Why We Create Inspiration Boards

A lot of people (clients?) think designers turn a switch and crank out a creative solution in between trips to the Keurig. As great as that sounds the truth is creative problem solving, which is what design is, is anything but predictable and on demand. It’s a process that, in all honesty, designers are cycling through all the time; even when they’re not working on a specific project.

Creativity isn’t some bottomless well of rainbows, clay and iPhones. Designers need inspiration to couple with knowledge, skill and experience to create effective design solutions. I’m always looking at the world around me for inspiration. It’s like keeping a knife sharp. Staying inspired to create and solve.

There is a process to design. I like to start with a creative brief which outlines the task at hand, timing and deliverables. Next the team and I identify and research the brand, product and marketplace. At this time we look to trends and inspiration before we put pen to paper. Images, words and materials are arranged artfully on (typically virtual) “boards” that we reference throughout the design process. I liken it to cleansing your palate before a really good meal. Collecting information and then coupling that with trend and inspiration boards gets everyone in the right frame of mind to create a design solution. In fact we often include these boards in our final presentation so everyone understands what inspires the aesthetic and functional design details. It’s more about purposeful fact based design, and less about objective or personal preference. We never just throw stuff up on a wall.

I don’t know if there is a formal definition for any of the boards we create, but here is how I define them and how we use them, along with examples of boards we’ve created for clients.

Trend Board – whenever I travel I’m always looking at stores, buildings, products, displays, events; taking photos with my phone and collecting ideas. See enough of the same things in various places and you’re starting to see trends firsthand. I also look online at store websites to see seasonal collections, trend websites to see what they’re saying the latest trends are; anywhere we can get a pulse on society. And they may not always be images, products or colors. They could be social or shopping trends in which case we’ll capture that with an image of some sort.

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This trend board highlights the popularity of the color indigo that we were seeing at retail in the winter of 2014. Actually indigo is a timeless color choice and always a good option to at least consider for many projects.

Inspiration / Mood – These are the most fun because they can be virtually anything, and while they are somewhat subjective, they help inspire the designer to design. Pinterest and Google searches are great places to find inspirational images. As a designer I look to colors, textures, product design details, fashion, nature, architecture, global influences, essentially anything and everything to generate inspiration boards. These boards inspire and set the tone for the design. A project could have just one or a dozen plus boards, it just depends on the scope and how much reference material we’re drawn to.

Here is a collection of some of our favorite mood boards that we’ve created. Gathering this inspiration for a project is one of our favorite parts of being designers.

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A board with images of people helps set the tone for the project and get us in the right mindset. We can use this as a benchmark when evaluating concepts to see if they evoke these emotions.

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A mixture of materials, product, fashion and historical images makes for a great mood board.

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A board focused on how great black and charcoal make colors pop.

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These simple boards are some of the best in conveying an idea. Note the composition of the board isn’t happenstance either, it helps convey the mood or feel we’re trying to get across.

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We often like to have a theme to a board, such as “line” on this one. The all wood images are purposeful too, as the display in question we knew was going to feature this light wood tone.

Word Cloud – occasionally on larger or deeper projects we’ll collect words and create a word cloud to inspire us and keep us on task. These words help us define the problem and what success looks like. It’s created at the beginning and we use it at the end to weigh our design solutions against – to make sure we are on brand.

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Words can be just as effective in setting the tone for a project. They are also helpful in judging a solution to see if it is on brand and effective.

Material Board – It’s good to have a sense of what materials will work with the brand or product we’re promoting at retail. We’ll also consider the materials of the surrounding space that we may not be able to control. A material board can be “high level” indicating general wood tones, paint colors, and materials such as glass and plastic. Or we might get very specific and call out actual laminate names and numbers or paint specs. The material board is created in concert with trend and inspiration boards; it might even be created after we’ve started the design process.

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A materials board for a snack bar project. It includes possible laminates, graphic colors, paint colors, and inspiration images that drove the color selection.

One last note, sometimes we even combine several of these into one board to help guide us through a project or tier the various concepts we know we’re going to work on. Below is an example of how we combined a word cloud with inspirational images to set the tone for a specific concept that was yet to be designed.

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There you have it, my quick overview of these fun design tools and why we use them. Where do you find inspiration? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks.

-Chris


Chris Weigand is president of Chris Weigand Design, LLC in Peninsula, Ohio. Gathering inspiration is one of his favorite parts of the design process. His love of nature, automobiles, art and architecture all manifest themselves in his designs. If you’d like to find out more about how Chris and his team can help inspire your next amazing design experience, visit the CWD website at http://www.chrisweiganddesign.com and contact him by phone at (330) 858-8926 or email at chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

You can visit the Chris Weigand Design Pinterest page by clicking here to start getting inspired today. Be sure to follow us.

Want Insight Into Your Designer Before You Hire? Try Pinterest.

Chris Weigand Design on Pinterest

Chris Weigand Design on Pinterest

Picking a designer, architect or agency can be daunting. You ask around for references, check out a few websites, review some of their past projects and interview them in person. All of this will likely give you a good feel for how they operate and their approach to your project.

When it comes to their aesthetic sensibilities or design philosophy that may not always be clear as day. While it is good to see how they creatively solved design problems for other clients, there is value in getting a feel for what inspires and drives your potential design team. As I was crafting our company’s Pinterest page, I started thinking: Pinterest is an awesome way to see how we think as designers. It affords a random stranger or potential client to see what we are inspired by, like and appreciate, as professional designers.

Pinterest is an all-encompassing inspiration board for our design team. When working on a project we almost always generate inspiration boards as part of our design research. While these internal boards are specific to the project, they often pull images from Pinterest (and other resources) that reflect who we are as designers; how we aesthetically and functionally will solve the problem at hand.

Here’s why I think a designer or agency’s Pinterest page is a good place to check out when trying to get a sense of their style and design aesthetic / philosophy.

Categorized – When creating boards in Pinterest I try to cover all ways design is inspired. There are categories for retail (our specialty), product, graphic and interior design. Architecture is well represented with its own category as well as home related design and decor. Fashion lives in separate categories for women and men. Rounding out the core boards is one for “Color”, “Nature” and world travel. I also like to include the occasional specialty board like “Global Spice” that is a combination of all of the above, with a focus on eclectic, cultural design. Lastly there are boards for quotes, celebrity / historic photos and “Fun” to give potential clients a feel for how we think beyond design.

Curated – The selection of pins on their Pinterest board usually is a curated. Each pin is there for a reason. Over time the boards and pins will be refined. Personally I browse the internet, other Pinterest boards, and even my own photos. Anything that stands out gets pinned immediately. Then I’ll come back and add or subtract. I’ll also look at the captions and re-word them to state why we like the pin. Curated boards are alive – like a living species that is evolving over time.

Trends – It goes without saying Pinterest is a great source for trends. I don’t know if anyone has studied the site to see if it actually influences or creates trends, but my guess is at the very least some trends start to see the light of day there. Most trend setters – individuals and companies – have a page on the site so it gives us access to a vast array of design trends that we can browse. If I’m seeing the same types of things over and over again, I’ll create a board on our page or for internal purposes.

Design Network – The company your designer keeps is another good indicator of their design approach. Take a look at who your design professional follows, and who follows their boards. I just started our company boards (I’ve had my own personal Pinterest page for a year or two) and we already have a few followers. I’m always excited to see people and companies following our boards, who we hold in high aesthetic esteem. It’s also a great way to discover “pinners” who have a great sense of style that aren’t household names…yet.

Inspiration – Likely the most important point here, you get to see what inspires a design team. What images, quotes, ideas do they gravitate towards. Keep in mind, any design pro worth their consulting fee will arrive at a solution that is appropriate to you and the situation regardless of their personal taste. But I feel as a client you should be interested in what inspires the person or team that you’re entrusting your project to. Seeing that philosophy manifested in a fascinating series of image boards is an awesome reassurance.

With all of this in mind, spend some time exploring your design professional’s Pinterest site. I think you’ll find that you will get a good feel for their design sense. Design is subjective and there are a variety of ways to arrive at really great solutions. If all designers were the same the world would be a very boring place. Pinterest is a great tool to use during your design professional search. Do yourself a favor and go exploring.

Have you used Pinterest when evaluating companies and professionals? 

What else, beyond what I mentioned, do you like about Pinterest?

Share you thoughts in the comments below.

-Chris Weigand, President – Chris Weigand Design, LLC

chris@chrisweiganddesign.com

Chris Weigand Design is a retail design consultancy specializing in helping product brands and independent retailers connect with guests at retail. We create visual merchandising, display, graphic and interior retail design solutions. We also can provide space planning, project management and sourcing services if needed. Check out our Pinterest page at www.pinterest.com/cweiganddesign/ to get a sense of our style and the latest trends we’re seeing. Contact us today if you’d like to discuss your project. We’d love to work with you.

Follow Us On Pinterest

We’ve updated our Pinterest page with new pins in a wide array of categories from Color to Cars, Fashion to Design. Follow us today to see all our latest inspiration and trends.

Chris Weigand Design Pinterest Page (click here)

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Chris Weigand Design is a retail design consultancy, helping clients with display, fixture, packaging, graphic and interior design services. We’re inspired by style, simplicity, function, nature, innovation and creativity. Contact us today so we can help you with your next project.