We need the fish

Submitted by Larry on 17 September 2008 - 11:36pm

With the Drupal.org redesign process well under way and moving along at high speed, it's become apparent that some of the details of the "Why" of it all were never quite established. To be honest, I didn't understand the full scope of what "Drupal.org redesign" meant either until recently.

We've been saying for over a year that we need to do something about Drupal.org to help it scale up to a community of 200,000-2,000,000 users, not one of 2,000-20,000 users. That means a great many things; redesigning the information architecture, reworking much of the language for "what is Drupal" (the answer to which has changed in the past 3 years I've been around), and redesigning the visual look and feel.

Why does the look and feel matter? Who cares about the theme and logo? The next wave of users. Drupal is expanding into new markets (as always), and the visual brand and image that will pull in the next 600,000 users is different than the one that brought in the last 300,000.

As the stewards of Drupal.org, the Drupal Association decided that in order to handle those next 600,000 users we need professional help. (OK, some of us already needed that, but that's because we've had our heads in the bowels of the database API for too long.) That's why we brought in Mark Boulton and his team, who has experience in creating IA and visual brands for million-user sites. It's also why the Association told him up front that there were no "sacred cows". Everything was on the table for consideration. If we're going to do it, let's do it right the first time.

Limiting ourselves to "you can change X but not Y" just undermines the whole process, since the visual look and feel needs to be a cohesive whole, designed to work together. The color scheme needs to complement the logo, which needs to complement the page layout, which needs to complement the IA, which needs to complement the color scheme. Anchoring one as immutable only makes the job of refreshing the others harder, and redesigning a site as large and involved as Drupal.org is hard enough as is.

While Leisa is charging ahead on the user research needed for the IA redesign (including a very well-designed card sorting exercise; take it now if you haven't already!), Mark is putting his early sketches out for the community to play with and provide feedback on, starting with the logo. Why the logo? Well, why not the logo? You have to start somewhere. :-)

But wait, the logo? Does that mean killing the loveable blue water droplet? Not at all, because Druplicon is not a logo.

Two key elements of a brand identity, of which a logo is a part, are uniqueness and consistentcy. If the brand is not unique and consistent, then the brand becomes "diluted" (legal/marketing term, no relation to chemistry) and is less effective. That's why companies spend a great deal of effort to keep other companies from immitating their look and feel and product packaging. It's also why the current Bluebeach theme used by Drupal.org has never been released to the public. Having 10,000 sites that all look like Drupal.org only leads to confusion, both in a marketing sense (there is only One True(tm) Drupal.org) and in a usability sense (would the real Drupal.org please stand up?).

So the logo for Drupal.org, along with the rest of the visual design, is something that will have to be at least somewhat guarded and trademarked. If we don't, then much of the effort we go to in order to make Drupal.org new and fresh and unique will be lost.

So what about Druplicon? Quite simply, we don't want Druplicon to be guarded and controlled. Druplicon has always been "owned" by the community. The graphic itself is GPLed. Derivative works are encouraged, and some are quite wacky. The Drupal Dojo included some amazing ninja-themed Druplicon artwork. We want cookies. Most Drupal Camps include a Druplicon-esque graphic. Every DrupalCon, we invite people to submit logo-style images to be the "seal" of that Con, which is how we get wacky-cool images with fish. That even turned into a playful "Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" satire throughout the conference. That's what Druplicon is, and that's exactly what we need him to be. We need the fish!

But Druplicon can't be that playful community spirit as an official logo. Official logos have more rules they have to follow, both marketing-wise and legally. If Druplicon were the Official Logo Of Drupal(tm), it would have to be trademarked. Random fish would be harder to do, as we'd run the risk of it hurting the trademark's standing. We couldn't use it as the default "logo" graphic on new Drupal installs.

No, Druplicon is not a logo. It is a mascot that we've been using as a logo. Think Tux the Linux Penguin. Or think the elePHPant, which is distinct from the actual PHP logo. As a mascot, we can have cookies.

Of course, Drupal.org still needs a logo. In order to avoid conflicting with Druplicon as a graphic Mark has decided, wisely I'd argue, to emphasize the word "Drupal", creating a wordmark; that is, a logo-type-thing that is primarily or exclusively text. That gives Drupal.org a distinct visual indicator that can be extended to sub-sites, provides all those things we need in a logo (distinctiveness and uniqueness), and still doesn't try to pick a fight with the smiling blue drop. That means the two can coexist, one as the logo of the Drupal.org network and one as the mascot of the Drupal community.

Hopefully that provides some background to the approach the Association has asked Mark Boulton to take with the visual part of the Drupal.org redesign, and should be reassuring for those who fear for the future of our blue buddy. Fear not. While he may get some new makeup, he's not going anywhere.

chx (not verified)

18 September 2008 - 9:08am

So I am not going to starve. Fish is yummy.

Great explanation Larry, that really cleared things up for me on the whole design aspect for the new drupal.org. At first I was under the impression that it was just going to be the site itself, didn't realize Drupal was about to get a fancy new logo too.

I love to see the different ways the Drupalicon can be altered to and it makes a great icon for events and the like. Being a GPL image/logo is great too since it can be used just about anywhere. And the fact the new logo will appear the same way every time will definitely help with brand recognition and constancy.

I thought I'd write in case you didn't see his post and offer some
pointers about the "Community Mark" concept for the well-loved Druplicon mark.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, but I think the community mark concept (an idea that I made up, I admit) would be appropriate here.

You can read about where the idea came from on my blog:


Basically the idea is that you actually want people to re-use your mark, but not have to necessarily ask you for permission, or to establish some explicit licensing arrangement in advance of using the mark.

Anyway, I just thought I'd pass along these links to give you an alternative perspective on trademark. Indeed, applying the community mark concept to the Druplicon won't really change anything as it is -- it'll just provide a clearer notion of how and when people can (and should) make use of the mark.


I see two things at work here:

1. You want to allow anyone downloading an official release of your product, following the policies & guidelines of your event, etc. to be able to freely use your mark without registration/cost/etc. If that's all you want you're talking about a certification mark, but if you want to use the mark yourself (which is banned for certification marks) then you'll want to find a way to do this with a standard registered trademark (about $300 in fees if you do it yourself).

2. You want any member of the community to be able to take action against infringers. Or do you? Remember, "take action" for trademarks usually means injunctions and monetary damages. It sounds like you'd be better off spending $100 or so registering an entity that can hold assets like trademarks, domains, etc. and using it to send C&Ds et al. If you get a particularly bad case you can search for pro bono legal (but by that point the community will probably have savaged them out of existance anyway).

In summary I think you can do what you want with traditional trademarks even if the whole process is bundled up and delivered to the community as a "community trademark". I'd be happy to lend a few cycles to such an effort if you're still interested.