Have you ever considered what a perfect name Kindle is for an electronic reader? It conjures the image of a cozy chair and a good book, near a warm fire—along with something (the paper you no longer need?) to keep that fire alive. The Kindle has done nothing less than ignite the publishing industry. These are the kind of brand identities that transcend commercialism and become a part of our culture, and deriving them was the special gift of Michael Cronan, who died of colon cancer in January at age 61.
A member of Fast Company's inaugural list of the 100 Most Creative People In Business, Cronan was best known for his work on the Kindle in 2007, and for creating the name and logo for TiVo in 1997. Along with his wife and business partner, Karin Hibma, he christened products for more than 300 clients, including Apple, Estee Lauder, and the White House.
He also spent a day with Fast Company in 2009, branding what would become our Co. network of sites. At the time it was just one site, called Co., which would cover design. Cronan and his wife helped us realize why the name Co.Design worked better by showing us how the Co. prefix could be expanded. Co. is short for company, of course, but it's also short for collaboration, something that's essential to our identity. By the end of our meeting, he'd given us the name for our next site, Co.Exist, which would cover world-changing ideas, and since then we've launched two more: Co.Create and our latest, Co.Labs. What he did for us was exactly his genius: helping businesses define and project not only who they are but also what they want to become.
A version of this article appeared in the April 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.