How do you name a building? Or an idea?

Naming is 20% creative and 80% political

– Danny Altman, A Hundred Monkeys


If naming a new brand is 80% political, we try to make that process creative and fun Its what were good at.

It wasnt easy.

It took a lot of planning, research and creative thinking right off the bat to work with The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) to come up with a name for their soon to open innovation and inquiry center.

Wired Magazine called the school the Hogwarts for Hackers in a recent article, and for good reason. Other than being one of the top high schools in the country, the academy has helped developed some of the greatest innovators of our time. Many alumni??have gone on to become developers, founders and co-founders of tech innovations including YouTube, PayPal, Yelp, OkCupid and more.

What also makes the school unique is their method of instruction and curriculum. Students go to classes four days a week reserving Wednesdays for independent research and exploration.

Our challenge was to work with board members, alumni, business and community stakeholders, faculty, staff and students. With such a wide and diverse stakeholder base, how do you get them to agree on a vision and name that represents what they value most?

Our answer was creative engagement and research.

So how did we do it?

We worked closely with our leads at IMSA to plan and prepare our research and designed a series of creative workshops that would invite and involve all stakeholders of the academy. To be as inclusive as possible, we conducted these workshops at multiple locations.

Workshops at 1871 in Chicago with IMSA

Name Positioning Exercise

We started with a competitor and complementor exercise to help visualize the landscape for IMSA stakeholders and work towards identifying where IMSAs innovation center could best be positioned based on the type of name and its focus.

Onliness Exercise

We then used our Onliness Exercise to identify and support claims to unique positioning, gain insight into stakeholder and organizational member ideas, identify other trends, and map keywords for framing and name ideation.

Workshops at Edelman with IMSA

Present-Future Positioning

As a way to consolidate ideas and develop a shared analysis about what both stakeholders and organizational members both value and believe, we conducted a Present-Future Exercise. This exercise explored IMSA’s??current positioning and pushed their ideas into what IMSA could become.

Metaphor & Story Exercises

To get everyone thinking creatively and to put much of what we discovered in a collaborative process into context, we used Metaphor and Story Exercises.

We asked them, What if the innovation center was a?

These exercises helped our participants??think visually and creatively ??pushing them to explore and find relations among concepts.

Workshops at the Academic Pit (AcPit) at IMSA

Ideation & Play Exercises

Our last set of workshops were held at IMSA in their Academic Pit, or what students called the AcPit. In these sessions, we shared with the mostly student participants much of the insights, research and analysis we had collected.

We conducted a series of Ideation & Play Exercises that included further word mapping of shared stories and metaphors, word collection and remixing, word challenges and more.

Through these exercises, we were able to collect a substantial amount of words to work with as well as insights into how students used words and names on campus and what attracted them the most.

Ideation & Research at the Studio

Much of the hardest work was bringing all of the artifacts, documentation and insights we gathered through these workshops to develop a list of candidate names to further research, test and qualify for a final round to submit to IMSA.

We spent hours and days thinking, processing, vetting and saying these names out loud.

In the end, IMSA selected one name from a round of our ideas. A name that brings all their stakeholders and organizational members into the process and identity of the center as a place for innovation and inquiry.

IN2, Steven and Jamie Chen Center for Innovation & Inquiry

IN2 is a highly conceptual name that plays upon the idea of both innovation and inquiry bridging businesses and the educational focus at IMSA. It also extends the current name assets at IMSA, metaphorically extending the mission.

It plays on the concept of bringing both innovation & inquiry into practice at IMSA and on the concept of what is put into the center to make things happen ideas, intuition, exploration, knowledge, experimentation, etc.

It’s short, memorable and easy to say. It leaves room for curiosity and play without having to explain too much.

The three lines composing the 2 represents the different journeys of students through time and the paths that come together at IMSA through innovative practices, inquisitive learning, and problem-solving processes.

So, whats in a name you say? A lot!

Although much of our process described above sounds like??playtime, most of the time was working with stakeholders to agree on ideas and move them forward into something meaningful and actionable.

We love what we do! Did I mention we are now a certified B-Corp?



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