People often ask me why we decided to name the company Kluge, and as most people who name brands, it’s not a very straight-forward answer.
Kluge I’ve come to find out is a slavic word that originally meant “unlock” – as in to unlock a solution. From there it evolved through the high Middle Ages onto Germany where it went on to mean “an intelligent or witty solution.” A hundred years later it carried on to England where it took on its contemporary meaning, an inelegant but clever solution. This eventually crossed the border to the U.S. to mean a patch or a hack, a technical workaround.
The most famous visual representation of a kluge is found in the Goldberg machine, Rube Goldberg’s invention that involves complex devices to solve a simple task. In contemporary culture an assorted range of people such as rock band OK Go, media company Red Bull, and car company Honda, have created interesting and creative Goldberg machines.
It’s been fascinating to live with the word Kluge for the last 17 years, full of controversy in its struggle between its patchy, inelegant side and its clever and witty side. I find it a perfect metaphor for the digital world, always in movement, evolving and yet imperfect.
One guy endearingly laughed as he genuinely proclaimed, “this is the worse company name I’ve ever heard,” but it didn’t come off to mean a bad thing to me. It never has with Kluge.
The name came about from a group of friends sharing music online. My friend named our group Kludge Sound, and eventually I recruited half the group to help me build a music magazine which I called Kludge Magazine. I worked on Kludge for five years, a pure labor of love, passion and creativity. In the Sunset Strip, where I would often hang out with local rock bands people would often call me “Kludge” (pronounced like fudge) instead of my name, and they genuinely seemed to love saying it.
When I came back to work on my own thing again, after having traversed the business consulting world, I struggled very hard to find a name. And then one day, walking through the halls of the supermarket, deep in agony over finding a name quickly, I thought, hey Kludge, why not?
So Kluge, this time without a d and pronouced “Klooge” more than Kludge like fudge. It’s become a symbol for me, a trajectory of my creative life and that of my team. It’s not straight-forward, but it’s memorable, deep, complex and always evolving.