What’s in a Name?

Posted: July 10, 2021 in Uncategorized

Names are just nouns, words, a collection of vowels and consonants in an order that allows the brain to create a pronunciation, or sound when spoken. In other words, nothing tangible. Yet, names and words are far more than that. Some, like “the” and “of” are binding words, that make sentence structure work. Others like “hot”, “fast” or “angry” impart feeling or action into a sentence. Names are words of identification.

Names establish identity to an organization, a person, or an object, that eliminates the need for additional descriptive words to create understanding and identity. Without names, how would we describe companies like Ford, Chevrolet, IBM, 3M, Apple, et al? How would we differentiate between the thousands of various products we live with every day. In many cases, the name of the originator of a product becomes the noun describing the general product category, like Coke and Kleenex, or Hoover (for those old enough).

Another class of name is a pseudonym, used when a proper name is either inappropriate, unavailable, or unattractive from a marketing perspective. McDonalds is a key example of this. Ray Kroc recognized that that name was far more attractive and appropriate than using his own name for the brand. Kroc’s, just does not have the same feel as McDonalds.

An early web header shows the logo as it was for more than 20 years. At one time it was red and black. The font use was as creatively applied as the word itself.

As a designer and artist, I need a memorable name, that is also attractive. I was not blessed with a proper name that fits that description, at least to my ear. Picasso, Renoir, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Caldor, Max… those are proper names for artists. I never felt that Willmorth was. My mom signed her art “Billie” for similar reasons. Willmorth is fine for a designer within an organization, a lighting consultant, or a design consultant as an individual, but just not all that pretty for more exposed brand name for my own products, or a gallery. Like numerous authors, and actors, it is common to adopt a nom-de-plume. Samuel Clemens (a distant relative) becomes Mark Twain, Marion Robert Morrison becomes John Wayne.

For me, selecting a nom-de-plume felt wrong for family reasons, so I began to search for a brand name to adopt that would serve a similar purpose. Having a brand name allows me to apply my proper name where appropriate and the brand name where it is better suited. In this, around 1986, while contemplating the name for a gallery of art and light in Las Vegas, I came up with the combination of Lumen – for measure of light, plus Unique for special character, which led to “Light Unique”, then morphed into “Lumenique”.

In deference to the cleaner styling of design and marketing, the logo changed to this. The font is “Changeling” which was just too ironic to be ignored. I’m not convinced this represents me well, but it’s much easier to look at for sensitive modern eyes.

In 2011, I registered the name as a US Trademark, to establish my intention to own it. At the time I was doing design consulting, so I used that as its primary registration class 42 and 35, which was later renewed as class 42 – Design services. Class 35 was for Marketing of products, which was a service I abandoned. There really is no Trademark class for art, and the other class 11 (appliances) is more appropriate to commercial manufacturing than it is to what I do, so I left it at 42. Tasca, another brand I own, is class 11 – but that is another story. The expense and time invested in the trademark, to me, was a way to make Lumenique a legitimate and legally binding part of my identity. Sort of like adopting a step child. Not very corporate of me, I know.

As it is with any name, over time it becomes part of your identity. For me, it represents, and is the name I use for every creative outlet. This has included art, lighting product design, automotive performance devices, web site information sites, discussion blogs, technical offerings, and the name of every consulting business I have owned since 1996. That was the year the Lumenique web site was put on line, and became publicly exposed. I have owned and operated Lumenique while holding numerous executive positions, by re-directing Lumenique activities to non-conflicting works of a personal nature. As time passed, I have come to feel Lumenique a part of me as much as my given name. It has also become a brand recognized in various circles, and is associated to me because of it. This means that the separation between my given identity of Kevin L. Willmorth and Lumenique are essentially synonymous in the market, as well as to myself. In Social media I use my given name, as it seem appropriate to be identified as an individual there. In all other venues, I use Lumenique, as it is more attractive as a name for Marketing art (although I sign every piece “Willmorth”), design work, and my organizational identifier.

Over the years, there have been attempts by others to use the name for themselves. One was an unscrupulous lighting individual who even claimed ownership, which LinkedIn to this day has not corrected. Another is a young women from parts unknown using it as her Instagram identity. At one time the name was registered in Australia, then deregistered in 2014. Recently, a lighting company in the UK. To all of these people, the name is just a word that sounds good to them.

As an example of the connection between given assumed nom-de-plume: Every current art piece I make now carries this label with serial number, and date of completion. However, in an exposed location, I still sign every work “Willmorth”

To me, the word has real meaning, based on its origins, continuous history, and familiarity. It’s a word I created to represent my creative work and endeavors. To see the name treated as just another marketing word, taken up casually for what it sounds like, just feels wrong.

I was told by one party that they came up with the word themselves, independent of seeing it in the marketplace. I find this incredible. This is not hubris. A search for the word “Lumenique” returns more than 5 pages of references to my uses of it, and to me by my given name connected to it, clearly demonstrating the existence and use of the name, over a significant period of time. The idea that a company might exist without knowing or discovering this before adopting it as their own? Sorry, not buying it.

Let me be clear: I recognize that I cannot expect the entire world of billions of individuals and organizations to bow to me and allow me total priority over the word. I do not have a team of lawyers like 3M, IMB, Apple, or Ford to come down on anyone who uses their brand names with the hammer of Thor to enforce priority. I would like to think I might be given the courtesy of having it in the lighting sector of the universe, but that appears to be at risk now, making the world a little smaller as a result.

So, what’s in a name? To me, what’s in “Lumenique” is me, the founder, Kevin Willmorth, as it has been for 35 years, 25 of them on the web. It is a part of me, and will remain my primary identity for creative work, as it has been. Whether or not I have priority, I believe I own Lumenique’s true meaning.

For others, using it as a word mark for marketing – I can do little to stop it through legal channels outside the US. I hate it, and will always feel this an affront, but I accept it as a fact of life in this modern universe of marketing hype and legalese. I have other things to occupy space in my head.

I will say that, being jealous of the use of the name, I reserve my right of free speech to review, comment, and criticize what anyone does or produces using the name for their marketing effort – so I will certainly have that.

Turns out, there can be a great deal hidden behind a name!

Comments
  1. Peter Wachter says:

    Dear Kevin, First let it be known that I read most of your articles. Those unread are religiously archived to a Kevin Willmorth mailbox for when time and the mood allow. The ones in print on “The Last Page” have been carefully excised and filed for posterity scanning. But reflecting on the paper originals has a unique appeal. Your one-pagers are often among the most valuable thoughts between the covers of each edition.

    I’ve generated quite a bit of intellectual property. A handful of letter marks and symbols and a heap of track lighting and exit/emergency patents. From Thai Country Club in Bangkok to the lights in Starbucks, Crate & Barrel, Container Stores, et alia. Yet I have no legal claim over any any of them. Shortly after proving one is drug free most companies require new hires to sign away rights to designs emanating from one’s mind even during an especially creative dream session or during a white sand/Mai Tai revelation. Most “civilians” think that heavily patented industrial designers should be filthy rich. Not so.

    For my IP, I care little now if they are looted by creatively challenged miscreants. But a name, a long running name, now that’s a different matter. I fully echo your sentiments in this regard. BTW, the current manifestation of your logo reminds me of the once-used NASA “Snake” word mark, a patch of which very nicely obscures the logo on a cap from a lighting firm we’ll leave nameless. BTW, by internal popular demand NASA long ago went back to the “Meatball”. I must say that I prefer your current logotype and since you don’t have any noticeable Italian culinary heritage, status quo ante should prevail.

    There are many topics in life’s endeavors that are politely ignored in media as they are seen as fomenting uncomfortable industry self-examination or simply trite. Fortunately we have you and publishers who fear not going out on a limb to broadcast and bring meaningfulness to topics that otherwise would never see the light of day.

    Please know that I, and a good many others I am sure, appreciate your industry introspectives and that they serve only to strengthen our noble profession. Also, a bit of good-natured rabble rousing can serve to bring detail to the shadows of topics that condemn many to fence sitting. Without much though, getting off the fence is a far more comfortable outcome.

    Thanks for all you do in words, empiric and three-dimensional exploration, products, and lighting industry advocacy.

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