One of the most common questions people ask me is, “Where does the name ‘Odessa’ come from?”
If you Google Odessa, you’ll learn all about the county seat of Ector County, Texas. On the city’s website, the home page features a spotlight box promoting the Parks Department and Junior League of Odessa’s First Annual Daddy Daughter Dance. Reading that brings a smile to my face, as do the engaging slideshow photos.
Odessa is also the third largest city in Ukraine, touting a population of 1.004 million. It’s a major seaport and transportation hub located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea, and a significant cultural center of multi-ethnic population.
I’ve never been to Texas, or to Russia, although someday both might be worth visiting.
Odessa was my great-grandmother’s middle name. Hazel Odessa Pesto. In 1997, when I was conceptualizing endless name combinations for my design firm, Odessa Design had a nice ring to it. It was different. It was memorable. And, it was personal. “Gram” had been gone for about five years. She was deeply missed by everyone in our family, as she was our greatest model of strength, resilience, and grace—all great qualities on which to base a business name. Could Gram really be my company’s namesake? Would the name stand the test of time? Was it a smart name?
Many companies define their monikers by surnames, founding partner initials, or nicknames. In fact, the British creative team of Rob Donaldson and Joe Dennett thoroughly illustrate the classification of advertising agency nomenclature based on inanimate objects, planets, machinery—even metaphysical attributes—in Rob & Joe’s Taxonomy of Advertising Agency Names. It seems any name qualifies for the job.
After some deeper digging, my trade name idea crystallized. I researched the history of the name Odessa and learned of its Greek origin. It is the female variant of Odysseus, the hero in the epic poem the Odyssey. I’m sure many of you had to read through this major piece of literature in high school or college. But what you may not know is that an odyssey by definition is any long, eventful journey. That’s just what I was planning for in 1997, and 16 years later I’m proud to say it has been just that.
Thank you, Gram, for the use of your smart name. It has served me well.