Who made your name? The answer would be obvious—your parents. One of the very first presents everyone was given was their names. This priceless gift follows one until the very last moment of life, and even beyond one’s death as a legacy of the traces of one’s life. In this way, a person’s name is not only a part of an individual, but also the individual itself or even a greater representation of oneself. The significance of a name is equally applied for companies and products.
“A namist,” said Lee Mirim, one of the first generation namists and currently the director of the branding company Brandsoop, “does way more than simply assign a name to a brand—the job requires much more than mere creativity.” In order to come up with a unique name, it takes at least a month. Beginning with client meeting, a namist must build acute knowledge of the company or the product’s field of work through thorough research, as well as insight into competing brands. Furthermore, it is indispensable to be aware of the latest trends and future prospects and movements of the field in order to create a name that meets the demands of the consumers.
The process up to that point takes up about a week of the whole process. Once this factual analysis of the brand and its market is over, it is then that the stage of inventing the name begins. “At this step, one should not only be creative, but become the alchemist of language,” said Lee. While using the same, ordinary words, a namist should be able to look at them from different perspectives, play with the letters, and rearrange them to make a totally new combination.
In other words, creativity is only a basic requirement for a namist. What is more important is to always have a keen interest in everything during everyday life in order to cultivate the creativity into something new. “I often say that the supermarket is my playground,” said Lee. All the details that she sees and experiences keep her updated to the fickle trends, and form the foundation of her professionalism.
However, it took a long time for her to stabilize herself as a namist. Like many youngsters today, she did not have a firm dream during her youth. Once, she dreamed of becoming a children’s story writer, but then shifted to copywriter, which was the reason why she chose to study Media and Communication in university.
▲ The namist Lee Mirim explaining the complexity of her work. Photographe d by Lee Ji Hoon.
Lee eventually did achieve her goal by entering an advertisement company. However, she soon realized it was not her job. The tedious repetition of the same daily routine and leaving the work at midnight made her come to recognize that her dream was only a fantasy. At that moment, she met one of her older alumnus who had been working as a namist. The first minute she came to know this job, she was assured that this was the vocation she was searching for. “In particular, I like the fact that this job has no restriction in time and space,” commented Lee. Unless a grand project, namists usually work individually, and therefore, have flexible schedules.
Although she does enjoy her job, she admits that the one-month project is stressful. Out of all the processes, according to her, checking the trademark classification chart is the most complicated and most difficult. The chart consists of 45 categories that are largely divided into goods and services, which then include more detailed classification such as clothing, cosmetic products, and medications. “After coming up with a design and name, I have to check if there is a similar or a same trademark so that it does not coincide with an already existing one,” confessed Lee. “Yet, the standard of whether it is similar or not is extremely relative depending on which category the brand belongs to,” she added.
Although the namist has made numerous brand names that are familiar to us, such as Mychew, Haechandle, and Everland, there are more names that had to be discarded in this process. This is why she finds it the most challenging and strenuous part of her job. Rather than succumb, though, she decided to study Trademark Law herself. Starting without any knowledge about the law, she started to attend seminars and allotted a lot of her own time. All this endeavor was possible thanks to her affection for all the names she invents, especially for the ones that have failed to be announced to the public.
Without doubt, it is surprising how ardent she can be. Now, she is extending her passion to nurturing future namists in Korea. “Although there are many naming companies, there are not yet a lot of pure individual namists who do all the work themselves, which also includes the process of designing,” said Lee. She travels day and night around Korea to give lectures to students who do not yet know about this job, and to offer one-on-one practical trainings to those who dream of becoming namists like her.
Nevertheless, she laments about the future of this job, that it may not be that bright. Since the job undergoes frequent ups and downs depending on the economy, if the economic depression continues, it could fluctuate accordingly. Yet, the demand for namists will persist in a steady manner because the competition between companies to attract consumers will never end and in fact, will grow more intense in the future.
The more important point, though, is that since every product has its own value, namist as the person who imbues and vitalizes these values will always be asked for. “Similar to how the rose is called rose and flaunts its value of beauty as a rose, so does a product require a name that can successfully reveal its innate value and simultaneously arouse more value from the public,” said Lee. As the one who connects the inner value with the outer one to make the brand more invaluable, a namist is, in other words, the life-giver to a product.