Why the name Kluge

A story by Arturo Perez

People often ask me why we decided to name the company Kluge. Like  most people who name their own brand, it’s not a straight-forward answer.

Kluge is a Slavic word that originally meant “unlock” – as in to unlock a solution. It evolved through the high Middle Ages and came to mean “an intelligent or witty solution” in German. A hundred years later the word carried over to England where it took on its contemporary meaning, an inelegant but clever solution. This definition eventually crossed the border to the U.S. to mean a patch or a hack, a technical workaround.

‘Kluge is a Slavic word that originally meant “unlock” – as in to unlock a solution’.

The most famous visual representation of a kluge is found in the Goldberg machine. Invented by Rube Goldberg, his machine was complex yet solved only a simple task. In contemporary culture, an assorted range of entities such as rock band OK Go, media company Red Bull, and car company Honda have created interesting and creative Goldberg machines that featured in music videos, stunts, and advertisements. 

The name came to me by a group of friends sharing music online back in 1999. My friend named our group Kludge Sound, and eventually I recruited its team members to help me build a music magazine which I called Kludge Magazine. I worked on Kludge for five years, covering live events and interviews all over the world (my proudest moment, an interview with the elusive Aphex Twin right after he released Drukqs). In the Sunset Strip, where I would often hang out with local rock bands, people would call me “Kludge” (pronounced like fudge) instead of my name, and they genuinely seemed to love saying it.

Kludge Magazine ended in 2003. And, after a stint in the business consulting world, I found myself struggling to name my next project — a creative technology studio both scrappy and smart, flexible and clever. Deep in agony over finding a name, Kludge came to me and I thought — “hey, Kluge, why not?”

Today’s Kluge has a spirit to match the name. We are creatives from all over the world solving multiple problems as a creative technology studio. And, after 13 years, we have found our way back into music with Synth Riders, a VR music rhythm game that is bringing us to imagine further immersive music experiences.

It’s been fascinating to live with the word Kluge for the last two decades, 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, daring, creative and imperfect.

So Kluge, this time without a “d” and pronounced “Klooge” instead of Kludge like fudge. It’s not straightforward, but it’s memorable, deep, complex, and always evolving.