Pinterest, the modern mood board


As a graphic artist I have worked in print shops, sign shops and screen printing shops among others. Today I work as an illustrator in my own shop as a tattoo artist. The one thing all these jobs have in common is the need to translate a customer's idea into a tangible visual product. The problem is that most of my customers either do not have the visual language to explain their concept or may not have a clear concept of what they want to begin with.

The opposing problem to this is when I try to explain a concept for an illustration or layout and the customer has no visualization skills. There is nothing more frustrating than having to draw something out only to have the customer say, "it's not quite what I had in mind," or worse still, "I don't like it," with no further explanation. As I often point out, I can draw a hundred versions of something and still not give the customer what they want. Unless, that is, I have some inclination of what the customer is looking for.

That's where mood boards come into play.

A mood board is simply a collection of clippings from other sources that come close to what a customer has in mind. Back in my old graphic design days they would be ads torn out of magazines or newspapers that resemble what a client is looking for. With today's digital age, these clippings come from the internet. I have my customers print out images that exemplify what they are looking for and ask them to make notes about what in particular they like about that image. As I collect all their samples it allows me to get a better visual to what they are looking for; style, colors, compositions, etc. For my customers it gives them tools to better explain what they want.

For the photographer, the principal use of a mood board is the same; it allows the photographer, designer, art director and client to all be on the same page. if you are not working for a client, mood boards can help with inspiration, allowing you to explore your abilities with techniques, a particular look or a specific concept.

Now that you understand what a mood board is I want to share with you how Pinterest can be used as your personal mood board utility. First I have to admit that I thought Pinterest was a useless utility when it was originally introduced. My feeling was, "who cares what people find interesting on the internet." It wasn't until I saw another photographer using this platform as a mood board that my light bulb went off over my head. I now realize the potential for multiple mood boards that can instantly be shared with project collaborators.

The way Pinterest works is, after you have created a profile, you create a collection (folder, board, gallery) where images you want to save get placed into. The collection is given a name and a description for easy identification and you set the sharing parameter (public, private). As you surf the internet, any time you come across an image that inspires you simply tag it and add it to your collection. There are several add-ons for your browsers that add a Pinterest button to your menu bar, making adding images to a collection easier. Public boards are viewable by anyone on the internet while private boards are viewable only by you and those you wish to collaborate with.

Even if you are not collaborating with others, mood boards that serve as inspiration to your own photography have its merits. It allows you to do research and make notations on images you find online. These collections are then used to guide you in your own work to produce something unique.

For some examples of how I am using Pinterest check out My Photo Group on Pinterest. If you haven't explored mood boards or Pinterest, I suggest giving this a try. It just may change the way you work.

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