In a world where media is constantly evolving, the philosophy that drives a successful brand is timeless. Built well, a brand permeates and influences everything it touches. From your CEO’s PowerPoint to your new employee’s business card, it’s all part of a larger brand ecosystem. A brand needs to be flexible enough to meet your needs, contain enough structure to give form to the overall picture, and evolve with new messaging and marketing challenges.

Our Brick-by-Brick Branding® approach increases adoption rates and decreases implementation time by building tools and templates — from PowerPoint to publications and everything in between. Whether we are creating a brand from scratch or working within an existing brand, [MND] knows how and where to apply pressure to get your brand where it needs to go.

Michelle D. Novak holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and is a former Board Member of the AIGA, NY Chapter. In 1997, she founded her own brand and design firm, [MND], which has created brands and materials for financial services and non-profits, including Barclays, Haverford Trust, Clinton Global Initiative, City Harvest, St. Francis College, The Wendy Williams Show, SEI, and National Genealogical Society (NGS).

A native of Northern New Jersey, Michelle has had a lifelong love of local history and was thrilled when her genealogical research turned up many interesting New Amsterdam and Colonial New Jersey ancestors.

She holds Certificates from the Boston University CE Genealogical Research Program, The National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) at the National Archives, and Practical Genetic Genealogy from the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). She is a member of numerous societies, including APG, DAR, NGS, NEGHS, NNI, and NYG&B.

She currently is a Trustee of the Genealogical Society of Bergen County, NJ, (GSBC) and the Genealogical Society of New Jersey (GSNJ). She is Editor of the GSBC’s quarterly newsletter, The Archivist, Chairs the GSBC’s Social Media Committee, teaches classes, and is involved with numerous website, display, and transcription projects. Of special note, The Archivist was awarded First Place in the 2015 Newsletter competition by the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE). She is also a Trustee of the Genealogical Society of New Jersey where she is Layout Editor of the GSNJ Newsletter and involved with numerous projects.

In 2015 she completed a house-history for her Upper West Side apartment building which celebrated its 100 ‘birthday.’ An exhibit, consisting of more than two dozen framed panels, was hung in the building’s foyer. After the exhibit is finished, the frames will be relocated throughout the building.

When not at her brand design firm’s offices or the library, she spends time at her pottery studio in Queens, NY, where she creates pottery decorated with historic documents and images.

Lecture Topics

In my professional life as a brand developer (26+years) and business owner (19 years), I am very experienced in giving large-scale brand presentations and breaking down complex topics into working methodology. I also teach MS Word and MS PowerPoint and have trained users of all skill levels for private corporations including AIG, Haverford Trust Company, and SEI.

My genealogical research started, as many do today, with clicking leaves on Since then, I have attended numerous talks and conferences, completed advanced certificate programs, and have stepped up on dozens of society and volunteer projects and initiatives, including a project called “Bergen County in Five Objects,” which received a grant from Bergen County, NJ. In both my genealogical editorial positions, my articles focus on explaining complex research and technology issues and breaking them down into manageable, and actionable, components.

The proposed topics are close to my interest, reflective of my expertise, and I am happy to share these areas of personal expertise with the genealogical community.

I love presenting and am a high-energy presenter who is adept at tailoring my talks to the skill level and interests of those who come hear me speak. I am passionate about growing membership and for societies to reinvigorate their mission and members.”

Believe it or not, researching your Revolutionary and Civil War ancestors has just got a lot more interesting. In this talk, we’ll look at some under-used resources at the State level, a whole new collection at the NYPL, and the digital changes happening at NARA—which brings more access at the same time that records are being retired to deep storage.

For good or for bad, Microsoft Word is an indispensable tool. But most of us learned how to use it—only by having to use it. Michelle D. Novak is a brand designer who regularly wrestles with the ins and outs of Word—on both Mac and PC—for client projects. Over the years she’s learned how to control those auto-correct annoyances, build advanced paragraph and character style sheets, use the layout features to the max, build sophisticated templates that help speed her work, and has become a bit of a stickler on using the correct punctuation character. So join us as we explore five tricks of the program that can help you with your every-day work.

There are as many ways to organize genealogical information as ancestors in our family tree—and most find that they improve their methods as their records grow. Michelle D. Novak will explore organizational methods for digitizing, naming, and organizing your paper and digital files, discuss common technology pitfalls to avoid, and present ideas on to help your research live beyond today’s technology. Well draw inspiration from the past, set up common-sense systems, protect against “a matter of when” disasters, and find inspiring ways to share your research with your family.

You’ve clicked leaves. You’ve made discoveries. You’ve hit dead ends. Is that all there is? This talk will introduce new and intermediate family history researchers to easy to reach resources as well as peek into the world of deeper genealogical research. We’ll touch upon working with archives and libraries, meeting the ‘locals’ at your local societies, some practices to organize and stay on top of what you find, ways to share what you find with your family, and how growing a bonsai instead of an oak might save your sanity. Along the way, Novak will offer some great, often humorous, examples from her own research. Get ready for a fast-paced tour through your next steps in your genealogical research!

Explore the resources available, online and off, for getting to know more about your Revolutionary War ancestors—and if they were from New Jersey, you may be in for some extra pleasant surprises. Michelle D. Novak will share her favorite sites and collections for researching records including Fold3/Ancestry, the National Archives, The David Library of the American Revolution, NJ State Archives, and the DAR Library in Washington DC.

Did you ever wonder what’s behind that elusive Civil War index card that you found on Fold3 or Ancestry? What do all those numbers mean? Is that all that’s available? Explore some of the many exciting resources and repositories for getting to know more about your Civil War ancestors. Michelle D. Novak will share her favorite sites and collections for researching records and give you a peek at what the National Archives may have waiting for you. We will also review an exciting new collection of records, the Records of the US Sanitary Commission—a strange name for a vital organization that helped wounded soldiers, those killed in action, soldiers’ families, war-scarred communities, and pensioners, widows, and dependents. For the past 100+ years, these records have been archived at the NYPL’s manuscript division and were only recently name-indexed and opened to the public!
Transcribing from original documents can unlock events, actions, and sentiments that haven’t been expressed since they were first written—and that may shed entirely new light on your ancestors’ lives. But learning a manageable system for your transcription work can make the difference between enjoyment and chaos. In this session Michelle D. Novak will share a large transcription project currently underway, one that started with one NJ Supreme Court case involving an ancestor and that has now grown to dozens of individual and related case files (still with no end in sight). Using only scans saved to PDFs of the documents and MS Word, she has devised a three-step process to staying organized through rounds of transcription and proofreading.
Fresh from the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) at the National Archives, Michelle D. Novak will share the basics of using National Archives (NARA) resources; where and why records are located where they are; and review NARA’s digitization initiatives and partners—and specifically how to find NARA records that have been digitized by Ancestry and Fold3 and are now available online.
In this talk, we’ll look at what everyone is talking about—social media. What are the main uses of a Blog? How does a blog differ from social media and who is using it well? Why should I care about Facebook? What is the difference between types of content? What type of information is best for each platform? How do you cultivate fans? Why the space in-between so muddled? What is a social media plan and why must our society have one? How can you or your society create a clear, engaging, and dynamic social media presence?

  • Differences between a Blog and Social Media—and what personality type fits each best
  • How is the dialog different between the two?
  • How can the two be used in complement?
  • What to avoid in both, professional pitfalls
  • How to measure success
  • What’s a plan for your Social Media—and why you need one TODAY

Few industries have seen as much upheaval as genealogy. What once was a niche hobby is now a multi-billion-dollar business—and it is poised to get much bigger. In its wake, too many Societies have been left scratching their heads about what to do next and how to find their audiences.

The good news is that it’s never been easier to explain what you love to do. All those commercials and TV shows have bought genealogy to millions—and as a community, we need to ride this wave.

This presentation will endeavor to present a personal perspective from the inner workings of Societies. The mental roadblocks, organizational obstacle courses, and “little” thinking that’s holding many Societies back.

Conversely, we’ll look at some examples from Societies and companies that are moving the needle—and how we can hitch onto their momentum.

Your research can come alive with images—but finding, procuring, and preserving images is a daunting prospect for many researchers. In this talk, we’ll look at all three—from the view of a designer, researcher, and photographer, Michelle D. Novak. She will show us ways to find images in collections, how to respect copyrights of those you find, how to organize digital assets, and some tips for protecting the ones in your own collection.