Whether it is a new experience for you, or what you wake up to, Pinterest has been coined “brilliant" when understood, yet also it is potentially the land for creative procrastinators to be stuck in a black hole of endless clicking.
The problem is that if you are not careful you become a pintaddict (pinterest - addict), solely due to its lush imagery of everything and anything, especially when you filter out the not so great content. You can find yourself collecting images for hours and quickly forget why you went there in the first place.
So, how can you actually use Pinterest for the good of your business? Especially when it comes to branding… well, it’s honestly pretty simple once you set some boundaries. The key is, first, to understand what you are looking for and why. Branding or anything based with visual arts is completely subjective, the difference between pinterest and other creative resource sites such as dribbble, behance, designspiration is that pinterest does not categorize content, it displays it to you only by archival date, thus you can find an array of styles of design all over without just seeing the trending visuals. The problem with that is that if you are not organized you can have such an eclectic selection process that you still haven’t been successful in filtering your visuals for your requirements.
So lets take a look at the best approaches for applying Pinterest to your branding experience:
- Your Clients User Story
The mature businesses you aim for are essentially stable and safe, and have successfully targeted the client demographic , whether those filters are by age, gender, demographic, culture, ethical, financial bracket, career type, medical status etc. There is no difference if you are a service or a product provider, understanding your clients user story is key. If you do not feel you have reached the point where you can tell who your clients are inside out, then look at your statistics, who you worked with and analyze them and their backgrounds. They say that the best HR question to ask anyone when recruiting is what did you do up to the age of 21, simply because from that answer you can understand their culture, viewpoints, background and perspective on life, which will effect their current surroundings financially, lifestyle, relationship status, career and where they shop for material goods etc. This does not rule out that people change during life, though it is a generalized approach that creates an entry point.
Make a list of the first 3 types of clients you work with, no matter what gender, and list who they are. Keep each row on the same line and then you can compare your user stories from left to right. Now you have a target of your current or ideal client. The next step is important though. Since you have listed who they are, you also now know what they can afford, their preferences, where they spend their time and money. Think of the brands they come in contact with, e.g. your wealthy client may still prefer to pick up clothes in H&M, since your goal is to create a list of brands that they interact with, which now you can search for inspiration tagged to them.
Step 1 - Collect the User Stories of clients and the brands they interact with, and search for visual inspiration linked to those brands.
Step 2 - Organize the content, and select your own Inspiration.
Step 3 -Pair your inspiration with your user stories, and collect the similarities and the differences and refine your content.
Step 4 - Now you should have collected your inspiration that applies to your brand preferences also, yet what your clients are familiar with. This can now help you narrow down the type of brand style they are used to seeing, especially in functionality. E.g. Logo Mark Type, Colors, Layout, Typography Preferences and General Content Style.
After creating user stories, make a short list of tagline words to describe your business and the feelings you want your users/clients to experience when interacting with your brand. Use this list to help you filter your creative inspiration by asking yourself simply, does what you have selected give you any relative feeling towards any of your tag lines. If the answer is NO, do not keep it.
- Understanding Trends
This is the biggest common mistake found when collecting inspiration. When deciding if your business is timeless or based on trends will help you immensely as to how to collect your inspiration. A timeless brand should focus on typography, monograms, icons and symbols, generally color palettes will be muted to monotones, whereas trend brands will focus more on patterns, artwork, illustrations, hand script and script, calligraphy typography as it fits a style trend. Note that there is no right or wrong in following trends, many businesses rely on continually evolving their visual branding to fit a brand that helps keep them current and attract their specific type of client.
- Understand who your designer is.
Knowing the creative heart beat of your designer will help you set expectations. Many creatives can be eclectic but have a specific style that they completely own. When hiring a designer, asking for their portfolio is of course important, though the key is to look at their strengths, e.g. illustration, color work, typography, painting, emulation skills. Branding is heavily based on creative culture, which changes over the years, as to will a creatives vision, though what cannot grow as quickly is their technical ability and overall style. Lets take an example. You specialize in photographing families and kids which you want to capture them in a fantasy dream like brand, selecting a designer who specializes in strong icon monotone branding probably is not your best fit even if they have a brilliant reputation. We have all heard people complaining about others who hired a designer who didn’t understand their goals, able to create what they wanted, or wasn't able to make it happen. Generally this is solely because the designer didn’t have the technical skills to create what was requested, did not understand how difficult a request would be, did not have the right style.
Selecting your designer can be solved by checking the designer's personal Pinterest account of pins and style, or their Instagram. It will depend on which platform they choose, though another option which few use, is if you found a brand that a designer created you like, then simply ask them for you to see the brand's inspiration if they have it, before you pull the trigger on working with them. This simple request is a little bit of work for the designer maybe to pull it together, though it will help you understand their interpretation skills to understand your brand's vision if it is similar to another. This is also vital in making sure that your creation will be unique to you and not an emulation of another brand the designer has previously created. There are only so many ways you can design a serif type mark, with gold foil!
- Defeat your Eclectic Side
Avoiding the black hole of clicks is tough on Pinterest, because there is so much good stuff on there when you find it. The key is to remain focused, and use your tag lines to select your content to correctly curate. Every creative admires and appreciates multiple styles of work. When we filter brand boards, we split the styles from left to right, to show the differences to make sure that we take what is actually good for your business rather than what is your personal taste and preferences. If you do end up getting lost, use 2 folders to split your inspiration from “for branding” vs “awesome” but not applicable.
- Quality not Quantity.
This extends on from defeating your eclectic side. When selecting your inspiration on Pinterest, if you end up having hundreds and hundreds of links, it is time to curate. By filtering out the ones that don’t really fit the vision that gets you clicking, or doesn’t fit the rest of the style you like, remove it. Focusing on type, colors, style, overall tone and feeling (for imagery), style of inspiration (e.g. user story, glamour, hipster, elite lifestyle etc.) are all ways of cutting down your inspiration to be more specific and better quality. The more inspiration you have that is not tailored and curated will confuse the interpretation process of a designer, and you are more likely to have concepts that may be great but not fit you or your brand requirements.
Pinterest is an amazing tool, though knowing exactly how to use it makes it just that, an amazing tool rather than a time suck. Noting that it is also a huge resource that many people use for collecting inspiration for their logo or branding is also a key reason to curate your content to be more targeted to what you actually are excited about to help your brand be more unique than a replica of inspiration online. I hope taking these steps and applying them to your next branding design project will be a useful guide.
Please leave your comments & questions below.