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A Simple Name for a Civics App?

The last few days I’ve been busy mocking up a design with all the components I identified in my conceptual overview for the Civics app I’m working on. But I got stuck when I started to think about what I want to call this app. A civics app gives a general sense of what it’s about, but it’s not the identity I want to work with. So today I want to write about how to pick a name for a project like this.

I think the name should reflect the values of the project. This project is setting out to be fair, friendly and accessible.

  • Fair: Any policy presented is so in an objective manner, accompanied with relevant rebuttals. Each should be sourced.

  • Friendly: The language and imagery should be easy to understand for someone not engaged in politics otherwise. The general tone of the website is friendly.

  • Accessible: The website is easily navigated, and the content is accessible and easy to understand. All content - images and graphs - are also accessible for people with bad eyesight as well as without eyesight.

How do I choose a name that communicates these values and what it’s setting out to do? And how can the name communicate it well in both English and Swedish? There are a couple of strategies for how to approach this. I could pick something literal, but that would probably mean giving the app a technical name; Voters’ 101, The Ballot, Hume’s Legacy (Consent of the governed), etc. Of course this would raise the bar to entry.

Another strategy is to pick a fanciful name. It would be a name that currently doesn’t have a particular meaning. Through marketing and services a fanciful name gets to fundamentally describe a particular service or brand. I could name my project Dwuudidu but it would only make sense through tenacious marketing. Since this is a project I’m doing in my spare time I obviously don’t have that capital to throw behind the name.

This leaves a final strategy. The strategy is to find a good metaphor for what this project is about. In essence it would be about the consent of the governed and an informed electorate. At first I searched the history books (i.e. Wikipedia) about the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. The goal was to find something to symbolize the thoughts on liberalism and the empowerment of the “common man”. But often enough I found myself staring at a male name; David Hume, Emanuel Kant, John Locke, and more. Picking a distinct male name has the drawback that it welcomes some people more than others based on gender identity, while it misses out on communicating the values of the project.

I turned my attention towards the animal kingdom for a good metaphor. I wanted an animal that has positive connotations. My first thoughts were on the humblebee and honeybee. Words associated with these creatures are hard working while gentle. What do these creatures do? Well, besides pollinating and in regards to the honeybee; honey, they buzz and hum. In Swedish we’d say that they hum, so it’s a word that would work in both languages. There are other benefits to this word as well. One is distinct for Swedish being that “hum” is also a way of getting a notion about something. The other benefit is that it’s short. With a short name comes also a better UX for when a person would have to type the name, like when adding it in the address bar in a browser.

There are drawbacks to the word, being that it isn’t directly associated with politics. But I hope to be sneaky in that way; hum is about you first, and then about how you relate to politics. It will be a gentle introduction, but frequent revisits will make your political self grow.

So this is the name I’m working with for the project: hum. And I hope by choosing this name I will be able to communicate the project’s values: fair, friendly and accessible.