Why Are We Called Marvin?

"Marvin is a weird name for a research product, isn't it?"

2 mins read

The one question we hear more than anything else since we launched our user research product is, “Why Marvin?”

The better question is: “Who is Marvin?”

Well, the answer to that takes us to a little story known as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. . .

Buckle up, and don’t forget to carry your towel! 

Once upon a time. . .

When we started the company, we called ourselves UserFocus, an apt placeholder that was always meant to be just that — a placeholder. When we acquired our first few customers, we knew it was time to tell the world who we really were.

But … who were we really?

The search for our identity began soon after. We knew we were fun and friendly, and we wanted our name to reflect that. We also wanted to showcase our foundational principle of helping companies become customer-centric.

Let me tell you, reader — this journey was not an easy one. 

Some of the names we sort-of liked were:

  • Qual
  • Concisely
  • Narrative
  • Art+Science
  • Haiku
  • Focus

But we were not convinced. They were all great names, but we did not want to take ourselves too seriously. We wanted to positively impact people’s lives while still being playful, warm, funny and smart.

So, we looked inwards.

What do we like? What has inspired us? What has positively impacted us? What has changed our lives?

Have you read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

The first in the revolutionary and uproariously funny series by Douglas Adams, THGttG was one of our favorite books growing up, alongside Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, George Orwell’s 1984 and JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings.

THGttG is about the last surviving human and his alien friend hitchhiking their way across the galaxy after earth is demolished. A revered entry into the epic science fiction pantheon that spawned TV shows, movies, more books and numerous other media, the book has been a perennial favorite of ours.

Our favorite character was
Marvin, the paranoid android, the depressed robot.

A depressed robot, really? Isn’t a robot just supposed to be a tin box without any feelings?

Marvin was absurd in the best possible way—so absurd, Radiohead even wrote a song about it! Suffice it to say that we were in love.

And just like that, our Marvin was born.

Then, we sat down for the logo

This next part is catnip for design enthusiasts and art lovers. 

Now that we had our name, what did our Marvin look like? Our Marvin was obviously not depressed or paranoid. Our Marvin was cool, composed, organized, smart and always ready with a helping hand. But like the original Marvin, he had a brain the size of a planet—our Marvin knew things; after all, it is the keeper of all information gathered from our users and customers. It helps you learn new things and discover new insights.

A friend of mine—who is one of the most amazing artists/designers I know—helped us not only conceive the logo, but also give it life, for we didn’t start with a logo in the traditional way. We started with a character.

Having never done this before, we had no idea how to go about creating such a thing. We didn’t want to Frankenstein this thing.

I looked for inspiration. I am not a huge Star Wars fan, but their droids did spark a fire. See Donald (DN-LD), R2-D2, D-0, Chopper, the scary Viper Probot and the oh-so-cute BB8!

We got to work—a long, imaginatively stimulating, sometimes infuriating, but the most fulfilling experience.

We must have come up with a hundred characters. Below is just a sampling of the myriad little robots we came up with and almost adopted.Now that I think about it, maybe we did go too far. 

But there could only be one Marvin.

After days of exploration, we struck gold. Our Marvin has big eyes (that see everything), is mostly a head (where it keeps all its knowledge), a big antenna (to easily access that knowledge) and a huge loving heart (you can’t see it; you will have to take my word for it)—ever so ready to help you. 

Life? Don’t talk to me about life. Talk to me about Marvin.

Feature image: https://dribbble.com/trav_s

I'm the co-founder at Marvin and a firm believer in learning via chaos.

withemes on instagram