Archive for June, 2008

A Brief History of the Genlighten Logo — Part 2

Friday, June 27th, 2008

In a previous post, I talked about our early logo brainstorming and the process that led to our original “candle flame” logo. This post will focus on our current logo, how it came about, and the message we hope it sends to our potential users.

In March of this year, I was introduced to Kevin Menzie and his team at Slice of Lime in Boulder Colorado. [I believe either Brad Feld or TechStars referred me to them.] We were looking to take the look and feel of the Genlighten site in a new direction, and they quickly proved equal to the task.

In the early comps they showed us, they offered a simple update to our brown-on-brown flame, recast in the red and gold color scheme they were using for the new homepage.
Slice of Lime early version
This had a warm and inviting feel that we really liked. But as we pondered what tagline should go with it, we saw for the first time that we had never made a connection in our own minds between what the symbol represented and what we were trying to accomplish with the site [an important insight!] Were we “a light in the midst of the darkness” of genealogical research? Would we “light a fire” under new genealogical success? Somehow, the candle flame just wasn’t working for us.

So began a new round of introspection, eventually resulting in the decision to let Kevin and his team tackle a completely new logo design.

As we’d experienced with LogoWorks, Kevin came back with a wide range of design “families”. They incorporated several intriguing new themes: a magnifying glass, and… trees and leaves! My initial reaction was “Oh no! Not trees and leaves! … We’ll look like the twenty-something tree-themed genealogy sites already out there…” (This seems an even more relevant concern in light of a certain lawsuit.)
Flaming Leaf

But Kevin won me over by explaining his initial reaction to our name and how that had inspired his logo ideas. To him, “Genlighten” had an almost Zen-oriented feel. He pictured a path towards genealogical enlightenment, perhaps resulting in document-obtaining bliss. (I’m embellishing his description here a bit.) Though we hadn’t ever really looked at Genlighten in quite that way, it now had a powerful appeal.

In that spirit, I found myself drawn to one of Kevin’s designs that seemed to connote a family tree “enlightened” by the insights that only source documents could offer. The tree seemed unlike any other I’d encountered on a genealogy website, with unique leaves and an almost “burning bush” ambiance.
Slice of Lime Illuminated Tree logo

Our informal “friends and family” focus group gave it the thumbs up. All that was left was to craft an appropriate tagline to replace the generic “genealogy research” text in the version above. I’ll talk about the tagline in a later post.

A Brief History of the Genlighten Logo — Part 1

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I really like our new logo: the colors, the typeface, the modest-yet-bold “genealogy documented” tagline… and especially the stylized illuminated tree. Which is kinda funny, since when we first started out, the last thing I wanted was “another tree logo”.

Not long after we registered the Genlighten domain name, Early genlighten logowe started brainstorming logo ideas. Most were some form of the name itself, in lower case, with a change in the text color to try to emphasize the word “enlighten” hiding inside “genlighten”. Next to the name, or perhaps in place of one of its letters, we tried placing different sources of light: a lighthouse, a candle, even an old oil lamp (we thought that gave the logo a sort of early 1800′s ambience.) The image above is an example of our early efforts. Notice the lack of any sort of tree!

With this basic concept in mind, we approached Logoworks and began their multi-round process. They churned out a surprisingly rich set of lamp-centered concepts, several of which we found quite appealing.
cool lamp logoa classy lamp versionslightly old-german

But they also offered an option which was clearly different from what we had in mind, but that somehow sent the clear message “if you’re smart, you’ll choose this one.” After some minor tweaking to put the candle flame atop the ‘l’ in genlighten (with the l representing a candle) the version below became our initial official logo: the one that went on business cards, flyers, banners, and the early alpha versions of the site.
logoworks flame

The twin shades of brown helped guide the pronunciation: gen-’light-en — with the emphasis on ‘light’. They also sent a message of constancy, dependability and permanence — or at least that’s what the Logoworks employee told me on the phone as we talked from a hotel somewhere in Wyoming in the midst of a mid-summer road trip to deliver my daughter back to college. In a subsequent post, I’ll try to describe how we came to replace that “permanent” logo with something substantially different.

Startup Names — How We Came Up with “Genlighten”

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Yesterday’s post on our one-year domain registration anniversary got me reminiscing about the night we decided on the name “Genlighten” for our Etsy-for-genealogy-lookups startup. So I went looking on my hard drive for evidence of the other names we’d also considered.

I found only two:

  • N-Gen [as in, n generations -- implying we'd help you trace your family back as many generations as you wanted, rather than the oft-mentioned four] and
  • Thrubrick [as in, we'd help you get through your genealogy brick walls.]

“N-Gen” and the variants I came up with weren’t available as a domain name, and my family members quickly shot down Thrubrick as obscure and tongue-twisting (just try saying it three times fast!), not to mention just plain not-a-good-idea.

As I recall what happened next, I walked back down the hall to our bedroom/”corner office” and reflected that what we were trying to do was simply create a new way to “shed light” on the genealogical process. It was a small step from there to “Enlightened Genealogy Research” and a few moments later to “Genlighten” itself. My wife quickly approved… the domain was available… and there you have it.

Evan Paull wrote recently on GigaOm that names of successful startups tend to be a compounds of:

  1. a word that literally relates to what the company does
  2. a word that evokes a feeling about the company’s product.

For me, “Gen” is what we do (genealogy lookups) and “enlighten[ed]” is how we’d like our customers to feel as a result of using our service. That’s a big [and scary] objective to strive for!

The Path to Genlighten

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

It’s been exactly one year today since we registered the domain name At that point, the choice was a rushed attempt to find a name that seemed halfway meaningful, had some personality, and was available as a domain. Unfortunately, we forgot the part about “rolls off the tongue easily”…

The site’s now far enough along and we’ve connected with enough potential users that’s it’s way past time to open a dialog with the online genealogy community — thus the rationale for the launch of this blog. We’re thrilled for the chance to hear from you regarding your hopes for Genlighten and how you’d like it to evolve. And we hope to engage a wider audience by relating our own experiences with family history research, its joys and frustrations. For now, though, thanks for making it all worthwhile by taking an interest in our modest venture.