As a graphic designer, should I use my personal name or create a business name/branding?


For a designer who begins doing freelance or start (or renaming) his/her own business, there's usually that critical decision that must be made:

Should I use my own name or have a business name for my services?

In the past, I've been discouraged in using my own name so I chose a "cool" name instead for my business. But I'm about to move in another region where I need to either renew or change my business name if I want to.

In my case, my clients know me well and both names are already a bit everywhere online; in fact they often prefer to use my website domain name instead of my business name, so the business name needs to be changed anyway. I don't have the kind of John Smith name so I'm quite easy to find, and I like both my name and biz name!

Right now I offer all sort of graphic design services but mainly branding, packaging and marketing. I also started this year signing contracts as an agent for illustrators that I publish, and plan to sell more giant format digital art of my own as well. And that's what I plan to expand in the next 10 years and get a bit less "technical" and more artistic. That's a bit why I was wondering if my short business name could fit or if I should simply use my own name as branding.

I remember how "the choice of name" was a big topic among designer friends who were also starting their company 15 years ago, and I'm quite sure the question is still relevant for new designers today. The difference is that I was surrounded with designers who didn't have any experience themselves and I feel I would get very different feedback today from a community of designers like this one.

Some arguments I've heard against using personal name is:

  • It's too "ego", artsy or self-centered
  • "What if you hire employees?"
  • You're not a popular designer yet
  • It's lame, not original

And the pros for business names:

  • It's more distinctive
  • It's better if you plan to work in team
  • It makes you look more like a serious business

Is there any more benefits in using your personal name as a designer or a business name instead? Or a mix of both?

Since design is very close to art and craft, I wonder if I shouldn't have the "Picasso" mindset for this; if it wasn't design, I guess the decision wouldn't be as difficult.

8/27/2015 4:02:00 AM

Accepted Answer

This question has TOP priority also in my mind and I made research for this a lot. Some other benefits:

Using a Business name:

  • It gives the opportunity to sell the business later if needed (of course if you know for 100% that you will not sell, then forget about this);

  • Better because if your business doesn't go as you planned, for example, you get some bad clients in a row and then they tell others that you work bad etc. - then your Business with it's unique name gets all the unfortunate stuff on it and at the worst situation, the Business with this name stops working. But, if you were working with your own name, then you would damage your reputation as a designer and it would be worse;

  • A chance to find a very unique name that fits the best for your provided services and would be as a little key to success better that personal name. (Here we need to keep in mind that every picked word can be the most successful if things go right).

Using your Personal name:

  • If you have very good portfolio to show, you have knowledge and ability to make a great site for your own, I would suggest by starting with your name, because with really nice portfolio and being a nice person, you will gain success in any case.

  • If you feel better to work as individual and you are minded to work more alone.

Popular, well known designers work on their own, with big experience, high reputation, they decide to go with their names, because so many people know them by their names so it becomes a natural way.

Also need to understand the benefits from legal point of view. Is it better to work on your own as a freelancer or start your own business. The taxes, how it looks from this point. This aspect is pretty much important and often decisive. In every country laws are different.

This question is very complicated by finding the right solution for each of us, but I hope that searching information, brainstorming, talking with people, the answer will come.

8/31/2015 1:44:00 PM

I think this is primarily an opinion-based question. Here's mine.

Should I use my own name or have a business name for my services?


In other words, it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. It may matter to you personally, but not really in any legal or strategic way.

Using your personal name may make it a tad harder to form a partnership, but that's not universally true, either. Plenty of firms are named after their founder and are thriving with a dozen partners.

I actually do both. I do work under my own name on a freelance basis, and also have a small LLC with a partner that we do work under a contrived name.

In the past, I've worked for a 2 person design firm named after the founder. I've worked for a 200 person design firm named after the founder. I've worked for a 4 person design firm with a contrived name.

The one advantage I see to using your own name is that you already own it. It's likely (fairly) unique. No need to spend a week brainstorming new ideas. It's practical in that sense.

To counter some of the arguments you've heard (mainly to point out that they are merely arguments...not really anything agreed upon):

For using your name:

It's too "ego", artsy or self-centered

That's valid (ie Donald Trump) but sometimes that's a good thing too (one could argue Trump has done very well)

"What if you hire employees?"

That shouldn't be an issue at all. Lots of huge design and ad agencies are named after their founder. And they have plenty of employees. Besides, you can always change the name later.

You're not a popular designer yet

I don't think that matters.

It's lame, not original

Only true if your name is Bob Smith. Even then, "Bob Smith Design" might work just fine in Bob's particular local market.

For coming up with a contrived name:

It's more distinctive

It could be. Then again, your own name may also be more distinctive.

It's better if you plan to work in team

I'm not sure why that would matter. Teams are made up of all sorts of people and companies all with a wide variety of names.

It makes you look more like a serious business

Law firms are pretty serious. They're usually always named after themselves.

In summary, there doesn't seem to be particular universal arguments one way or the other. Two of the biggest agencies in the industry both took different routes: Oglivy and IDEO. Both options seemed to work out for both of them. I have a hunch, at the end of the day, your company name is secondary to your portfolio and reputation. With a good portfolio and track record, you can probably name your company anything you want.