How to name your design firm

One the first things you must consider when starting your new architectural firm, is what to name it. The choices are varied and the ramifications staggering. If the personality of the firm is going to be projected by the name, you had better take it seriously – every one else will. That’s where Life of an Architect can help (not really) - because I am a creative and critical thinker and somebody has to think about these things.

Originally, before architects were licensed professionals and to add some credibility to the profession to help distinguish themselves from the other trade crafts (like carpenters and contractors), architecture firms turned to law firms as an example and starting stringing together the last names of the founding individuals or partners (i.e. McKim, Mead & White) . This method is still wildly used simply because it is the easiest albeit least creative method. It doesn’t take much to recognize that some of the older more established firms have chosen this method:


Safe? Boring? I don’t know but maybe classic is a better word  - at worst these certainly aren’t very exciting, nor do they display the panache and overwhelming creativity that many of the younger firms are trying to project. Eventually, as the initial leadership retires and the next wave of partners take over, the names are reduced down to initials to help ease that transition. Here is a consideration for you: In the beginning when you open your doors for business, everybody gets to work with the person whose name is on the door. After a while, if you have experienced some measure of success, new clients will invariably meet with a variety of people who don’t have your name and those clients are going to wonder why are they not getting you? Despite the talents of the people they are dealing with, they came to Bob Borson Architects … so why aren’t they getting Bob Borson? (And really, who doesn’t think that?) There is a methodology I am working on to help you make your decision and it is based on a practice perfected by the owners of Chinese restaurants and Multi-family apartment complexes. If you are going to have a Chinese restaurant, you have to work with certain words. The way this works is that you must have at least two of the following words used in any combination:


Panda,  Dragon,  Gate,  Royal,  Jade,  Happy

Golden,  Garden,  Wok,  Lucky,  China

starting with, or followed by:

Restaurant,  Buffet,  Super,  Café, Express

 and viola! You get:



Bla-DOW !! Just try and tell me that you haven’t eaten in a restaurant named one of these places. All I can say is … Oh Yeah!! (you know I’m right on this)

The process with an apartment complex is a little more complicated but the strategy is the still the same. Tree Type + Geological feature type = apartment complex name. It’s really up to you if you want to add Villa, Estate, Apartment or Village at the beginning or end but isn’t that really just gilding the lily?


Apple, Walnut, Oak, Pecan, Willow, Maple, etc.


Geological Features

Glade, Meadow, Hills, Grove, Valley, Forest, Glenn, Rolling,  Springs, Brook, Ridge, Cove, Garden


(elective) Estate, Villa, Apartment, Village


Rolling Valley Maple Brook Apartments

The Villas at Willow Forest

Oak Ridge Apartments


So let’s use these newly discovered techniques to develop your new winning brand; it’s not that hard if you apply the same strategy used by Chinese food restaurants when naming your firm – you are guaranteed to have a winner. Of course, whether or not you are able to show some restraint and find a balance of what to include and what to exclude – that’s on you. Getting started, you have to select something that identifies that you have an office and aren’t simply working out of the closet in your guest bedroom. Good words to use are:


office, studio, atelier, agency, lab, bureau, department, or division


Trust me when I tell you to avoid using Guest Bedroom or Closet - it doesn’t look very professional. I am going to start of with “Atelier” because it’s French and it means: an artist’s or designer’s workroom … that has got to be good for an extra $10 per hour on my billing rate (at least). I am also going to go with the color red as my background because it’s a complicated color – standing for beauty, passion as well as anger and wrath – but mostly because all those older and successful firms did it.



Do you include your name in the title? That’s a good question and one that warrants some consideration. It is your firm after all but including your name can add for some challenges if your firm experiences some success and grows beyond you as the main talent. In addition, things can really go haywire if your last name is something that you know people will mis-spell … like “van Leeuwen” (man, does that guy have a road to hoe). That is probably why he and his business partner, “Mr. Eckert”, chose not to use their names in the title of the firm. For now, I am going to use my name because in my make believe firm, if I don’t do it, apparently it doesn’t get done and nobody has any talent other than myself. I also likes the o’s.



If you don’t have a proper noun in the title, you absolutely need to introduce an action verb to the title – such as:

design, construct, work, build, or shop



If you were to use “Architect” or “Architecture”, be prepare to be ridiculed by me as supremely generic and not very creative. You must also prepare for the fact that you will spend your professional life site-adapting fast food restaurants and big box tenants (if that works ever comes back that is…) but I will raise my Hamm’s beer to salute you from afar … since you will be at a table reserved for bottle service and they won’t let me in that area. Since the possibility that someone other than yourself might eventually work there, another consideration is to include words such as (and don’t forget the punctuation):

Partners, Associates,  or Architects



but please give some consideration to the “and” portion. You could write the word out but up until this point, you don’t have any graphics. That is where the & symbol or the + symbol come into play

+   /   &   and



So put all this magic and good sense together and you have yourself a guaranteed winner:



I hope you can use this most instructive methodology to develop your new firm name. Choosing your components properly and building your new firm name with this methodology will ensure that you will experience everything that you have coming – I’m warning you now so don’t say I didn’t warn you..

**Disclaimer**I should come clean and let everyone know that post was supposed to be a goof – hopefully you know that. The problem is that no matter how hard I tried to make this post humorous, there was simply too much truth to the process. Maybe this is a  commentary on how predictable a purported group of creative thinkers have become – along with their black clothing, heavy-rimmed glasses, and felt tipped pens. <sigh> I have all those things too – I am soooo predictable…..

Cite: Borson, Bob. "How to name your design firm" 13 Sep 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Conway Pedron

    Skidmore Owens and Merrill? Is that a new one?

    • Conway Pedron

      Oh nice. They changed it. Snarkiness prevails.

  • Citrillion

    That’s ‘row to hoe’ not ‘road to hoe’. One does not ‘hoe’ roads.

  • Nik

    Our whole field is being corrupted by non thinking architecture drones, sigh.

    • Sam

      What does this have to do with the article?

  • Barry

    have been changing name every 5 years or so for 35 years and not found something that sits well yet. (though ‘Habitat’ was as good as it got, and the domain is probably available, but out of my league). More like this please for the un-categorised (and the pedants).

  • Alec

    Atelier and Studio are as cliché as using Mart at the end of your grocery store name. Plus signs are even worse.

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  • Dam ha Khanh

    is he joking ?

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  • syed nadeem ullah

    im start small office but not place office name any one give suggestion to me

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    Pls suggest architectural office name on “C,L,I,U &S