Rebranding from hackerspace name?

Years ago when the hackerspace was not doing so well, the regulars were having a conversation on how to get membership growing so we weren’t operating with a deficit. One thing that was noted is how the name hackerspace doesn’t really attract the sort of people we needed to keep the place operating. While everyone there liked the name hackerspace, there was also an acknowledgement that this fondness likely wasn’t shared by the typical member.

Has there been any talk of rebranding the space? I said Makersomething because I’m not sure Austin Makerspace is legally available.

I do think some name rebranding should be discussed.

Many makerspace have an actual “brand” for who they are “Pump Station 1” “10BitWorks”.

I think the we should rebrand to have an actual name other than “city-state-facilty type” name we currently have.

1 Like

“Hackerspace” (really just “hacker”) scares off a lot of the demographic the hackerspace is trying to bring in. Once I joined it I never thought about it again, but I do have this sense I was a bit put off by it. I’ve been around real hackers and done hackery stuff, but even myself feel the name is a bit… formidable? The word ‘hacker’ has so many connotations to different people.

I’m not suggesting a name change in the legal organization, but I really think a different DBA type name would help bring in more people and ultimately I feel the word hacker doesn’t represent the space very well. For a place without a marketing budget, the name will be a larger factor than in most situations.

I also realize that during these times board has a lot of stuff to do and I’m not trying to create more work. I feel very confident though that better branding would bring more people into the door to see what the place is about.

Personally I am quite fond of the name, but my perspective is far skewed from most. I have nothing else to say, just wanted to see this discussed.

I don’t really think Austin Makerspace is a particularly good name, but it is functional for google searches. Thats free! I agree with James in that it isn’t inspiring. If the hackerspace spent money on marketing and such, then a more inspiring/less functional name would have more merit. The hackerspace isn’t trying to build a brand though. Anyway, whatever people decided on, it would almost have to be better than hackerspace given where the org is and seems to be headed.

1 Like

Yeah, hackerspace may be the correct term for the space, but it has a negative connotation.

When i was at 10bit, we did receive a call from an unknown woman asking for assistance with our “hacking services” because we have hackerspace in our name.

When i mention it to anybody in IT they do get a bit concerned about what all we hackers are doing.

We’re already the first hit for “Austin Makerspace” :slight_smile:

You’re right that we’ve dug ourselves a bit of a hole marketing-wise.

Another not-called-makerspace on my radar is http://www.sector67.org/

1 Like

Yep the branding difficulties surrounding this name have troubled me for quite a few years. Many people we’re trying to get exposure with assume we’re a group trying to break some sort of computer security. “open woodshop and laser cutters” is not most people’s first impression.

A very long time ago we got a message request from someone outside the group, English was not their first language, requesting paid “services” to hack into a college dean’s server and change that person’s grades. LOL.

I was told “Makerspace” was trademarked, but I just checked and that’s not the case, although that does seem to be fought over periodically.

“Makerspace” is definitely closer to the image we want to present to the public. It is a bit generic, though. That is, one would naturally presume Austin Makerspace and Dallas Makerspace et al are branches of the same company, but that’s not correct.

On the other hand, “Pumping Station: One” strikes me as too cryptic and could get passed over and forgotten by potential members who don’t know what it’s about.

Of course it’s difficult to convey what you’re all about in a name alone, but I also don’t want to be so cryptic as to mislead. Like “The Paper Mill” would be problematic, since if you heard the name in passing without much explanation you’d assume it’s just a paper mill (or a pumping station). But then again, a lot of bars and clubs do that, like “Graham Central Station”. They have a lot more word-of-mouth though, I don’t think the gimmick would work for us.

Austin Thinkery really nailed it with their name. Unique, and, simple as it is, suggests what it’s about in the name.

1 Like

You could have makerspace as part of the name.

But I just think a brand other than Austin Texas buisness type x

Just slap makerspace at the end to prevent confusion.

Area 512 Research Facility.

Change my mind.

3 Likes

Area 512 is a good start. “Research facility” has basically the same effect as “hacker”. A bit on the scary side. Putting 512 into the name seems like a good direction.

1 Like

Area 512 Maker Facility?

1 Like

There’s already an “Area 512 Real Estate” and “Area 512 Entertainment” on the first page of Google results.

Cool. We’ll fit right in. :smiley:

I think we nailed it with the name as well.

National Instruments just name changed to NI. We lost our eagle logo in favor of just the letters “ni” in block font. When I talked to our leadership and read the docs about it, the strategy was all about picking symbols that had zero prior association for everyone. This is how most mega corps go when they reach a scale. The statement that most struck me is that a company must either invent neutral symbols that it can market to associate with itself in public’s mind or it picks an existing symbol and owns it.

The ATXHS name is a bit edgy. It matches the “dark knight” bat logo. This isn’t the space we want but it’s the space we deserve — because it is only as good as we voluntarily and communally make it. We can — and should in my opinion — own that reputation of late night working, of make-do-with-what-you-have engineering, and of constant learning.

We can spend a lot of time neutralizing our brand and defining it OR we can be recognizable from the outset and someone won’t immediately “get it”. Both have risk and expense. In my opinion, the latter is a lot more fun.

Stephen, your definition of the word is more in agreement with my personal definition but “hacker” is traditionally seen as white male computer nerd. Thats what people think of when they first see the name. The name is far from being inclusive OR inviting.

It could be mitigated with a more inviting website.

Not to mention I don’t feel it fits very well. There is little hackery about the space but not an argument I will have.

Maker is not traditionally inclusive either. Nor engineer. Certainly not research. Inclusivity would need an adjective on any of those terms. Austin Rainbow Hackerspace? Prismatic Hackerspace? Omnihuman Hackerspace?

the way it was explained to me is that the real definition of “hacker” was “somebody who takes something and uses it for a different purpose than it was ever intended”

and that the correct term for malicious hacker is supposed to be the term “cracker” i believe. But the media has used hacker instead of cracker leading to a negative connotation of hackers, and the knee jerk reaction some people give to “hackerspaces”

@Stephen-L-M , our goal isnt a completely neutral term for inclusiveness, but a term that doesn’t have people thinking were malicious hackers.

At 10bit, the issues of people being so turned off by the term “hackerspace” we ended up having to dedicate 25% of our 2 page flyers to explaining, “NO NO NO hacker isn’t a bad term, were not evil, let us explain why were not evil”

I never liked it, my argument always was, itd be better to spend that 25% about why they should join, instead of trying to convince people we aren’t evil. But there was significant kick back on taking out the term hacker space.

Also ive never heard stories of a makerspace getting phone calls to hack a schools grades, or to provide hacking services.

1 Like

+1 on that, for example right now the explanation for what you’re looking at upon visiting atxhs.org is kinda buried.

Also, as far as an actual rebranding, it isn’t necessarily a binary choice. We could pull a “Texas A&M”, and say that ATXHS doesn’t stand for anything in particular anymore, but it still kinda does. Similar to what Stephen mentioned. Then if someone is interested in what “ATXHS” is, the branding and website can answer that question with fewer preconceived notions to fight against.

Well Engineer and Research have a positive connotation in general. Hackers don’t. Either one gets it and the term hacker is endearing, or they don’t at which point negative thoughts are formed.

I don’t believe you. Can I see your market research? I suspect the term has a 50/50 rating in people over age 30 and a cool cache appeal to those under 30. Maybe primarily negative to those over 50. But that’s just my hypothesis, and I really would need to see market research before I believed any particular position, positive or negative.

1 Like

As for this one – “engineer” is not positive. “engineer” is cold and uninviting. I know this from FIRST LEGO League, which had to work really hard to get people involved with “engineering”, and that was the feedback they got about the term, and those folks did do market research. Maybe it has changed in the intervening years, but math has a pretty poor reputation in USA, so I wouldn’t bet on it.

Seriously, for any term, I want to see the market research for it before we just start making assumptions. Human perceptions are vast and varied.

2 Likes