What’s in a name?

27 · Sep · 2015

In 2010 when I started Pictor, I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a name for the business. Some of the criteria that I had included:

  • it had to be easy to pronounce in different languages
  • it should have a certain elegance or beauty to it – a sense that when you utter the name, it just rolls off the tongue
  • it should reflect my ambitions and vision for the future of the business
  • it should illustrate somehow the nature of the work that I would do which is firmly rooted in a love of art

I primarily looked for words that were related to art or graphics, but this being the 21st century, I needed a domain name as well. Many of the names that I came up with had to be simultaneously rejected because they were already in use by someone else. I also investigated ‘legacy’ names such as Paragraphic, a name my father had used for a short lived, independent self-publishing venture he started with some friends in the 1960’s. But of course, that was already back in use by someone else.

The Logo

I already knew what image I wanted to base my logo on.

It’s an image from the children’s book Moonman by Tomi Ungerer representing the phases of the moon. I love this image because it’s so simple and yet the symbolism is so strong. I also loved the pictogram element of the image. I felt there was a strong resonance with the phases of bringing a project from idea to fruition to completion. I then got curious about the root picto after thinking about pictograms, and that is how I came across a tiny constellation called Pictor. This was my aha moment when all the elements that I was drawn to came together.


Pictor is a latin word that means painter. It is a shortened version of the original latin name Equuleus Pictoris, (“the painters easel”). To me personally, Pictor symbolises potential: the potential to turn the nascent spark of an idea into a project, to articulate an idea and turn it into something tangible, practical and visible. It’s a reminder of the necessity to return again and again to the blank canvas and all of its infinite possibilities.

Image via

I have always been fascinated by the night sky; there is a kind of reverse abstraction that happens when you look at what appears to the innocent eye to be an arbitrary jumble of stars and planets and give them shape, meaning, categories, names. Generally I don’t like to know too much about what the constellations are called. I prefer to give them my own names. My favourite for example, was christened by a friend and I at a party in Nepal in the 1990’s the shopping trolley in the sky.

Final Thoughts

What is a constellation really but a group of stars that are connected to each other. Just like families, trades, tribes – those that we are born into and also those that we choose and that we work with. One of my big goals with Pictor is always to connect different sets of dots; to bring artists’ work to new locations and new audiences, new media and new contexts. To create new constellations.