Onshape Logo in concrete

What’s in a name? Everything.

Whether it’s for a sports team, business or newborn baby, choosing a name is a heavy responsibility. Names help shape our identities. They influence how we think about ourselves and our organizations. In a fascinating project, journalist Reuben Fischer-Baum took 52 years of birth data (1960-2012) from the Social Security Administration and mapped out the most popular boys’ names and girls’ names by state. Check to see if you made the cut!

Think those lists don’t matter? In a comprehensive name study of high school girls, Northwestern University economics professor David Figlio found that girls with more masculine names (Alex, Drew) were significantly more likely to take advanced math and science courses than their femininely named peers (Isabella, Abigail).

As for business names, did you know that Amazon.com was initially named Cadabra? According to Mashable, the magic connotations lost their charm with founder Jeff Bezos after his lawyer misheard the name as “cadaver.” Bezos quickly rebranded as Amazon to convey size and scale, and also for the pragmatic reason that website listings were initially alphabetical. 

Other names that were considered before choosing Amazon: Awake.com, Browse.com, Bookmall.com and Relentless.com, the latter which lost out after friends said it “sounded a bit sinister.” But out of nostalgia, Bezos kept the URL for Relentless.com and it currently redirects to Amazon.

ON BUDGET… ON TIME… ON SHAPE!

When we were first choosing a name for our new full-cloud CAD company, we really only had one major criteria. We wanted it to remind you of CAD. Now that statement may sound obvious, but it seems that nobody in the CAD business wants to talk about CAD anymore.

The typical traditional CAD press release sounds something like this: “We’re pleased to announce a breakthrough release that sets new standards in lifecycle productivity and functionality while being cost effective yet still a business process viable solution for sustainability….” You get the idea. The language sounds more like a Ted Talk than an engineering or design tool 

I love the name “Onshape” for lots of reasons. First of all, it’s a name that brings us back to the basics of CAD. It’s all about shape. The word “shape” means geometry and form. 

When you’re on budget, it means you projected the costs accurately. When you’re on time, it means you got your delivery date correct. And when you’re Onshape, it means you got the form and geometry of your design just right. 

Onshape sounds like a CAD program without using the word CAD, which tends to be overused. I also love how the word “On” reminds me of “online” and underscores our anchor in the cloud. It just feels natural. There’s no deliberately weird spelling – like using a “K” where there should be a “Q” – or unexplained missing vowels or a hyphenated-X at the end to try to sound cool.

Hundreds of possible names were suggested during our internal brainstorming sessions. Two that almost made the cut: Foundry and Netshape. I liked the feeling of Foundry – it felt like a good solid, mechanical engineering term and a place where things get made. But we were concerned that we might be confused with The Foundry, a British design software company specializing in computer graphics and visual effects (VFX) for the entertainment industry. As for Netshape, some colleagues felt that the name was a little tough to pronounce.

Moving forward, however, I can’t imagine any other name to call both our company and our CAD system.image03

WHAT’S IN A NAME? – One of the Onshape conference room whiteboards got rather crowded with inspirational words, CAD terms, and brands we admire as we brainstormed possible company names.

WHAT MATTERS EVEN MORE THAN OUR NAME

My co-founder and mentor Tommy Li said he thinks Onshape “sounds like a state of being.” 

I hope this feeling spreads as Onshape helps designers and engineers work on the same CAD data at the same exact moment, getting rid of the aggravation of checkout and locked files. I hope things feel more natural and relaxed when you are accessing your models on your tablet or phone and not worried about which computer has which license.

Regardless of which name we ultimately chose, we don’t think of ourselves as being in the software business. We’re in the business of helping you build exceptional products and bring them to the market faster. 

We’re also striving to make CAD fun again. For you and us.  As you give Onshape a try – either as a standalone design tool or as a companion to traditional CAD – please let us know how well we’re living up to our name.

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Photo credit: Onshape concrete logo courtesy of Joe Dunne.