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Mason and Megan Wendell: from indie records to husband-wife branding team

Mason and Megan Wendell, the husband-wife team behind Mount Airy-based Canary Promotion + Design, met at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Seems like ditching the record label for the branding and design firm was the right way to go.

Mason and Megan Wendell, the husband-wife team behind Mount Airy-based Canary Promotion + Design, met at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“We started our own record label (Solarmanite Records) to release our own music and some other artists, and more and more bands started coming to us for advice on everything from how to publicize a release to how to get a barcode,” says Megan, 35, who handles the marketing side of the firm.
So they started a business doing just that outside of New York City, where she was working for a dotcom and Mason was handling Web work on Wall Street. By early 2002, the duo moved to Philadelphia and found a niche in the region’s arts and culture community.
Now they have a heavy hand in the look and feel of the Philly arts scene and open source content management system Drupal is their tool of choice.

“Between our work in PR and marketing and Web design and development for cultural institutions and artists in the Philadelphia area, I feel that we have had an impact on the community and how several organizations tell their stories,” Megan says. Though they both still consider themselves musicians, their business, branding and two-year-old daughter Lyra has managed to take hold.
In addition to the Web work, the couple lists branding development for groups like Girls Rock Philly and Mauckingbird Theatre Company. The team is currently working with the Temple University Theater Department on their new summer repertory theater.

Mason Wendell loves Drupal

But beyond the marketing, it all comes down to Drupal, and that’s where Megan’s husband Mason, with a specialty in Drupal theming, takes hold. Mason oversees another full-time designer and the team works with freelancers — “we’re on the lookout for some good freelance Web designers and Drupal site builders and themers right now,” Megan says.
In recent months, the team has launched major redesigns for the Rosenbach Museum & Library, the Future of Music Coalition, Ars Nova Workshop, Nichole Canuso Dance Company and Drupal development for The Wilma Theater�s new site. They’ve also launched a new site for R5 Productions and a refresh on the site they created for Johnny Brenda�s.
Below, Mason, who is helping to organize Drupaldelphia in May and is heading out next month to DrupalCon in San Francisco to spread the good word.
But before all of that, below, we corner Mason and get him to show off and share the geeky details of three of those bigger projects.


Mason’s Design nerd notes: “Features a custom Javascript menu, lots of tiny examples of progressive enhancement, including css3 shadows and gradients”

Talk to us about the Rosenbach redesign and specific challenges.
We created a full redesign from the ground up for the Rosenbach Museum and Library site… We wanted the design look to acknowledge the museum�s history and collections while presenting it in a fresh way.
The Rosenbach does a lot of different things with their collections, including exhibitions, various types of tours and special programs and events.� It would be too easy to try to showcase it all at once and confuse visitors. Because of their many different events, we had to make a very complex and busy event schedule understandable on one page, while showing the differences between normal events, their annual signature events, and an active series of themed tours.
We decided to make the home page very simple and highlight one major item at a time but drive visitors to delve further into the site. Once you�re into interior pages of the site, we used Drupal to find connections between what you came to visit and other related content, encouraging people to follow the rabbit down the hole.
We built upon Drupal�s taxonomy system to allow site administrators to easily categorize anything they create on the site and use those categories to automatically draw connections between content across the site.
This allows the site to flesh out pages with related content from other sections of the site, which helps visitors find more on the site that interests them. This in turn increases the time visitors spend on the site and increases their level of engagement with the Rosenbach.
The result is a site with content that is much more up to date, because museum staff can now easily update it with the latest news and events, and greatly increased SEO, with traffic up more than 480 percent on average, to-date.


Mason’s design nerd notes: “The swirls and assymetrical crop on the home page image are done automatically within Drupal. NCDC just needs to upload a standard jpg. No photoshop required.”

You must have had different needs and objectives for the Canuso Dance Company.
… We created a website for Nichole’s company with subtle design elements that give a nod to her unique whimsical and dark artistic style, while keeping the images of her dance pieces and the latest news front and center.
Nichole came to us with a site that was hard for her to update and that didn’t fully represent her aesthetic. This project needed to come together with a fairly small budget while still having a good amount of customization.
NCDC has an active performance schedule and typically produces one new original work per year. We’re using a very large feature image on the home page to help showcase what’s next, or the most important thing coming up in the future.
This is handled nearly entirely automatically through a system that will� feature the next upcoming event or production, while also letting the site administrators override that feature when they want to.� We try whenever possible to create simple workflows that only require site owners to create content once and let Drupal do the hard work.


Mason’s design nerd notes: “We needed to integrate with their existing ticketing service provider, so we had to restyle their entire checkout process in an effort to maintain a seemless experience when purchasing tickets.”

Maybe the highest profile of your new sites is for Avenue of the Arts mainstay Wilma Theater. Tell us about the new redesign.

We’ve been working with The Wilma Theater as a PR client for five seasons, so we were excited to develop a new site for them, in collaboration with the theater’s graphic designer.
Canary handled the functionality of the site and created the content management system, which allows staff to make updates quickly and easily � from adding new production videos, to promoting special events, to posting the latest play reviews.
The major attention-grabber is the custom animated image feature on the home page. We used a lot of custom Drupal functionality and javascript to build this section, which allows each slot in that rotator to feature an image, text, or a video. This all comes together to create a highly flexible and useful tool for the Wilma to promote the next show or season, or anything at all.
In the few months that this site has been live it’s already been used in a number of creative configurations, including one where multiple striped images were tiled together to create a continuous banner.
There is also a lot of Drupal customization on the backend to help tie together the volume and breadth of their content. That required a good amount of Administrative UI customization so their staff could easily use the site with very little training. We take a lot of pride in making complex operations simple for both site users and administrators.
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings you an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia�s technology community. See others�here.

Companies: Johnny Brenda’s / Rosenbach Museum and Library

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