I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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I’m seeing a lot of design portfolios with titles like “Beyond Imagination” or “Passions” or “Reflections” or “Curiosity.” With all these vaguely conceptual names, it’s like taking a nauseating stroll through the Macy’s perfume department.

Instead of titling your portfolio like the latest celebrity scent, why not just use your own name? Here’s my rationale:

When applying for a job, you want your potential boss to remember one thing–your name. They are hiring you, not “Beyond Imagination” or “Passions” or “Reflections” or “Curiosity.” In short, your name is your brand. Presenting any brand other than your own creates confusion and dilutes your name.

So don’t be tempted to overbrand everything. Keep your portfolio simple, and don’t bury your own beautiful name. Love it. Own it. Flaunt it.

31 Comments

  • Kevin Bondelli

    gravatarJul 10, 2008
    6:42 am

    Great point. When I first started my blog a couple people told me that I needed to come up with some clever name for it. I figured that using my own name was the best way anyway. Now I can forward this post on to anyone else who nay-says self-named blogs and portfolios.

  • Sonny Parlin

    gravatarJul 10, 2008
    7:44 am

    Or….

    You could setup your surname domain name to forward to your ultra cool named portfolio site.

  • David Airey

    gravatarJul 10, 2008
    7:56 am

    I’ll chime in with a ‘well said’.

    I was one of those people who started out with a generic name. Thankfully I grew tired of it. Fast.

  • Albert Ellenich

    gravatarJul 10, 2008
    9:23 am

    This is such great advice! I adopted the use of my name years ago to promote myself and developed a logo to go with it. Over the years, fancy names may lose favor, but my name and logo have weathered any career transition or industry change thrown at it!

  • Peter

    gravatarJul 10, 2008
    9:43 am

    “Passions” … LOL! For real?

  • Taylor Wright

    gravatarJul 10, 2008
    9:45 am

    It’s easy to say when you have a fancy dancy name like Chanpory Rith, but what about the John Smiths and Jane Plains of the design world?

  • Matt

    gravatarJul 10, 2008
    4:07 pm

    I have tried to get my name as a domain but it’s taken and I don’t want to have to go to other domains like .net and .info, etc.

  • Tracey Grady

    gravatarJul 10, 2008
    4:40 pm

    I’d be asking questions about any designer who has to put a “title” to their portfolio. The work should stand on its own. It’s a personal choice if someone wants to give a different title to their blog, and that’s fine. In my case, my name identifies my business, website, blog and portfolio. I like the consistency.

    If you’re in a situation like Matt and have trouble obtaining a domain to match your name, it might be worth varying the domain search eg johnsmithdesign (won’t work well if your name is very long) or jsgraphics or similar. Or you could see if the current owner of the domain you want is willing to sell it to you.

  • Chad Coleman

    gravatarJul 10, 2008
    4:48 pm

    Heh. Great rant.

    I’ve been struggling with this very issue, but I couldn’t get my name as it was taken. So I cheated and used a subdomain as part of the whole. http://c.hadcoleman.com

  • Berkturgler

    gravatarJul 11, 2008
    3:10 am

    What if your name is Berkturgler Dumpsmell Jnr?

  • CPG

    gravatarJul 11, 2008
    3:30 am

    It’s better and more funny to create a complete new identity. My boss even know who is CPG !!! Now you know it too… I agree, it’s difficult to find a great domain name.

    Make it simple, make it better…

  • Bb

    gravatarJul 11, 2008
    8:50 am

    Who would forgot that name, BD Jr?

    “Passions?” haha…That’s not a portfolio, that’s a soap opera! (no, really…)

  • Zaoris

    gravatarJul 11, 2008
    9:13 am

    This is one good advice and a very good article. But depends on the taste. Personally, I don’t mind my name for my portfolio but for some people there are some problems. @Berkturgler: Some abbreviations could do the trick ;-)

  • d

    gravatarJul 11, 2008
    10:20 am

    What does it matter. If your work is good people will remember you.

    If you use your name and you want to make your portfolio stand out you still have to do a branding exercise. If you are submitting your portfolio to a become an in house designer then url will be on your resume.

    Like others mentioned it can be hard to get your name that doesn’t have a less well known .whatever. If they can’t remember the extension then you are out of luck too.

    A name that’s easy to spell and is memorable and represents you, your spirit or style is probably better in the long run. You could also just buy two names and forward them both to the same address and give them out according to your audience.

  • Chanpory Rith

    gravatarJul 11, 2008
    11:54 am

    @Taylor: if you’ve got a plain name, you can liven it up by how you visually treat the name. You might also add a middle initial. Like John K. Smith. “Taylor” is an unusual name so you don’t have to worry about seeming plain. If you really hate your name, or are too embarassed to use it, then it’s a simple process to get it legally changed. :-)

    @Matt: you might try domain name variations such as hellomatt.com, mattisme.com, heymatt.com, dearmatt.com. etc.

    @Berkturgler: I’d get a legal name change ;-)

  • Trevor Twining

    gravatarJul 11, 2008
    12:44 pm

    When I started freelancing, lots of people gave me the ‘clever name’ advice, but I countered that they have to deal with the boss of clever name company at some point (namely me), and that’s who they will develop the relationship with anyway.

    It was the best thing I could have done for my work.

  • Rauf

    gravatarJul 12, 2008
    4:28 am

    I think it is difficult for people to remember the spellings of name like. Having general name like smart web or cool designs are easy to remember. Name can be display on the home page. this is what i think :)

  • Matt F

    gravatarJul 12, 2008
    4:44 am

    Well maybe that’s okay for you, but I am Double Supercool, so, y’know, I win . . . ;)

    Seriously, every job I have gotten in the VFX industry, they have mentioned my website name as being something that stood out and was remembered.

  • Tom

    gravatarJul 14, 2008
    9:57 am

    Wow I spent like a month trying to think of a great name for my portfolio, but I couldn’t think of one so I just used my name. Now you telling me that this was a better decision? Sweet!

  • Steph

    gravatarJul 25, 2008
    4:01 pm

    So what is your personal opinion about someone deciding between using their American name versus their (romanized) foreign name? In my case, I can choose between my American vs. Chinese.

  • Steph

    gravatarJul 25, 2008
    4:02 pm

    The only thing which worries me about the latter choice, is for those unfamiliar with the language will have trouble in pronunciation…

  • Matt French

    gravatarJul 26, 2008
    7:21 pm

    Good point. I worked with a Brazilian guy on our last project and his website was his name. My advice to him was to choose a snappier website name as it was just too hard to remember and pronounce for non-Brazilians, which is a shame because he did great work.

    Obviously it’s a balance and would depend on your name.

  • Adam

    gravatarJul 27, 2008
    9:55 am

    I’ve been struggling with this for months. I would love to have my domain name/portfolio be branded as my real name. However, there is another designer with the exact same name as me and has the .com. This other person is a designer that I definitely do not want people to confuse as me (horrible websites that look like they walked out on the 1994 catwalk.) So I think getting the name as a .net or .org would be a big mistake.

    So what can I do?

    Rename myself? Or come up with some sort of simple non-cliché brand identity and completely pose as that identity? (No mention of my real identity?)

    I’m still struggling with a solution. Any thoughts?

  • Andrew Chang

    gravatarSep 5, 2008
    2:48 pm

    Hello.. I randomly ran into this page after 2 weeks of trying to figure out a domain name. Eventually I decided on the same thing of just using my real name. The problem is ofcourse.. there are ALOT of Andrew Changs out there. No designer that I know of and andrewchang.com is already taken. I’m wondering if maybe I should just go with drewchang.com – there aren’t too many Drew Changs around, thats for sure.

    Other possibilities are achang.com andrewchangcreative.com

    Any other suggestions? Thanks in advance.

  • Andrew Chang

    gravatarSep 5, 2008
    2:56 pm

    oops, sorry for posting so quickly. I was also thinking of achangdesign.com

    Just because it sounds like it could be used “this is a Chang design.”

  • Janet Meas

    gravatarFeb 12, 2009
    1:52 am

    You are SO Khmer. I can tell by your fancy name.

    Well, I’ve always used different aliases and names for my sites and graphics, etc.

    But if you google me, they always usually point to one person :D!

  • Geert Nijs

    gravatarMay 25, 2009
    4:11 am

    I’m finding it a harsh task to find a good name. I do not want to go under my regular name because it is a real Flemish name(part of belgium). Maybe i’ll use the first two letters of my first and last name, so it would be Geni. My real name would be pronounced as gayrt. And this women in the Uk pronounced it as ‘jit’.

  • Nick

    gravatarJan 26, 2010
    1:39 am

    What if you hate your last name ? It may sound awkward, look not interesting or you just hate you father for leaving you when you were a kid and therefore you looking for a pseudonym.

  • sandra

    gravatarFeb 26, 2010
    9:08 am

    Me chamo Sandra Maria Maximiano Barreto tenho 35 anos. Meus pai se chamam;

    Elpidio Sales barreto Maria estela maximino

    Quando fiz minha primeira carteira de trabalho eu tinha 13 anos assinei como meu pais me falava. assinei COMO

    Sandra Maria Sales Maximiano.

  • Karen

    gravatarJul 30, 2010
    7:12 am

    What if your last name is really hard to spell? Mine is Schwartztrauber and karenschwartz.com is already taken. Any suggestions? I don’t want to put karenschwartztrauber because i don’t want people to miss my site because they can’t spell my name

  • Aaron

    gravatarAug 22, 2010
    7:13 pm

    I’m going to have to agree with some of you here that a simple first name last name dot com website is probably going to be timeless choice.

    As designers however, i feel like it’s up to us to make critical decisions about choosing a name as much as we make critical decisions related to our design work everyday.

    So, for those of us who have ridiculously long or hard to pronounce names, it might be a good idea to find an alternative name and not just any alternative like going from matt.com to hellomat.com or mattdesign.com. There are too many “johndodesign.com” websites out there anyway.

    An alias name could be equally effective and timeless if the designer invests enough time into the branding process just like any other brand identity project. All this being said, obviously a cheesy name like passions.com is just not going to fly. Ultimately, your work should be strong enough to hopefully carry itself but we should NOT overlook any part of the brand identity and that includes your website name.

    If you can choose a strong name other than your own to represent who you are, your work, your ethics, style, mission, etc., than why not? Instead of your website name just being a descriptive element, it can be an excellent tool used to stand out among the 1000s of others.

    The last thing you want is for a potential client or employer to be even mildly turned off, confused, irritated, or worse, indifferent to your brand identity as a whole because of an ineffective name choice.

    There are definitely pros and cons to either option. There’s no one right way to do it i think.