What's in a Name? Is Your Artist Identity LOST or FOUND in a sea of names?


Should I have a business name?  I’m stumbling and struggling on how to come up with a name.

A reader in search for a name!

While this question is a condensed version of questions from readers, it represents a fairly frequent issue. It also highlights concerns that are relevant to the Niche Marketing theme for the upcoming Professional Development Seminar  at the Seattle SNAG Conference.

PDS speakers include:

Hilary Pfeiffer who uses her own name for her serious work, but calls her wedding toppers business "Bunny with a Tool Belt".

emiko oye refers to her jewelry line as Reware (though I noticed that the web site name is actually "reware style.")

Deb Stoner has always chosen to do her work under her own name as her artist identity.

My primary concern with a business name is the difficulty that most people have developing even one artistic identity, let alone two. In most cases I believe it splits awareness you have built and confuses potential customers or your online network.


ASK Harriete offers further insight into marketing strategies and p... that may enhance the effectiveness of an identity....


It would seem to be a lot more focused to keep one name for your web site, email, Facebook, LinkedIN, Flickr, all 2.0 social networking and on-line marketing . One name, or a variant of your name, constantly reinforces one singular identity.

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Comment by alice simpson on March 19, 2011 at 11:04am

I've never forgotten, as a student at F.I.T, being called "Simpson"

by Anna Ishikawa, my illustration instructor. 

Years later, meeting her on the street, she said,

"How else would I recognize and follow your work?"

Comment by 2Roses on March 19, 2011 at 12:11am
What is name recognition, but branding? A "name", any name, is intrinsically meaningless. "Recognition" is acquired through a variety of activities to which values are ascribed.  You can have name recognition for criminal activities as well as artistic activities. Once you have achieve name recognition associated with a particular set of values, those values will form the expectations of the people who recognize you. Those expectations are branding.
Comment by Harriete E Berman on March 18, 2011 at 2:14pm

Where does name recognition end and branding start when we are talking about an individual?


Comment by Larry Berger on March 18, 2011 at 1:46pm
If you are with in 50 miles of Mill Valley Ca. and have a good craft to sell check out RooTs in down town Mill Valley, a small shop that is selling craft art only. What we all need is a market place.
Comment by 2Roses on March 18, 2011 at 1:27am

Harriete, I would propose that neither Calder or Hirst is a success because of their names anymore than their work is sold simply "on their name". This is an expression that carries deeper meaning.  The name is a brand. The brand represents particular qualities that buyers want. In the case of Calder and Hirst it is investment value. It is the same with stocks. IBM is not sold on its "name". It is sold on what the name represents in terms of value to the buyer.


Why is this relevant? Because real branding is a lot less about the name you choose than it is the value and meaning you associate with that name.

Comment by Harriete E Berman on March 17, 2011 at 2:59pm

Larry's comment brings up an important issue. I think it is important for artists and makers to develop their name and reputation. This becomes even more significant as galleries go out of business and artists are drifting in the ocean of art and craft without a compass... vulnerable to the currents, no raft, no market.


Comment by Harriete E Berman on March 17, 2011 at 2:50pm

Larry makes a good point. For some items, in specific markets, your name doesn't count for a hill of beans.

On the other hand, there are markets where a name is EVERYTHING. An high end example would be Alexander Calderor Damien Hirst who sold a shark in formaldehyde at $12 million or $200 million at auction based solely on his name.


We all fit somewhere within this spectrum and need to work at defining our market and our marketing strategy in tandem. Both are important in our strategic thinking, but your name can be a significant factor.



Comment by Larry Berger on March 17, 2011 at 12:18pm
I think we are missing the big picture, it is not the name that will make or brake you, if you have a good product the product will make your art or craft sale. Finding the right market and be in the right price range for this struggling economy is paramount for success. I have seen my market, the Tahoe area dissipate like the water drops on my lawn when the sun comes out, shops that I have work with for over 10 years are gone, like Tippy Canoe in Truckee. But I keep doing my art, we can't stop can we. I don't think the market will ever come back to where it was in my life time. So what do I do ? Work harder sell less, find new marks. Working Green and still loving it.
Comment by Nanz Aalund on March 16, 2011 at 2:24pm

Good advise Harriete!

The only time I had trouble with my name was in High School when the ice cream "Hagen Dazs" was launched and then I was teased for having a "fake" European name just like the ice cream.

But look how successful "Hagen Dazs" has become! I wish my jewelry generated a tenth of their revenue! But I do have my NAME jewelry which is more art based. Then there is my  jewelry which I sell on Etsy and have named Banana Nan. Banana Nan is the nickname my father called me and for me is more about making jewelry for jewelry's sake without all the heavy mental/conceptual issues the art crowd dumps on it.

Comment by Harriete E Berman on March 15, 2011 at 1:19pm


My answer is going to reveal my bias. Don't change your name!

Seriously, keep your name as is....I kept my maiden name.

The biggest problem that ever arose from when my name didn't match my husband  was sometimes at the dry cleaner....who left what? under what name? That really isn't a problem is it? Sooner or later, you remember to pick one or the other name for the drycleaner.

My son has my maiden name as his middle name and my husband's last name.


Bigger problems loom on the future...like what you mentioned. How to you develop an identity for your work with a constantly changing name.

With the divorce rate what it is....I hear frequently from divorced women that don't want their married name any longer....now what do they do?


For another practical, democratic and practical solution:

I know one couple, she took his last name as her middle name.

He took her last name as the middle name.

You could then use first and last name always for a business identity.


I am going to be really frank. It is quickly becoming an archaic convention for the women to take the man's last name as her married name. Taking the man’s name is a romantic idea from years past when women did not have their own bank accounts, jobs, educational degrees, professional aspirations, or credit histories.


I am betting that your husband will adjust to the idea. If he is upset that you aren’t taking his name, my radar is on!!!!!!!!!!!!. For a marriage to survive and thrive, these days, you both have much bigger obstacles to overcome. Take my word for it...married for 25 years. We have been together for 35 years.


With so many mixed, remixed and blended families, etc, the fact that last names don't match isn't an issue at school with your children, at the hospital for an emergency, legal affairs,  or on the airlines. Everyone know that the family names no longer match.


Hope this helps.


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