Public mood boards help people express themselves nonverbally. You know, sort of like mood rings. An outgrowth of our increasingly visual culture and the subsequent growing need for sorting and curation tools, Pinterest is both exciting and disturbing for visual designers. After all, we're used to being the tastemakers. But just like desktop publishing, font menus, and Google images have done before, Pinterest promises to alter the landscape for professional designers.
Frankly, we're not big fans of mood boards as a design tool. They can be helpful as a way to tell stories about what people want or need, but in and of themselves, we feel the artifact of a mood board may be too subjective to actually spin any single mood. An image may speak to you, but to your partner, it may say something else. Yet teams wishing to collaborate, including clients, like mood boards for several reasons: they can spark conversation, they're fun to make, and they feel like progress without actually requiring much of a commitment.
People's desire to collect images coupled with the attraction of creating mood boards has been like rocket fuel for Pinterest, making it the fastest growing social network to date. It's also taken one of the most popular features of Facebook—the ability to add photos with comments—and stripped out the rest. But unlike Facebook, and Flickr before it, Pinterest isolates the visual expression use case even further. Pinterest invites users to not only post recent photos—or all their photos—but rather, only the things they love. Building collections of things you love is at a minimum a more deliberate or careful act. Moreover, it's an expression of one's identity: Here's who I am in pictures.
What's not to like, right? Everyone, including designers and photographers—even if they haven't yet—will embrace this kind of technology, whether it's Pinterest or whatever succeeds it. Now that everyone knows what a font is, everyone has a shot at being a tastemaker. As a colleague of ours recently pointed out, with a generation of people growing up editing short films on their phones, filmmaking is next. With 3D printers becoming more common, so goes product design.
In the mood to create a brochure? How about a mood board or collage? A short film or new product? The means for doing so is already at your clients' fingertips. The difference, of course, between DIY designers or curators or filmmakers and professionals is not mere access to the tools. It has been, and always will be, the hard choices good designers make to separate wheat from chaff. The value a professional designer brings—like professional curators or filmmakers or any professional, really—is in thinking as well as doing. Next-generation tools like Pinterest will encourage us to get better at knowing this difference.