Shawn Perritt on Reintroducing One of the Pioneers of the Internet to the World

Shawn Perritt Discusses Drupal's New Brand Strategy and Future Direction.
Reintroducing One of the Pioneers of the Internet to the World: Shawn Perritt

Often in life, we find ourselves in need of transformation or, more simply, change. For Drupal, the mighty CMS born out of a dorm room 23 years ago, that crucial makeover period is now. The Drop is still moving, only taking on a new shape, and leading this exciting refresh is Shawn Perritt, the Brand and Creative Director at Acquia. During DrupalCon Portland, Shawn introduced the rebrand, highlighting the collaborative efforts of the Drupal Association Board’s Marketing Working Group and Promote Drupal over the past 12 months to revitalize Drupal’s branding.

The Drupal community is embarking on an exciting new chapter aimed at modernizing its identity while preserving its core values. In a stimulating conversation with Alka Elizabeth, a sub-editor with The DropTimes [TDT], Shawn Perritt delves into the motivations, challenges, and aspirations behind this transformative effort.

Shawn Perritt is a seasoned creative consultant who has steered multiple global rebrands for B2B tech companies, including Acquia. He is also a man who believes that a great brand should drive every aspect of business and culture, providing clear guidance, strategic insight, and clarity of purpose. 

"Shawn is the caped crusader of creativity."

—Justin Baum, Creative Director at Lenovo.

Shawn shares insights into the strategic thinking that shaped the new Drupal brand in this interview. He discusses the impetus for the rebranding, which was driven by the launch of Drupal Starshot and a recognition of the need for a robust marketing strategy alongside technical innovation. Shawn elaborates on the collaborative efforts that brought together community members and external consultants, resulting in a brand identity that resonates with both seasoned Drupal veterans and newcomers.

He also highlights the unique challenges Drupal faces in a competitive landscape dominated by well-established platforms with significant marketing resources. The interview touches on the design thinking behind the modern visual elements of the brand, the importance of inclusivity and accessibility, and the strategic initiatives aimed at increasing awareness and adoption of Drupal.

Join us as Shawn Perritt provides an in-depth look at the future of Drupal’s brand.

TDT [1]: What were the key factors that sparked the decision to refresh the Drupal brand at this particular time? Were there specific challenges or opportunities that prompted this evolution? and what specific goals did you set out to achieve?

Shawn Perritt: With the announcement of project Starshot, it was a great time to take a step back and recognize that marketing is just as important as technical innovation. Therefore, we conducted a brand audit to ensure that the brand identity of Drupal was ready to step into the future. This gave us an opportunity to update Drupal’s design system, so we have a consistent visual language and a modern expression of the brand. We wanted something that appeals to both the passionate Drupal veterans and a rising tide of newcomers. We want people to see Drupal as fresh.

TDT [2]: As a collaborative effort, this rebranding involved contributions from various community members and external consultants. Could you elaborate on your role and the unique perspectives you brought to the table?

Shawn Perritt: Throughout my career, I’ve consulted for many Fortune 100 companies and have led 4 different global rebrands for B2B tech companies, one of which was Acquia. This experience has allowed me to bring a proven and unique framework as a creative consultant for Drupal.

Drupal Rebranding Session at DrupalCon Portland 2024
Drupal Rebranding Session at DrupalCon Portland 2024. Shawn Perritt is speaking. Suzanne Dergacheva and Nikhil Deshpande seated on the stage.

TDT [3]: What were some of the most valuable insights or feedback from the Drupal community that influenced the final branding decisions?

Shawn Perritt: Part of the strategic framework included a thorough brand discovery phase that called upon Drupalists to share their perspectives and stories. This unearthed the ambitious and vibrant personality of the community, which we then incorporated into the brand strategy and, ultimately, the brand expression.

TDT [4]: Drupal is a powerful free and open-source platform, but it competes in a landscape with platforms (often SaaS and other Proprietary platforms) that have significant marketing resources, established brand recognition, and dedicated sales teams. Could you paint a picture of the unique challenges Drupal faces in this competitive environment?

Shawn Perritt: Drupal’s real success is about the desire that people have to contribute to the project. Drupalists are obsessed with their craft and genuinely enjoy being part of this tribe. The DrupalCon conferences are a testament to that. They feel like authentic reunions. Drupal is also at an inflection point in terms of deciding how to separate the marketer from the developer. Marketers don’t want to work solely for the cause in the same way that developers do. How will Drupal approach the need to invest in marketing resources? That’s the million-dollar question.

New Drupal Branding

TDT [5]: WordPress, while also Free and open source, has become the dominant CMS with a massive user base and extensive ecosystem. How do you approach differentiating Drupal from platforms like WordPress, particularly in terms of market perception and user adoption, when they may seem like easier or more accessible options to some?

Shawn Perritt: People need to understand that Drupal is battle-tested. It pre-dates not only WordPress but also Facebook and Firefox. WordPress started out as a blogging platform. So it built a high level of brand awareness among consumers first. Therefore, many people know the name WordPress because of this. If Drupal is able to implement the new brand and design an effective go-to-market strategy, it will have a real competitive impact. This kind of disruption can be the ultimate differentiator, reintroducing one of the pioneers of the Internet to the world.

TDT [6]: Drupal's commitment to the open web is a fundamental aspect of its identity. How does the new brand strategy tangibly express this value, both visually and through messaging? Can you provide specific examples of how you're showcasing the benefits of an open web to potential users who may not be familiar with its significance?

Shawn Perritt: For 23 years, the Drupal community has been the architect and defender of the open web. The new brand strategy has trumpeted this cause with the rallying cry, “Drupal was born to be open.” It intends to welcome newcomers and old friends to the open web with a visual language that people desire to represent. It’s a celebration of everyone coming together, diving into the brand and swimming around.

Brand Attributes

TDT [7]: The visual aspects of the new brand, including the logo, color palette, and design elements, are striking and modern. Could you explain the design thinking process behind these choices and how they represent the essence of Drupal?

Shawn Perritt: When Drupal was born, it was the spirit of the Internet, the purest form of what communication was supposed to be. We wanted our brand elements to harken back to when the Internet was new, fresh, and fun but stylized everything in a way that feels modern and ownable.

TDT [8]: As a global community, Drupal caters to diverse audiences with varying needs and preferences. How have you ensured that the new branding resonates across different cultures and languages?

Shawn Perritt: Our photography guidelines intend to be representative of the diverse community that contributes to Drupal. In addition, the Drupal color palette was carefully selected to create a wide variety of diverse options for usage on screen and in print. We’ve also designed this color system with accessibility in mind.

New Drupal Brand

TDT [9]: With Drupal being both a CMS and a DXP, how do you plan to reflect this dual identity in the content on Drupal.org and the marketing toolkit?

Shawn Perritt: The identity of a brand goes deeper than these acronyms. Drupal’s identity is really about the true meaning of being open. Openness is a precious resource that has to be farmed and cultivated by people who care. There’s a reason that the Internet started as open. It was about sharing stories, and that’s how communities and digital freedom were born. This essence needs to come forward in the content on Drupal.org and within the marketing tool kit itself. The personality and tone can then be applied to various personas with clarity built around the positioning of CMS and DXP.

TDT [10]: Educational outreach seems to be a significant focus for the Drupal community. Could you elaborate on the specific ways you are engaging students, new developers, agencies, and internal advocates to raise awareness and increase adoption of Drupal?

Shawn Perritt: Drupal now has a marketing committee and one of the areas of focus that I’ve recommended is to get this brand in the hands of Higher Ed Universities. What if design and developer students could work together to create real web pages for Drupal.org as part of their curriculum? This could be a great way to raise brand awareness and give bright young minds a chance to test-drive Drupal.

New Drupal Brand

TDT [11]: Coming out of DrupalCon Portland, there's a palpable sense of motivation and excitement about the new Drupal brand. During the presentation, the importance of amplifying the brand using open marketing tactics and inviting marketers and end users to contribute was emphasized. Can you elaborate on the specific types of contributions you are looking for from volunteers? How can both small and large contributions make an impact, and what are the immediate priorities for those who want to get involved?

Shawn Perritt: I see this as a call to arms for ad agencies. We want to reintroduce Drupal to the world and make sure that Drupal’s name appears in more RFPs. For example, if four ad agencies agree to help update 25 pages each on the drupal.org website, that will yield 100 new page designs. From there, the momentum will continue. Remember, this is one of the most powerful CMSs in the world. One of the most accessible CMSs in the world. And a CMS with potentially the most integrations in the world. What’s missing is the application of this new modernized brand.

TDT [12]: What immediate impacts have you observed since the introduction of the new brand? Have there been any notable reactions from the community or other stakeholders?

Shawn Perritt: The community seems to have really embraced the new branding. You might think that a traditional developer audience would be skeptical when it comes to marketing or new branding. That was not the case when we rolled out the new brand onstage at DrupalCon. It was met with a wave of positivity, and there was a 30-minute Q&A session that was genuinely filled with excitement.

Shawn Perritt presenting the Drupal brand refresh at the DrupalCon Portland 2024
Shawn Perritt presenting the Drupal brand refresh at the DrupalCon Portland 2024

TDT [13]: Looking ahead, what are the key priorities and milestones for the brand evolution? How do you envision the Drupal brand evolving in the years to come to continue meeting the needs of its diverse and growing community?

Shawn Perritt: Now, it’s about turning theory into reality. We have a robust new set of brand guidelines housed on a portal on the Acquia DAM for all of the community to utilize. I expect to see refreshing new presentation designs throughout the community at both a global and local level. Additionally, I look forward to hearing more from the Drupal Association's marketing committee on how they plan to implement this new brand across drupal.org. This is a defining moment.

Disclaimer: The information provided about the interviewee has been gathered from publicly available resources. The responsibility for the responses shared in the interview solely rests with the featured individual.

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