Operative Words


How to Name an Innovation (the movie)

Design legend, Don Norman, honored me with an invitation to speak at UC San Diego Design Lab about naming innovations. My talk specifically focused on innovative product descriptors, the part of a name that establishes what the product’s category is, such as “smartphone” or “universal remote”.

Why is a product descriptor important? If you're inventing a “World’s First” product, the invention’s product descriptor should establish a category all its own. But naming a unique product category is not always easy.

In my presentation, “Naming the New”, I detail a best-practice process to develop an innovation’s product descriptor. Real-world project examples for Quell and Cinder illustrate how it works. The video is an hour long, but you'll probably learn a lot if you get through the whole thing.       

If the topic of novel product descriptors interests you — and how could it not?! — read my other posts on the topic,Describe Different and The Names of MIT Media Lab


UPDATE: Since Cinder launched two years ago the founders changed the original product descriptor based on customers’ feedback. The original descriptor, Sensing Cooker, was replaced with another idea I presented, Precision Grill.

Today, Cinder stakes its claim as “the world’s first precision grill.”

Why the change? Precision Grill is clearer and more familiar than Sensing Cooker. The lesson here is that it’s not necessary -- or necessarily a good idea -- to create a product descriptor that’s entirely unfamiliar (like Sensing Cooker). Framing your innovation within an established category can strike the right balance of differentiation and relevance.

I applaud Cinder for adapting their name in response to customer feedback. There's ample precedent: What’s now known as the George Foreman Grill was originally called the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.