As William Shakespeare famously observed about a rose, the name of something doesn’t have to be a good indicator of what it actually is.
When you hear the word "SkySong," what is that the name of? A classical aria sung with light soprano voices floating over a pastoral glen? Puffy musical notes floating overhead, made by a skywriter? Maybe. Well, no.
It’s the name of what was the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, which itself was an abbreviation of an original name given the high-tech incubator that was about twice as long. It’s taken from the name given a sail-like shade structure to be built over the project’s main square that is part art, part science: Lovely to look at, it also will keep the Arizona sun from baking pedestrians.
The name "SkySong" now covers the whole project and is officially accompanied by these sub-phrases: "Innovation. Technology. Imagination."
Of course, this latest incarnation dropped the names of the two entities coming up with about $300 million to build and service it, Arizona State University and Scottsdale.
Mayor Mary Manross, who said she finds the new name "very catchy," said she doesn’t think Scottsdale’s reputation will suffer.
Bank One Ballpark — now Chase Field — didn’t have its location, Phoenix, in its name, but soon after it opened, "everybody was talking about ‘BOB in Phoenix,’ " she said. "Someday people will be talking about ‘SkySong in Scottsdale.’ "
But what do columnists and politicians know? Let’s bring in an advertising executive, someone who knows how to create images through slogans and catchphrases.
Jos Anshell, chief executive officer of the major Phoenix advertising firm, Moses Anshell, admitted that his initial reaction against "SkySong" went the other direction once the name started to grow on him.
"At first, it made me think of Delta Airlines’ shuttle service, ‘Song,’ so it reminded me of a failing airline," said Anshell, who said his firm isn’t currently doing any work for ASU, though it had in the past. Then he did some free word association.
"But then I looked at it, said, ‘OK, it’s about incubating, free thinking, free thinkers, open, free,’ " he said. "The more I thought about it, the more I liked it."
Shorter, catchier names work, he said, even if they don’t conjure up much association with anything.
He said that 30 years ago, most people would have looked at a certain nowfamous "swoosh" logo and would have said, "Nike? What’s that, a missile?"
"Look at Google and Yahoo," he said. "If there were UFOs flying over them, they’d say, ‘That’s why we’re not stopping here. There’s no intelligent life down there.’ "
Above all, Anshell said, SkySong fits ASU President Michael Crow’s desire to create a new kind of university by forcing people to think about things differently.
"Educational communication is steeped in the past," he said. "Whenever you encourage thinking outside the box, you get people scratching their heads."
Perhaps. Frankly, though, enough people in Scottsdale have been scratching their heads over this piece of land for too many years now.
But what the heck. How about this head-scratcher of a name? "SkyPie."