Over the weekend I took my family over to Brooklyn to visit our groovy friend Lizz. Part of the plan was to wander around Boerum Hill and explore (okay, window shop and eat ice cream).
As per usual, I found it necessary to stick my nose in someone else’s business.
Wouldn’t you *have* to go inquire, if the store was named “Dangerous Mathematicians”?
Since I had my girls with us, I was only supposed to look in windows. There, I was captivated by a little display of a contest that Dangerous Mathematicians had just run on Facebook — asking customers to answer the question “What is a Dangerous Mathematician?”
The answers that people offered made my heart sing. (Although I am not a dangerous mathematician, if you let me near any statistical data analyses I can really hurt you.)
I was so moved by the answers, the cleverness of the contest, and the mystery of the name, that I tromped right into the store, kids trailing behind me, so that I could satisfy my curiosity.
Before I go on, tell me — what would you expect of a shop, in a funky neighborhood, called “Dangerous Mathematicians“?
Right. That’s what I thought.
Business Names Should Convey Meaning
Choosing the name of a shop, or a business, is a challenging proposition. The name should communicate something meaningful to the potential audience as well as evoke a good set of feelings and associations to the folks who work there and/or compose the organization. The name should also be reasonably euphonious, easy to remember, and these days easy to condense into an available domain name.
But the kind of meaning can be up to you— the name can offer a literal explanation (Boerum Hill Hardware), convey the product’s uniqueness (Atomic Wings), flag that the organization is legitimate (Metropolitan Detention Center), or even make some kind of insider joke (Thornburg & Foster). Some organizations even choose names intentionally to mislead audiences.
So what is Dangerous Mathematicians trying to convey?
“Dangerous Mathematicians” is a little awkward as a phrase, no? And it’s also more than a little odd. Who pays attention to mathematicians? And what can you possible buy from them?
The proprietor , Karen Patwa, was happy (actually enthusiastic) about answering my questions. Turns out, there is quite a bit of personal meaning, product meaning, and (potential) customer connection embedded in the name Dangerous Mathematicians.
Ms. Patwa told me about her first career as a math teacher, and how it gave way to the challenges of combining the beauty of math and the materiality of fabric, cut, color and fit. We talked about the ‘danger’ of purchasing clothing that never actually fits you very well, the challenge of calculating the payout (financial and spiritual) of made-to-measure clothing, and how much fun it can be to use a protractor AS AN ADULT for your actual job!
With all this time passing, I was worried that my girls would be getting restless. (After all the intended next stop was the Blue Marble Ice Cream Shop.) But when I looked over, they were both engaged in some math puzzles left out on the counter, right next to the jewelry.
Of course, there were math puzzles on the counter, right next to the jewelry.
When I got home, I checked out the Dangerous Mathematicians website, which had more information about their clothing philosophy, their business model, and their customer following. It turns out that in addition to their made-to-measure business clothes, they have a popular line of business-casual corsets, as well as accessories for the sexy nerd.
At that point, the meaning of ‘dangerous’ was more apparent. And still fun. And unique.
As a business name, Dangerous Mathematicians is not one-size-fits-all. Most customers off the street, like me, will be puzzled. Many of them, unlike me, won’t tromp into the store looking for an answer. They’ll just move on to the next cool boutique (The Banquet).
But, oh, for the customer who gets it.
She will gathered up in a concept that tries to capture her imagination and appeal to her brains, and she’ll walk out with a pencil skirt (and corset belt) that are a perfect fit for the area under her curves.
Annassa kata, Dangerous Mathematicians.