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In the mood to pin.

Have you ever found yourself at a loss of words when explaining to your designer (or your artsy cousin) what you want your new website / class calendar / logo / treatment room to look like? Or maybe you’ve heard her suggest making the design more spacious, or intricate, or bold but you couldn’t really picture that?

One super simple tool that I’ve found helpful in creating a shared understanding about design direction* is a Pinterest mood board, so I’ll tell you a bit about the process and how you might be able to use it for your next design projects (even the DIY ones).

What is a mood board all about?

Essentially, a mood board is a compilation of visual elements that will inspire your design work. You can throw patterns, colors, textures, fonts, graphics, and photos of anything from Southeast Asian landscapes or Victorian architecture to expressionist art or ripe peaches on it.

These visual elements won’t necessarily end up in your finished design (say, on your website), but they help you get a sense of the look and feel your designer is envisioning and how the different elements (colors, fonts, alignment, imagery etc) might play together.

Designers have been using mood boards since just after the invention of sliced bread. Depending on their time, project, and preference, they have been arranging things on a desk, or putting together collages on paper or digitally (for example in Photoshop or online). When you are working with a professional designer, she will probably have a process for this (and the skills and tools needed), so you can simply go along.

But when you are having a talented friend help you out, Pinterest is a good alternative. It’s not as exact or sophisticated as a Photoshop collage (for instance, you cannot work as much with alignment or size things differently in relation to each other), but it can get you a visual landscape.

And you can easily collaborate on it – maybe go through the pins your designer/friend put together, remove the ones you don’t care for, add your own and ask him to review those, and so forth until you understand each others visions. You can also use it to find inspiration and get clear on your ideas for your DIY design projects.

So, here is how you get started with your own mood board:

Go to Pinterest.

Sign up for a new account (or log in).

Simply start by typing something into the search bar – for example turquoise, or polka dots, or San Francisco street style. Browse the search results to your heart’s content. When you find a pin you like, click on it and then on the red Pin It button. This will bring up a pop up where you can select which board you want it to be added to. If it is your very first pin, it will invite you to create a board. Give your new board a name and go!

Pin away – type in different search terms, look at the other boards to which other users have pinned things you like.

When you have collected enough pins (I’d say at least a dozen), click on your name in the top right corner and select Your Profile & Pins from the drop-down menu. Click on Edit under the mood board. In the pop-up box, you’ll see a field for ‘Who can pin?’ Type in the name or email address of your designer and click invite. Once she accepts, you can both contribute to the board.

Hope this is helpful for you as well, and makes for one or more inspired Sunday mornings of discovery and clarity.

*I haven’t been presenting my design work on my site for a while, but if you are interested, I’d be happy to show you some recent projects or talk about yours.

(Photo by studiohzwei on Flickr.)

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