How We Design: Using Pinterest for Mood Boards


As the main creative at our little agency, it's my job to make sure we're continuing to push the creative envelope for our clients. Over the years I've developed a creative process that we use at Glean to help craft our client's branding and messaging. This is the first part of a series I will be doing about our process and how we actually create things for the people we serve. It's important to note that I'm not necessarily posting these concepts in order - they're coming out as I feel compelled to write about them. So onward.

Mood Boards

Mood boarding is a key part of the design process for us. For every project we start with a client kick-off meeting, where we set goals, help our client to build user profiles, and review their current branding. The key focus for us when we come back to the office is to review the user profiles. It's from these profiles we can start to craft the design direction of our client's website.

Back in the day I would cut out images from magazines, swatches of fabric, photos we've found, and various typography samples I thought would match the feel I wanted to go for. But now the internet makes a mood board is a much easier process.

We are currently using Pinterest for crafting a mood board for our creative projects, like this:

Pinterest Mood Board
Pinterest Mood Board

Where to Start?

The first element of our mood boards is usually a color palette. They come from various sources: sometimes our clients have strict guidelines on how their brand can be used, while others are open to using new colors.

Usually we start by browsing the Pantone website, focusing on their fashion style forecasts for the forthcoming period. You can find Spring's 2015 colors here.

Pantone Spring 2015
Pantone Spring 2015

We'll cover our color discovery process in more depth later, but for now let's assume we have a few colors we are working with. We then move on to our exploratory phase. This is where we dive into Pinterest and start generating ideas.

A first principle: nothing is sacred.

In the creative process you have to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to say: "This might not be the best idea, what do you think?" Having conversations around your ideas is hard, but if you want your work to succeed, nothing can be sacred. You have to be able to throw things out, change your plan, and admit you may have been wrong. That way, your ideas are tested and get stronger.

On our client profile sheets we have a section for keywords to describe our end users. It's from these keywords we start to focus our Pinterest searches.

We spend a lot of time throwing things into our Pinterest boards. Clothing, typography, photos - basically anything we think might make a good design concept. Personally, I focus a lot on fashion items. I think fashion drives a lot of design in our culture, and we can reflect that. Also fashion gives beautiful textures and patterns that I always want to use in my designs.

The crucial thing is to look in places that inspire you. There are a lot of different sources for creative inspiration, so explore those areas.

Refine and Refocus

After we have our boards full of ideas, we bring our team back together to talk through the concepts. This is where we start to focus on about 10 concepts or pieces that we can use to shape a design decision. Our goal here is to work it down to something that truly represents our client, their goals, and appeals to their end users.

A few questions we ask ourselves during this process:

  • If we were to remove this idea, could we still appeal to our end user?
  • How does this concept reflect the client's goals?
  • Would we be able to incorporate this style without breaking their brand style guides?
  • Is our goal to extend an existing brand, or to create something completely new?
  • How would the client feel if this was the only style we showed them?
  • Are we trying to be too safe with this idea?
  • Does this style push any boundaries, if so which ones? Good or Bad?

While we serve clients who may not work in the creative industry, every client needs branding and design that expresses their identity and reaches their audience in a way that audience will respond to. Mood boards are part of our commitment to that - they help us develop ideas and get in touch with our creativity in a way that allows us to share that creativity with the client. They're a way of recording our inspiration and sharing it with people who may not be used to dealing with design, and they're one of the most important tools we use. Hope this post helps you to make the most of mood boards too - we love them.