A star is born…

What is in a name? Everything according to Claire Meaney, Director of Réalta – the exciting new National Body for Arts and Health in Ireland that launched earlier this March. Because it defines their very purpose. Their reason for existing at all.

What is in a name? Everything according to Claire Meaney, Director of Réalta – the exciting new National Body for Arts and Health in Ireland that launched earlier this March. Because it defines their very purpose. Their reason for existing at all.

We talk to Claire and TOTEM Creative Director Colin Byrne about the strategic naming process. One that Claire and her team described as clear, logical, creative, energising and relevant.

So firstly, Colin, what is strategic naming?

I like to just describe it as meaningful naming. I find that when you add the word “strategic” to something, people can start feeling overwhelmed. It’s a word with a lot of heavy connotations to it.

But all it means is that there is a purpose to what you’re doing. A clear aim and objective.

And just to reassure you – that actually means removing all the complexity from a situation, not adding more. And getting back to asking some basic questions of yourself.

In the case of Réalta that meant starting by asking the most fundamental question of all ‘what are we naming?’

And Claire, was that a difficult question for you and the team to answer?

Yes, there was a lot to consider in our situation.

TOTEM kickstarted the process by facilitating a workshop and open discussions with our wider team, which was great. It gave everyone a chance to be heard. And share both our back story and hopes for the future.

Our organisation, Waterford Healing Arts Trust, had grown from an original idea 30 years ago to introduce art to one hospital, into an extensive programme bringing multidisciplinary arts experiences to people in acute and community healthcare settings.  In recent years, we had also developed a national strand to our work, leading the arts and health sector and seeking to embed the arts in healthcare in Ireland.  A key element of this work was our national resource website artsandhealth.ie, which is packed with arts and health resources and insights. So, with the growth of our national programme, we felt that our name no longer reflected the scale of our work.

What wasn’t clear though, was how to answer TOTEM’s question – ‘what are we naming?’.

We didn’t know whether we should extend the existing Waterford Healing Arts Trust to include our national remit, whether we should be renaming it as an entity or creating a new brand altogether.  And we also had the artsandhealth.ie brand to consider/accommodate

That’s where we really needed an external expert like TOTEM to come in and advise.

So, Colin, how did you decide which naming strategy to recommend?

What we found really helpful (and I’d advise anyone in a similar situation to try) is flipping the perspective – we looked in, instead of out.

I think the team had felt stuck for a long time. There was so much emotional attachment and equity in the Waterford Healing Arts Trust brand name – decades of incredible history. Losing or changing that in any way seemed unimaginable.

But equally, extending the name to cover the national work really wasn’t an option either. Having Waterford in the name would be too geographically limiting. They’d be viewed as too small a player.

What we did was step outside all those internal views. And instead started looking at the puzzle from the outside in.

We define a brand, quite simply as your reputation.

By stepping into the shoes of external audiences, we asked ourselves how many separate reputations were needed. And why?

And the right strategy suddenly became very, very clear. We quickly honed in on a hybrid structure – where a new brand and name would be created for the national body and all related national programmes.

The Waterford Healing Arts, minus the (legal) Trust part of the name, would then remain and be protected as an independent sub-brand under the new national parent brand’s remit – with its own completely unique reputation and agenda for delivering hands-on arts and health programmes in the region.

As would Arts + Health. It would sit under the national brand’s remit as a sub-brand and would continue to have its own complete editorial independence.

What was the next step in the naming process for TOTEM then?

Well, before we went into creative brainstorming mode for the new national brand name, there was one more element we needed clarity on. One more question we had to answer.

We now knew what we were naming? But we needed to define that new brand’s purpose. It’s why.

Over the course of the workshops and discussions, Claire and the team had shared the most incredible personal stories of the transformative impact they’d witnessed the arts having on people’s health and wellbeing.

We took all these rich insights, the heartfelt stories and passionate dreams they’d shared and began a process of distilling it all down, to one simple statement of purpose… to illuminate health paths.

And with this clarity, we were able to dive into brainstorming in a strategic way. With a very clear idea of the meaning we wanted the new name to convey.

And then a star was born, Claire…

Yes, for us as clients, one name just stood light years apart – Réalta, the Irish word for star.

I still remember the feeling when it came up on the screen at the presentation from Colin. It unanimously resonated with everyone, as soon as we heard it.

And there was just this sudden wave of energy and excitement.

And for you Colin, was this your teams favourite too?

Yes, we were all secretly – or not so secretly delighted – when the team focused instantly in on this.

For me, it’s a truly meaningful brand name.

It communicates what this new body is here to do. And ticks the box with every attribute a good name should have.

It’s distinctive, brief, appropriate, likeable and easy to say and spell (well at least if you’re Irish). It was also protectable with an available domain name, which can be a big challenge with naming projects these days.

And as a bonus, it’s a name that really lent itself to visual interpretations.

Talk us through those visual interpretations and the thinking with the identity…

Our team had a lot of fun creating a brand identity and website to launch the new body under. The name was so extendable and sparked such interesting ideas and interpretations from our creatives and designers.

The final identity chosen includes a motif we designed to represent overlapping health paths that interact and transform into a star.

And a vibrant new colour palette to convey a sense of illumination across their visual language – communicating the sense of optimism and energy this exciting new brand has for the future of health paths in Ireland.

And you refreshed the existing Waterford Healing Arts identity too?

Yes, not only was the Waterford Healing Arts a critical part of this national body’s origin story. It will also have a vital ongoing role to play in shaping the future of Arts and Health in Ireland.

And as such needed to be protected and its identity refreshed.

We evolved the original circle into a new butterfly motif in their identity to acknowledge the inspiring process of metamorphosis this incredible brand has ignited in the Arts and Health space in Ireland.

With three distinct shapes representing the patient, artist and healthcare worker and their continued role in bringing all three together in University Hospital Waterford and its surrounds.

WHA logo

Finally, to you Claire, do you have any parting words of advice for anyone considering embarking on a brand naming process?

I think you have to have the clarity around your purpose and why first. Make sure you can answer the basic questions, like Colin said…

What am I naming? And why?

And don’t underestimate how difficult finding those answers can be. Don’t stay stuck. If you’re struggling – reach out for external help and guidance. With a fresh perspective, there’s always a solution.

Claire Meaney is Director of Réalta – the newly launched National Body for Arts and Health in Ireland. And Colin Byrne is Creative Director of TOTEM – the Meaningful Branding Business, who specialise in creating branding and naming success stories like this for clients.