Drupal & Design Thinking

I have been very fortunate to find and get involved with the web design community since attending SXSW in 2006, but more recently I have been meeting a lot of wonderful folks in the Drupal community. In 2009 I started working at Phase2 Technology, an Alexandria Virginia web agency that specializes in open source development and is known for working with Drupal. Phase2 is passionate about the community; being involved and giving back is an integral part of our daily work lives. Community involvement is something I value a lot, so working with a group of people who honestly share that vision is a real treat. The Drupal community has greeted me with open arms and I am starting to understand the challenges they have when promoting visual design amongst those looking to use the platform.


At Phase2 most of the sites that I design are built on Drupal because it is a good fit for the types of clients that we have. I have designed websites for WordPress, Expression Engine, and other platforms and have found that my design process is CMS or platform agnostic. There may be a different set of design challenges, but how you solve those challenges is relatively similar. It is all about problem solving… which is what designers do. So why is there this weird stigma that Drupal sucks for designers? Why aren’t there tons of killer site designs powered by Drupal?

What I have found is that Drupal is much a group of people as it is a platform and the community is hungry to learn about design. What is fascinating about open source is that the end product is a direct result of the interests and efforts of those involved, so if design is something Drupal needs to beef up on… then more designers need to get involved! Over the past few years this effort has been really ramping up with the help of a lot of super talented and motivated folks. It isn’t something that is going to happen overnight but in the last year it has come a long way.

Drupal has two big conferences a year to help educate and promote involvement in the community. I attended DrupalCon San Francisco a little over a year ago and there was an interest in design but nothing like the full track of design related programming that they had this year at DrupalCon Chicago. Even the conference collateral was badass this year. In Chicago I was honored to be on a panel about Design Thinking with some of the most talented movers and shakers in the community. Steve Fisher organized it and he invited me, Jared Ponchot, and Jen Simmons. If you don’t know these folks, you should get to know them. All three are doing great things.


I am a big fan of Steve Fisher. Organized, passionate and Canadian, he is a PRO speaker and designer. He has put together a podcast called “Using Blue”, the first (to my knowledge) that is specific to design and Drupal. He was nice enough to chat with me about Design Thinking. I can’t really watch myself on video.. not yet. So I have no idea how insightful you will find the conversation, but if you want to, I invite you to check it out.

Samantha Warren on Design Thinking from Steve Fisher on Vimeo.

Both the Design Thinking and my Design Process session from DrupalCon Chicago are online, feel free to check them out!