How does Drupal talk? (on brand, personality, tone of voice)

So, there we were, just starting to work through the workflow for Drupal – we got as far as the login screen when we thought ‘let’s write something nice on this screen’, and, pen poised… we were stumped.

We wanted to write something friendly like Moo would. Or Innocent drinks. We wanted to make it visually interesting like Vimeo do. Or Picnik. But… is that Drupal?

We realised we have no idea what Drupal’s personality is. And it would make our lives much easier, and help make a much better User Experience, if we can work out what it is.

Isn’t this completely touchy-feely and a waste of time?

Well no. One way or another, words will go on screens and a personality will emerge. Or, worse still, a few personalities, or a few dozen personalities. Much better that we spend a little time and give a little thought and see what we can come up with.

So, here’s where you come in:

The Personality Exercise:

Take a minute to v quickly answer the following five questions. Go with your gut reaction, don’t over think it. Try not to read everyone elses’ responses first. Don’t worry about being silly! (This is a kind of silly exercise after all, albeit useful)

* If Drupal was an animal, what would it be?
* If Drupal was a celebrity, who would it be?
* If Drupal was a car, what would it be?
* If Drupal was a profession/career what would it be?

So your answers might look something like this:

Drupal would be a squirrel/Paris Hilton/SS Commodore Ute/Teacher*

Get to it – what do you reckon?

*the opinions expressed above are not those of the author. Except for the SS Commodore one.

138 thoughts on “How does Drupal talk? (on brand, personality, tone of voice)”

  1. I love this discussion–

    Animal: Cheetah — sleek, fast, focused, confident.

    Celebrity: Meryl Streep I’ll go with those who said Streep for her uncanny ability to adapt and disappear into any role, no matter how simple or complex, and deliver flawlessly with apparent ease.

    Car: Honda Civic. I think people who are saying “Jetta” are also on the right track. Drupal should aspire to be something practical, dependable- “reliable transportation”. A car for everyone. Not too flashy. Not too expensive. But a Civic can easily be configured by anyone who wants to trick it out with aftermarket enhancements, Drupal can do more than just get you from A to B. Civics are also very efficient and streamlined for maximum MPG– there’s even a hybrid version.

    Profession: Your Favorite Childhood Teacher: The Drupal UI experience has to represent the precision and clarity of your favorite school teacher– the one who not only helped you understand the basics of how the world works, but got you excited enough to explore unlocking its potential on your own. The teacher whose kindness, calmness, confidence, and patience you’ll remember your whole life.

    I hope basic HTML tags are on in these comments…


  2. Let me add one thought to the above– what ever Drupal is, it needs to be friendly. Not chummy, but a trusted, dependable friend who knows what they’re talking about and uses language that is terse, informal, helpful, and above all, clear.

    Things I was just thinking about– How would Apple brand Drupal? Also, what does the word “Drupal” connote? The first time I heard reference to Drupal, for whatever reason, it made me think of India- the word Drupal seemed to fit in, linguistically, with “Rupee”, “Taj Mahal”, “Dhrupa”, etc.

    The name has nothing to do with India, but I wonder what other people first thought of when they hear the word “Drupal”… and whether there’s any value to exploring the name and what it connotes…?


  3. Drupal appears to be a talking friendly water droplet (who is not a native speaker of your native language.)

    Moving to 7 I think Drupal needs to be a talking friendly water droplet who you trust, because what he says makes sense and is easy to understand.

  4. Well, as the point of this exercise is to think out-of-the-box I’m going to bend the rules a bit and give an answer that could sort of fit in any of the categories…

    I’ve always thought that Drupal should be like Hal, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey (minus trying to kill the user of course).

    So there you go, problem solved!

    Once we get Vertice to code up an AI for Drupal we can reduce the UI to a shiny red glowing orb.

  5. It needs to have 2 personalities.

    1: a chameleon. I don’t want Drupal’s brand on the sites I build (e.g. a message about blue smurf or bike sheds when a search returns no results). String Overrides module is kind of essential.

    2: that aside:
    faithful dog/George Alagiah/VW Golf/nurse

  6. animal -> An ant colony (not a single ant). Because drupal is about co-ordination between 1000’s of people around the globe, because you see a “simple hole” in the ground but there are kilometres of “complex tunnels” under the surface, because it is community-oriented.

    celebrity -> Dr.Jeckill and Mr.Hide (both of them, depending if you test a finished/polished site at the end or if you approach it as a developer/webmaster without previous knowledge)

    car -> A custom car, born from the union of a smart and a Jeep (smart, efficient and environmental friendly as… a smart, versatile and all-purpose as a jeep)

    profession/career -> butler (the gentleman of a gentleman) 🙂

  7. If Drupal was an animal, what would it be?
    At present, a Lion. Wild and a bit rough, but with patience can be tamed.

    If Drupal was a celebrity, who would it be?
    Sandra Bullock – sexy, multi-talented and hard working.

    If Drupal was a car, what would it be?
    Any 4×4 gas guzzler – Gets the job done, but not efficient.

    If Drupal was a profession/career what would it be?
    Coal miner – real hard worker but not glamorous

  8. Giant Squid: elusive, massive, has a hand for everything.

    Seriously? Drupal is devoid of all appeal other than function, the opposite of celebrity.

    Titanic: huge, opulent, brilliantly engineered, but unresponsive and surrounded by a fatal hubris.

    BSD Sys Admin: careful, stable, prickly

  9. Drupal is currently not a car, but a tank. Ideally Drupal would be a Ford Falcon – a blue one; Nice to drive, easy, fast, powerful, all the bells and whistes. It makes the driver feel safe, and in control whilst taking her passengers for a ride. It also reminds the driver that there is a lot of power under the hood if they want to rev it, and are prepared to handle the power.

  10. After reading some of the other responses, I think there is some confusion. I think most people are answering about Drupal’s CURRENT personality.

    Shouldn’t we be saying what we thinkg Drupal’s personality should be, ideally? (Which is probably not it’s current one)

  11. Well, as of now, Drupal is a tarsier, John Hodgman, a very old and dusty Mercedes, and a grumpy geek.

    The problem is that I like tarsiers, John Hodgman, and grumpy geeks…

    As for cars: the mere fact that you thought that asking what a car Drupal would be is telling, me lads.

    If it was a means of transport, right now Drupal is a crane: essential, functional, and beautiful in its own way, but hardly glamorous. I’d like it to be a sailing boat: small, not quick, not easy to manouvre, you need a bit of a passion for it, but elegant and sleek and eco-friendly, with all those memories of people who did it all by hand for a living and hated it and loved it.

    The kind of thing that when you sit on it at the end of a day at anchor in some little bay, after you have spent ten hours trimming your sails and burning the tip of your nose to reach the same place that all those other motorboats have gained in two hours of diesel-fumed-filled noise, and you look around, you think to yourself, yeah, but I had more fun, and if a storm comes, they’re stuck here while I can haul a storm jig and go.

  12. * If Drupal was an animal, what would it be?
    I wasn’t sure if I should go with chameleon or dolphin on this one:
    – Chameleon, because there’s a bunch of drupal sites out there of which no one would guess they’re drupal
    – Dolphin, because it’s slick, intelligent, aquadynamic, agile, fast and (most of all) blue

    so I’d say some sort of freakish, chameleon-like dolphin

    * If Drupal was a celebrity, who would it be?
    Sean Connery: Been around for a while, but still standing strong… never a scandal, no rehab, nothing… just great movies 🙂

    * If Drupal was a car, what would it be?
    If it has to be a car, I’d say a Ferrari F50, but the size of a smart. If it doesn’t really have to be a car, I’d say a motorcycle like R1, easy to part and fast as hell, since it packs more horse power than kilograms

    * If Drupal was a profession/career what would it be?
    drupal is like that guy from the show “The Pretender” (I know… old)
    if drupal needs to be a handyman, it’ll be the best handyman u’ve ever had, if it needs to be a mailman, it’ll be the best mailman u ever had

  13. Asking those question is a great idea. Personally I think Drupal needs a great language-Switcher to make it easy for a Site-Admin to choose the language he likes.

    But the question I really wanted to ask is: How do you plot the results of this quick survey? I really hope you share the interpretation as well…

  14. Animal: Gorilla – powerful, hard to understand at first

    Car: It would be an engine block and frame with an exterior to be supplied by the buyer. It would come with no manual.

    Celebrity: Felicia Day – geeky and not super well-known

    Career: General contractor – can get stuff done.

  15. Animal: umm… maybe the Blob or Kirby (becomes what he eats 😉

    Currently, dr. Greg House. Knows his stuff REALLY well, loves corner cases and doing new things, achieves miracles on a daily basis, cannot be bothered to do the basics (write your own forum privileges)

  16. Animal: umm… maybe the Blob or Kirby (becomes what he eats 😉

    Celebrity: House, MD. Knows his stuff really well, loves corner cases and doing new things, achieves miracles on a daily basis, cannot be bothered to do the basics (write your own damn forum privileges), wears ugly t-shirts in an environment where smart clothes and labcoats are the norm, his patients prefer to deal with his simpler but more presentable employees even if it kills them, he uses horribly technical language and calls you and idiot for not knowing what it means, requires a team of patient professionals to handle him.

    Car: A Lego technic car.

    Career: Civil engineer / furniture designer.

  17. * If Drupal was an animal, what would it be?
    A dog (human’s best friend, reliable, eager to please), as long is it doesn’t bark!

    * If Drupal was a celebrity, who would it be?
    Dr. Phil (he’ll point you to the right direction and tells you when you’re wrong, but hey… it’s your life… If you choose to do it differently, just do!)

    * If Drupal was a car, what would it be?
    A Tesla Roadster! Looking smart, fast and cheap on energy, ready for the future!

    * If Drupal was a profession/career what would it be?
    A butler! Discreet and unobtrusive, but helpful to the ones they serve.

  18. These are answered more from the idea of what I would like Drupal to be, than what it is now, of course.

    * If Drupal was an animal, what would it be?
    A human. Its versatility allows it to thrive in many different environments and adapt quickly to new ones or changes in the existing environment.

    * If Drupal was a celebrity, who would it be?
    Leonard Cohen. No idea why.

    * If Drupal was a car, what would it be?
    A BMW. Form follows function, but that doesn’t mean it has to be ugly. (Is that what BMW’s say? I don’t know anything about cars)

    * If Drupal was a profession/career what would it be?
    Really good IT staff. If they do their job, you won’t even know they exist.

    PS. Could you tweak the font-size/line-height on the comment box? The large letters, small line-height and short lines make it really difficult to type proper sentences. It may be costing you feedback.

  19. * If Drupal was an animal, what would it be?
    A horse – if you know how to ride it, it will get you anywhere.

    * If Drupal was a celebrity, who would it be?
    Q – can do everything, just ask the right questions.

    * If Drupal was a car, what would it be?
    No, cannot think of any. Cars are not flexible enough.

    * If Drupal was a profession/career what would it be?
    The unknow admin – nobody knows what this guy is really doing – but if he is off for a day, nothing works. Even the company CEO visits him from time to time to have a chat and bring him some presents.

  20. Drupal is…

    a burro: unglamorous and sometimes slow, but can subsist on very poor fodder

    orson welles: brilliant and never quite living up to his current potential or early promise.

    a citroen 2cv6 with a Porsche flat six bolted into it: Real impressive at a conceptual level and when going in a straight line. But don’t expect to drive it in the city or carry passengers.

    an installation artist: difficult to apprehend, and occasionally ending up nonsense once you “get” it.

  21. Cougar/Johnny Depp/A Big Van/Social Worker

    Cougar – It’s attracting all the young talent.

    Johnny Depp – Really great at some roles, but willing to try even the crazy stuff.

    A Big Van – It can be creepy sometimes, but you can spruce it up with lights, running boards, tinted windows, and switches, and a horn that plays the Duke’s of Hazzard theme song so that it’s just the way you like it.

    Social Worker – Well… that should be obvious!!!

  22. * If Drupal was an animal, what would it be?
    He would be a robotic and acrobatic monkey with inspector gadget like devices – something for every occasion.

    * If Drupal was a celebrity, who would it be?
    no comment

    * If Drupal was a car, what would it be?
    Bus, probably on tour, havin a party …

    * If Drupal was a profession/career what would it be?
    A teacher of community organizing.

  23. cat (strong personality, doesn’t let to be pushed around, you need to get to know its quirks if you want to build a relationship, but the reward is high once you get there)

    Woody Allen (confused and clumsy but highly abstract)

    no comment on the car

    an accountant (does tedious work, needs to be reliable and error proof)

  24. Been reading Mark’s “Design in Open Source” article and shaking my head at the developers and designers arguing with one another. It made me realize that Drupal’s greatest problem is that it has no unifying identity or “heart” which clarifies what it is and unifies people around it, no matter their background. Searching online, I was surprised to find a link back to the D7 UX site with a post asking this very question here.

    The problem that I’m seeing here is that while you are going in the right direction, I think you’re asking the wrong question or maybe asking the question incorrectly. You said it yourselves, you’re trying to find the personality or characteristics of Drupal. The easiest way I’ve found to do this with my clients is to list character traits as though Drupal was a real person (i.e. friendly, inviting, sharing).

    Yet the answers people gave to your questions don’t really help in the slightest, because saying an actor’s name means nothing, unless I explain “why” I chose that actor, particularly in relation to their characteristics. And yes, you did ask people to explain their choices but look at how few even did this.

    The sad thing at this point in time is that Drupal’s current symbolism of what it represents is “community plumbing”. The ongoing joke for those who have tried to use it and gave up in frustration is that, yes, it’s “community plumbing” because it’s messy, a pain to use and work within, often requiring specialized knowledge to really utilize (i.e. hire a plumber to fix the pipes). Yet Drupal, as an open source platform, should really represent something wonderful, an experience of ease and empowerment that people want to share with their friends the first time they use it. Yet that’s obviously not the case.

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