creating the perfect name for a thing.
To me, it’s not that much of a secret or art. Names, to me, should satisfy the following basic criteria:
- They’re either words with zero existing connotation, or words that have some relationship to what you’re doing. Basic, I know, but it’s true.
- They’re sufficiently differentiated from other names and concepts, so as to support creating a brand around. This is especially true for products. Calling your camera Digital Camera 1000 isn’t going to cut it. Calling it PixSnap - however lame - at least carves out some space to build branding around.
- For web-based products, the domain should be easy to spell, and ideally, short. To be honest, this is more about making it easy to fit on marketing collateral than some notion that people remember short names better (people are going to remember architectureworld.com better than b1dgwld.com, most likely).
For Jampay, there was one other important consideration when choosing the name: it had to be clearly understood when said from a stage in a noisy club, so much so that someone could find the site after hearing it once. This immediately disqualified clever things like tip.ly.
I went through the typical process: listed out a bunch of words that had to do with music, tipping, payment, etc. Most domains were taken, too awkward, or just weird sounding (domains with double letters, like tippay.com were also avoided).
Finally, I hit on JamPay. It has a vague relationship to music (“Jam”), obviously deals with payments, is short and understandable when said out loud, and most importantly the domain was available.
Well. Kind of. It was squatted, but available for purchased. Listed for $500, I offered $400, they took it, and we were off to the races.
Let’s Brand This Thing
Getting the name was a huge milestone, if for any other reason, because I finally had a place to put the thing online. Next up: branding.
I didn’t have a brand in mind for JamPay, with regards to look and feel, but I knew one thing: I wanted it to be dark.
Why dark? Well, at a club, people will be in a dark-ish room, opening the site to tip a band. The last thing I wanted was a bright light shining in their face, calling attention to themselves and disrupting the performance for others. Keeping everything dark would vastly minimize the light shine when opened, hopefully leading to less self-consciousness on the part of the audience when using the site.
Alright, so, dark. Got it.
I’m not great at visual design, so I went to Upwork to scour and find a designer, and finally found one (after looking at a bunch of portfolios to find examples of things that looked like what I wanted). I created some wireframes for the site, and they created comps from that.
Here’s a glance at one of the basic wireframes I tossed together to give them some direction:
And the comps that came out of the design (this one with a few color options on the feed items):
Next up - a logo.
I know, this seems backward. I had them design the site before the logo. Fact is, I still didn’t have a name when I had them do the site design, and because I didn’t want the naming conversation to slow things down, I had them design the site, and figured we’d get the logo to just fall in line, visually, with however the site looked. Using the same designer would help, naturally.
For the logo, I asked them to create something that was pretty simple, and to play with logos with an without icons. Here are a few of the initial options:
I finally settled on this one, after going back and forth, and asking a few folks for their input:
I loved the “live” feel of this - the multiple colored guitar pick shapes felt electric to me, which I thought spoke to the live performance aspect of this nicely.
Now, here’s a secret. This was round one, and I was impatient. I didn’t want to rush the logo process, but I also didn’t want to wait to get finished to start promoting, building a mailing list on Betalist (more on this later), starting some social activity on twitter, etc.
So, I cut out one of the first drafts, created a horizontal version of it myself in Photoshop, and stuck it on the site and social accounts. All well before the logo was ever finalized.
I figured, what the hell, change the logo once it’s finished. Not like anyone’s going to care, and it scratches my itch to keep things moving.
Also, guess what? It helped me realize something huge: the logo didn’t work well at a small size. Check it out:
Once shrunk down to Twitter size, the picks start to blur together, and don’t read well. Uh oh.
So, we had to take a different tack. This is the current direction we’re headed:
We’re still working on it, but the idea was to use the live feel of the initial one, in a concept that would shrink better. Hopefully it’ll work. At the end of the day tho, it really doesn’t matter. It’s just a logo.
The other piece to put together were email templates for our early signup process on Betalist. Since users would be getting a confirmation email via Mailchimp about signup, I wanted it to feel somewhat branded. After working for a few days on getting that dialed in, I finally cobbled together a decent enough confirmation email:
Not beautiful, but better than the stock version. Frankly, building email templates is a pain in the ass, and I didn’t want to blow a bunch of time on something that didn’t have a ton of value. Get it good enough to not look random, and move on to move important things.
And that’s how the name, logo and branding came about. Pretty straightforward, really. The folks I hired to do the design work were great, I’m really happy with them (If you want to use them, they’re Kolme Studio on Upwork, check them out).
At the end of the day though, branding matters, but only so much. It matters to the point where you don’t embarrass yourself, but when you’re brand new, it just doesn’t have a massive impact. My philosophy is that you should do as much as you can to get to decent branding, and no more. Focus your energies on what really matters: validating that you’re building something people give a shit about.
We’ll cover that one in the next episode!