Event branding for Atomic Mass

Our association with the Ariel Motor Company goes right back to 2001, when we climbed into our first Ariel Atom. It was used to promote another creative business back in those days. It’s 2016 now and we’re running a new Gibson branded Atom. Purely for client rides and charity work, of course.

Ariel Atom branded for gibson.co

The Ariel Atom at Gibson

Back in 2005, the Ariel Atom Owners Club was founded. It’s mission is to bring like-minded petrolheads together. More of a driving club than a bunch of geeks that want to talk grommets and flanges, it’s been actively promoting forum discussion, international meetings, track days and road trips for over ten years. In 2015 we helped plan and design the branding for a tenth birthday event.

Starting at the Ariel factory on a Saturday in mid-September, owners moved onto the Haynes Motor Museum, a Cotswolds hotel stay, a celebratory dinner with a talk by Steve Cropley (Editor-in-chief at Autocar and former Atom owner), followed by a Sunday drive and barbeque. The event culminated on the Monday with a private track day at Castle Combe race circuit in Wiltshire.

We christened the event ‘Atomic Mass’. A wry reference to the almost religious devotion that many owners show to the brand. If lightweight cars are a religion, Ariel Atom owners could rightly be called extremists.

We had a bit of fun branding Atomic Mass. Simon Saunders, Ariel’s managing director and design supremo, featured on all the visual material as a saintly reverend. The Ariel Atom owners are arguably his flock and they his followers. Plenty of passengers have certainly uttered a prayer before their spin in an Atom.

Designed and illustrated by Steve Gibson, the event graphics started with a car sticker, some 150mm high. We searched for a supplier with standards as exacting as ours and found Diginate. And they didn’t disappoint. Like Ariel, we’re a bunch of perfectionists.

Atomic Mass sticker design by Steve Gibson

Car stickers for branding Atomic Mass

Next for the Atomic Mass branding was the much anticipated t-shirt. Transferring the graphics to clothing demanded that we use silk screen printing – in seven colours. It was the best way to give us the dense, accurate colours we wanted, at a cost-effective price.

Atomic Mass t-shirt design by Steve Gibson

The official Atomic Mass t-shirt

After speaking to several print suppliers, we chose Fifth Column in London and their range of carbon-neutral t-shirts. Whilst Fifth Column got down to printing on organic cotton, we started imagining an extension to the project – a hardback book.

In the ten year life of the owners club there has never been a publication dedicated to their adventures. There are pictures scattered across the web, on social media and in private collections, but nothing distilled into one handy format. A book was way overdue.

We’re the first to admit that the audience for such a book is tiny; but for owners, it’s a set of photographs that no transient website or whizzy smartphone could ever equal. In time, it will become a well-thumbed scrapbook of glorious memories of old friends and historic travels.

The Atomic Mass hardback book

The Atomic Mass 140pp hardback book, designed and illustrated by Steve Gibson

With requests sent out across the web, pictures began to arrive thick and fast from across the UK, the USA, Europe and Hong Kong. Our original vision of a 56 page book was quite an underestimate. After a brutal filtering of pictures, it still ran to 140 pages. The foreword was written by Simon Saunders of Ariel and the introduction by Bruce Fielding, a founder of the club. Designed and illustrated by Steve Gibson, it was printed and bound as a hardback by Blurb, using an HP Indigo digital press in Holland. The only book, in the history of automotive publishing, to be dedicated to the Ariel Atom – and all copies have now sold out.

If you want to explore the eclectic nature of international ownership, from road trippers to racers, and a decade’s growth of the Ariel Atom Owners Club, it’s the perfect place to start. As the book says, ‘No roof. No doors. No windscreen. And no better company.’

For more details on the Atomic Mass book, branding Atomic Mass or devising your own event branding, please contact designer Steve Gibson.

Creating new brand names: our 12 point checklist

Creating new brand names: our 12 point checklistCharley Willard Horse Dick.

Not a name Mr and Mrs Dick considered at length before it took residence on little Charley’s birth certificate*. His parents, hippophiles for all we know, might love it, but the law of unintended consequences is in full effect.

If you’re serious about the company, service or product that you’re planning to name, you don’t want to saddle it with a moniker that causes you trouble down the line. When creating new brand names at Gibson there’s a checklist that we always work with. Some considerations on it are business-critical and are ignored at your peril. Get your name wrong and you’ll disadvantage your brand from day one. You may even have to go through a rebrand at day 365, if you’ve made a right horse’s of it.

Before we dive into the checklist, we’re going to assume that you’ve got your brand or product strategy worked out; that your brand values, brand messages, audience and competitors are clearly defined. Without this kind of formal brief you’re taking a big risk.

So, here’s our checklist for creating new brand names. By all means flout some of these guidelines, but do it with good reason.

1. What are your competitors doing?
If you’ve got competitors, make sure you’re not planning an identical or sound-alike brand name. For starters, it won’t differentiate you and you may find yourself in receipt of a letter from their lawyers pretty quickly.

2. Are you naming a thing or things?
Find out if your new brand name is a one-off or if it’s going to be part of a series. Consider if you could extend your name idea, if it’s going to be one of several.

3. Does your new brand name give you a usable home on the web?
If you’re going to draw up a shortlist of potential new brand names, you should make sure you can buy the website domain that you really want for each one. The .com is still the most desirable, but it’s not the only option. Even if your .com has gone, you may still be able to purchase it from the current owner. If you can’t secure the brand name with any of the suffixes you really want (.com, .co.uk, .co etc), you’re going to have to be imaginative with an expanded form, such as wearebrandname.com or use one of the new top level domain names that are now on the market, like .club or .technology. As the web evolves, those new TLDs will become more common and the dominance of .com will be internet history.

4. Does your new brand name survive a Google search?
If you google your potential new brand name, are you faced with a million references to it, where other people around the planet are using it (in or outside of your market)? Or will you be able to dominate page one of Google because it’s unique? Google our client SilverDoor and you’ll see what we mean. If other people are already using your new name it might cause your business more serious problems (take a look at point 11). Whilst dominance of Google’s page one isn’t an essential consideration for your new brand name, it definitely secures your brand identity online and ensures that prospective customers find the right website.

5. Does the new brand name sound good?
If your name trips off the tongue, you’re onto a good thing. Clunky, awkward sounding product names are best left to the healthcare companies (and software houses) who do a very fine job of inventing them. The study of beautiful or ugly sounding words and phrases is called phonaesthetics, if you’re curious.

6. How memorable is your new brand name?
Despite the recent trend for ‘it-does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ type names, it really doesn’t have to describe the nature of your business, service or product. Back in the early 80s, who would have thought we’d be buying computers and phones from a company called Apple or bookcases from IKEA. Having a distinctive and memorable name is far more important than one that literally describes what you do. Incidentally, IKEA is an acronym comprising the initials of the founder’s name (Ingvar Kamprad), the farm where he grew up (Elmtaryd) and his home parish (Agunnaryd, in southern Sweden).

7. Is the new brand name long or overcomplicated?
If your name is going to be more than three or four words or sound like a catalogue part number, stop right now. You’ll only make things harder for yourself. It’ll be shortened, and possibly not favourably, by your customers when they look to make it easier to say. And have you ever tried to get hermione.butterworth@absurdlylongandannoyingbrandname.com on a business card? A typographer somewhere is having a breakdown.

8. How would your brand name sound on the telephone?
This is an old test, but a good one. Imagine you have to answer the telephone with your new brand name: “Xycantium, how can I help you?”. How does it sound? Can you imagine your staff doing it with confidence and the caller clearly grasping what’s being said?

9. Can your brand name be given without you having to spell it?
Xycantium may sound cool, but it’ll drive you mad, because you’ll have to spell it for anyone you mention it to. And don’t even think about radio advertising.

10. Are there any unintended foreign meanings in your new brand name?
If you’re planning to do business internationally, it’s worth checking that your new brand name isn’t Estonian for ‘goat face’. With only 26 letters in the Roman alphabet it’s possible that you’ve just invented a word that exists in another language. And the outcome may not win you any friends. Toyota ran into difficulty with the name of their little MR2 sports car. MR2 was shorthand for ‘Midship Runabout 2-seater’. But when MR2 is spoken in French (phonetically: Em-Air-Duh) the sounds complete the French word ‘merde’. Which means ‘shit’.

11. Is your new brand name trade mark free in the appropriate classes?
In the introduction above we mentioned business-critical considerations. This is a killer. If you’re settling on a new brand name, you have to be sure that it’s not already trade marked in the regions that you’ll be operating in. In the UK, that means consulting the UK IPO and searching the appropriate classes for trade marks that might be identical or similar to your new name. Without this check, you leave your business exposed to an owner who decides to pursue you for breach of their registered trade mark. At the very least, you’ll be forced to re-brand everything associated with your company, service or product.

12. Does your new brand name inspire any visual branding ideas?
It’s certainly not a critical consideration, but some brand names come loaded with inspiration for visual branding ideas e.g. our clients SilverDoor and Physio on the River whose names we devised. If your new brand name contains visual references, you’re giving brand designers like Gibson some invaluable raw material to work with.

We have been creating new brand names since 2003 and many have now been in use for over ten years. They’re thoroughly inseparable from the identity of the business that’s been built around them. Our brand names for clients include: 1Self, Avura, Codespark, Essentic, Maxifier, Physio on the River, Point Positive, SilverDoor, Stories in the Making and The Geo People. All in different industries and all quite literally making a name for themselves.

Contact us about creating a new brand name for your business, service or product and we’ll do what we can to make sure you’re not bottle feeding your own Charley Willard Horse Dick in nine months time.


*The little blighter is real. Born 2006, in Spokane, Washington, USA.

Why did we go .co?

dotco logo
In early February 2015 we launched our new website, on the gibson.co domain.

For nearly twelve years we’d been busy over at thisisgibson.com, our original domain name. Whilst it had a distinct rhythm, the URL meant that clients sometimes referred to us as This is Gibson. Which is kind of understandable, if they didn’t have a Gibson business card or invoice in front of them, with our logo on it.

The old URL got the job done but it was never going to be as pithy as gibson.com or gibson.co.uk. Both of those were taken when we opened for business. Inventing a new and unique name for the agency was always an option, given that we develop brand names for clients all the time. We would certainly have guaranteed ourselves a .com address, but Gibson was the preferred (if obvious) choice back in 2003.

In early April 2010, the .co domains were launched in the US to some almighty noise. The new .co domain was going to be blessed with top level domain status and was marketed as the new alternative to .com. By June 2011, more than a million .co domains had been registered in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. By January 2014, that number had reached over 1.6 million. Now that’s tiny compared to over 100 million registered .coms, but we’re Brits and we thrive on a little eccentricity.

The .co domain fitted our agency well. It meant we’d finally have our brand name in a short, memorable format and it sounded business-like, too. So we snapped up gibson.co and tucked it away for the launch of this website and the new email addresses that would issue from it.

Since the release of the .co domains there have been discussions all over the web about what makes a wise, memorable domain name. They go something like this: Do we need the www bit anymore? Probably not. Isn’t .com the daddy of all domains? In a US-centric world view, maybe, but the world’s a big place. Can people remember your alternative to .com? Of course, they can. They may not even need to, if you’re showing them a link or a printed document. Has that .co had an ‘m’ snipped off? Stick it in a browser and find out.

Very occasionally someone does ask ‘Is it really just .co?’ and we have a little chat. That can only be a good thing because our domain then sticks in that person’s brain and we’ve started a new relationship. They leave enlightened, having learned a little more about us, the worldwide web and it’s evolution.

And SEO? Google ranks .co domains perfectly well, if the content is properly targeted in Webmaster Tools. Our new website is no less effective, in SEO terms, than our old one. The phone is still ringing.

The .co discussion is really just the beginning. Take a look at any of the domain registrars and you’ll see that you can now buy over 50 different domain suffixes (not to mention the top level country domains). Here’s a handful for an imaginary brand:


The registrars are running businesses and it obviously serves them well to offer a broad range of products, but choosing a domain name that is a perfect fit for your organisation is now a great deal easier. And if it’s not a traditional .com? So what. That’s a positive point of difference in itself. Don’t be timid.

There is no status quo on the web. That’s the joy of it – it’s always evolving.

Evolving a brand identity for SilverDoor

So here’s the first design article for our new website – about a client that’s been with us for over ten years.

Back in 2005, we renamed and rebranded an ambitious serviced apartment agent: SilverDoor. In the years since, we’ve worked on numerous marketing projects for them, helping raise their profile (and turnover). SilverDoor is now international and instantly recognisable to anyone buying serviced accommodation for business, but after nine years of the original brand identity it became clear that an evolution was due. The company had grown from seven to over 80 staff, they utilise proprietary technology to run the business and their reputation and client list is now the envy of their competitors. The brand had moved on. Evolving a brand identity was our challenge.

Evolution of the SilverDoor logotype

Evolution of the SilverDoor logotype

Evolution of the SilverDoor stationery

Evolution of the SilverDoor stationery

In December 2014 an evolved brand identity was launched. We took the recognisable features of the original branding and enhanced, expanded or updated them. The new SilverDoor branding is bolder, more flexible in terms of fonts and colours and the iconic lion has been sensitively remodelled in 3D. A comprehensive set of new brand guidelines has been issued, along with guidance and templates for internal and external documentation.

The evolved SilverDoor brand identity is ready to face another decade.