Behind the Name

Probably one of the most trivial and difficult challenges in forming a new organization is naming it. It’s a simple detail that has a profound effect on the direction, mission, and brand. I spent a good two weeks brainstorming and consulting my friends, tossing ideas and asking for feedback, before ending up with what it is now: Habi Education Lab.

I wanted a name that is local and expresses the grassroots spirit of the organisation, while still emphasizing the experimental and project-based work that we do. Education Lab or Design Lab as suffixes satisfied the latter requirement, thus the hunt for a unique Filipino name that gets across the personality and spirit of the organisation. Here was my list of the name ideas that I scrapped:

  • Iño – A wordplay between inyo (yours) and inno (innovation), while incorporating the distinguishable Spanish/Filipino letter ñ for an added local flavor. I liked this a lot, especially because it was simple and smart, but I feared that it sounded too colonial and elitist.
  • Sibol (growth/germination) – This was another name that resonated well with one of the main principles of the project: that learning and experimentation requires a growth mindset, a sense of optimism that motivates you to improve and find new solutions. Unfortunately, sibol was heavily used by a lot of schools and organizations already, which might be a source of confusion in the long run.
  • Kapwa (other/fellow) – Usually used to refer to someone you associate with, it’s a great name to draw attention to empathy as a key mindset successful designers need. That ability to understand their needs and motivations in order to design solutions that would address them.
  • Tanglaw (torch) – As the main symbol for education, this seemed like an obvious name for an education-based non profit. But the name did feel a bit too righteous, that there’s only one way, one correct solution.

And the winner, Habi, is Filipino for the act of weaving. I loved how the name wasn’t a literal symbol for education or design or innovation, but was a beautiful metaphor for how the organisation works. To habi is to weave indigenous fabrics, which are famous for the intricate patterns and sturdy craftsmanship. It’s a cultural icon among various indigenous groups, showcasing the diversity of each geographic region. The designs are also intentional, the complex patterns have meanings and symbols embedded in them. And the act itself is difficult, interweaving different colors of string to build a beautiful piece of cloth. Those resonate well with the lab’s projects, that ideas should be locally relevant, intentionally designed, and synergistic in nature. Thus, Habi Education Lab is born.

 

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