24 August 2008

Chicago 2008: Logo controversy

JewishGen unveiled its new logo during this week's conference.

Here is the popular Jewish genealogy site's familiar tree logo. It illustrates the tree of life (etz chaim, in Hebrew) with the branches formed of the continents, illustrating the Jewish world. Over the years, it has appeared on buttons, pins, T-shirts and, of course, every page on Jewishgen:

During Wednesday evening's JewishGen presentation in a crowded ballroom, the audience did not seem impressed with the new green and blue stylized petal design - applauding at least twice in support of commenters displeased with the new logo:

The audience felt, according to comments voiced during the program and conversations following the session, that they - the JewishGenners (volunteers and users) - were the people who have made the site what it is today, providing research, translation and other essential, major contributions to JewishGen's growing resources.

I spoke with many attendees during the week. Without exception, they each consider themselves part of the JewishGen family, having contributed to the site's success since the early days. Most felt they should have been consulted in some way in advance of this major move.

During the week-long event, conference-goers were overheard many times voicing these and additional comments:

-- What is it supposed to be?
-- It has neither Jewish flavor nor genealogical connection.
-- It's graphically boring.
-- We wish we had been offered a choice.
-- The wisdom of disregarding a widely recognized, respected logo

What do you think of the new JewishGen logo?

Today is the last day to vote here . As of this morning (Sunday, August 24), the votes were running 62% for "horrible," against 14% for "great," and 22% for "OK." Unless my math is off - always a possibility - that means in the neighborhood of nearly two to one against the new design. For more insight, do read the growing comments on the topic when you vote.

How do I feel about it? I knew you were going to ask!

Personally, I feel that an occasional update of a venerable logo is not all bad - many major brands do this occasionally (think of Betty Crocker, the Morton Salt girl, the Gerber baby, even Aunt Jemima) as they try to make a more contemporary statement. However, I also believe that it is vital to retain essential recognizable and familiar elements of the original.

Perhaps a different color scheme, lighter background or a slightly more stylized tree might have been considered, instead of such a radically different design that removes all ta'am (flavor, Hebrew/Yiddish) from the well-known logo.

What's your view?


  1. Anonymous6:46 PM

    Schelly (and everyone else),
    I could not have said it better. Add the Ancestry logo beneath it and you have a potted houseplant.

    Chuck Weinstein
    New York

  2. Anonymous10:19 PM

    Here are my comments:

    1. A logo which requires additional explanation to understand its meaning, misses its intended mark.

    2. The money spent on developing the logo would have been better used if it were spent on research opportunities.

    3. The JewishGen community had no part or choice in the decision to adopt the logo. For example, Jewishgenners have an opportunity in the development of the poster selected for Jewish Genealogy month.

  3. Anonymous2:15 AM

    I think the new logo is horrible. How about something that has a more recognizable Jewish Star, some hebrew text, and maintains its roots. For example, 2 minutes worth of editing can yield the following result: http://picasaweb.google.com/imb123/JG?authkey=9622_kWAKdI

    Jewish Gen should host a contest and allow members to vote on the website which design wins.

  4. Anonymous5:41 PM

    I have the feeling this was forced upon them by Ancestry. It looks way too much like Ancestry's hand, plus the explanation sounds as though a non-Jew wrote it. Ancestry seems to feel that Jewish History is ONLY about the Holocaust and that the other 5750 years of Jewish History don't count.

    What other "tricks" does Ancestry have up its sleeve?

  5. Anonymous5:43 PM

    As of 8/25/08 8pm EDT, the vote is now at 68% (337 votes) HORRIBLE. Let's see if that idiotic logo will be changed into something else. I doubt it.

  6. Anonymous8:04 PM

    Old logo I saw a colorful tree - like any genealogy tree. I didn't see anything else you mentioned. I guess I could have seen the 'tree of life' but the tree is used so much in genealogy it didn't occur to me it was anything else. I guess I could have recognized the shapes of the continents, but I didn't.

    New logo I see a very-stylized Star of David, and the words JewishGen. A lot less colorful, and a lot more bland, agreed. But I understand it.

    I like the colors of the old logo better. But I like the message conveyance of the new logo better.

  7. Anonymous8:13 PM

    Personally, I don't think the logo is that bad. A logo is a symbol. It is not the substance. What is important to me is that Jewishgen maintains its role as the premiere place to go for the most extensive information on Jewish genealogy. The logo is a similar style to others on ancestry.com. I can understand that people may not like this new look. But why waste time on something so superficial. Why not instead spend time and energy advocating for more open archives or fundraising to raise necessary dollars to continue translations of vital records etc etc. There are hundreds of projects that need volunteers. Logo-shmogo! Let's get on with it.

  8. Anonymous12:59 PM

    JewishGen Sells Its Birthright

    I feel BETRAYED! Betrayed by the organization in which I took great pride, and betrayed by the museum director whose vision of dollar signs outweighed his sense of duty to Jewish heritage. It is ironic that David Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, has just “sold down the river” the only Jewish Genealogical Heritage website in the world.

    As a multiple donor to the JewishGen website, I must re-visit my past donations and future intentions. I am a frequent user of the JewishGen website, and live on a limited budget. Since I could not afford to donate money, I freely donated my time and expertise to this non-profit organization (JewishGen, Inc.).

    I am concerned that my donations will be mounted on Ancestry.com servers. I am dismayed that my donations may be leased to the Ancestry.com website.

    From the Donor Agreement: “the donor hereby grants to JewishGen a non-exclusive perpetual right to use, publish or distribute the donated material.” There is no language referring to lease of data to any other organization, much less a for-profit organization. And the right of use is granted only to JewishGen, not to any other organization.

    If my donations are part of the leased materials, I shall explore all options to withdraw my donations.

    It is astounding to learn that moneys spent on a vacuous and insipid logo were not better spent on grant proposals to help shore up a sagging JewishGen budget.

    Most of all, it is discouraging to learn that JewishGen did not share it’s financial problems with its numerous supporters and contributors, and made a unilateral decision to sell off its birthright. It is too reminiscent of the investments of European countries (Poland comes to mind) in Jewish heritage, undertaken by non-Jews to collect Jewish shekels.

  9. Anonymous1:17 PM

    IMHO: JewishGen, the brainchild of Susan King, and aided by a small group of committed Jewish
    genealogists, grew exponentially as a grass-roots project. Much of the decision-making authority
    emanated from the subscriber-volunteers who took on leadership roles. Susan successfully built a
    grass-roots movement that empowered volunteers, who made it all possible.

    Today the Museum of Jewish Heritage is in the driver's seat. If they don't do what Susan did in much
    the same way she did it, JewishGen may have a different outcome.
    Bernard Israelite Kouchel
    Founder, Past Prez
    JGS Broward County (Ft.L) Florida

  10. Anonymous3:56 PM

    How do I remove my data from AncestryGen... err I mean JewishGen?

  11. Anonymous4:20 PM

    Dr Marwell posts a letter on the blog defending the logo's creation. His
    "stakeholder" focus group for the new logo? TWELVE people. Hardly a scientific response.

    NOW you can no longer post a message anonymously on the JG blog. Is this a sign of paranoia or censorship or what?

  12. Anonymous9:53 PM

    For the past two years Schelly has produced a Jewish genealogy blog that has covered many areas and reached many researchers.

    The new JewishGen blog is just two months old and has already negatively affected readers.
    I would rather that JewishGen spend their time and effort solely on research capability and leave the PR to Schelly.

  13. Anonymous4:21 PM

    Dear Schelly,

    The former logo had pretty colors and was a perfect accompaniment to the wide subject if genealogy.

    This one, as Chuck says, looks like a potted houseplant, but even a houseplant has more vibrant colors than this does. It looks boring and also like a military symbol, which, after the events of the past 100 years in Jewish history, should be avoided at all costs.

    Best regards,
    Merle Kastner
    Montreal, Canada