November 7, 2005
Product Naming: Do You Need a "Fartfull" For Your Computer?
Whether or not you know a single word of any Scandinavian language, you've probably heard that "IKEA" is Swedish for "particle board."
Jokes aside*, however, the odd and sometimes unpronounceable names that IKEA gives its products are part of the IKEA experience. And while I have yet to hear an IKEA-lover cite names like "Tromso" or "Leskvik" as the primary reason for their devotion to the store, it wouldn't be IKEA without them. One Flickr user even posted a photo of her favorite IKEA product name: "Gorm" (without it, she was gormless).
I was fascinated by the recent BusinessWeek cover story on IKEA, which discussed IKEA's naming convention. Naming the 7,000 objects available in an IKEA store is a big job, but while IKEA employs 12 full-time and 80 freelance designers to create furnishings and accessories, the names are the responsibility of a single person.
One thing, which makes the naming job manageable, is the system behind it. Check out Margaret Marks Transblawg where she explains how IKEA names its products. Dining tables are named after places in northern Sweden. Rugs get Danish place-names. Bookcases are named after professions, while mathematical terms designate curtain rods. Desks and chairs get men's names, whereas anything meant for a bathroom is named after a body of water. If you know that, and have both an atlas and a Swedish dictionary handy, you'll probably do well at Cal Henderson's IKEA game, a multiple-choice quiz in which players are asked to match names to products.
IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad is dyslexic, so back when he was naming products himself, he wanted to keep them easy to pronounce and remember. Whether we can blame his dyslexia for the notable mistake of calling a child's bed "Gutvik," which in English is unremarkable but in German refers to an activity not suitable for children but results in children, I don't know. However, making sure no further mistakes of this nature occur again is now part of the job description for the woman in Aumhalt who maintains the vast IKEA product name database. She does, however, appear to have overlooked the infelicity of "Fartfull" to describe a computer desk so bizarre that mere words cannot do it justice.
* It is well-known that the IKEA name is an acronym derived from the first letters of the founder's name Ingvar Kamprad and the village where he grew up Elmtaryd Agunnaryd.
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» Name Games At Ikea from Much Ado About Marketing
Here's a great post in the Strategic Name Development blog about Ikea. Blogger Bill Lozito provides an insightful look at the history of the Ikea name and the various conventions used to create names for the over 7,000 products made and/or sold by th... [Read More]
Tracked on November 10, 2005 12:05 AM