A Pinterest Cheatsheet for Design and Color Fans

Social-media-watchers are ablaze lately with the news: Pinterest appears to be THE next hot tool. While Slate’s Farhad Manjoo gave a not-meant-for-me review of the tool (his article title, “Cupcakes, Boots and Shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal”, says it all), Pinterest’s numbers are indeed exploding. The site hit 10 million monthly unique visitors faster than any site ever, and it’s responsible for more referral-traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined. Clearly those are stats worth paying attention to.

But who should be using Pinterest, and for what exactly? More crucially, how can Pinterest feed the ever-ravenous maw of color- and design fandom, whether you lead an entourage for your own work or dig the design work of others? Your primer has arrived…

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is basically online scrapbooking. It’s an invitation-only network, so to get started just ping someone who’s already on Pinterest (like me, joodstew), and they will invite you in.

Once you’re in, simply install a “Pin it!” bookmarklet in your favorite web browser. From that point on, any time you see a gorgeous photo online, simply click “Pin it!” and a popup window will appear, allowing you to add that photo to one of several photo collections, or “boards”, you maintain on Pinterest.

If you happen to pin an image from a retail site with a price associated with it, your image will also appear in Pinterest’s Gifts section with price listed.

Pinterest operates on a follower-following basis, just like Facebook and Twitter. You can jump-start your Pinterest network by connecting your FB and Twitter usernames. That will populate your Pinterest wall with your friends’ pinned images, and show your pins to people who follow you. From there, the acceleration effect kicks in: you can repin images you like, comment on them, or simply “like” them (which doesn’t commit them to any of your boards – it’s sort of a shopping-cart option for images you may or may want to keep permanently).

To stoke your madly-pretty collecting urge further, download the Pinterest mobile app and pin during idle minutes via your iPhone or Android phone.

What benefits does Pinterest offer, and to whom?

Pinterest scratches the itch of anyone visually minded who wants to collect evocative images for various purposes and share them with likeminded folks. Put in plain English, here are some of Pinterest’s target audiences and motivations:

Brides gather hairstyle images, shop for flowers, dresses, for their big day – everything they shop for. Brides get monster mileage out of Pinterest, and retailers have definitely noticed.

Moms gather DIY project ideas for kids, promising recipes to try later, clothes they’re shopping for, inspirational quotes of all kinds. This group also fuels a lot of retailer site traffic if they ultimately buy the stuff they’ve collected or shared via Pinterest.

From PoodlePoddle

Interior decorators share beautiful home designs, collect furniture and home-interior products they recommend, assemble and share color palettes for every room in the home. Here’s a one-stop place to stoke their clients with pricey, tantalizing ideas that will hopefully turn into paying projects.

Retailers can use Google Analytics and other site-traffic tools to see which sites are sending them the most traffic in any given month. If Product A is submitted by someone to Pinterest, it may well catch fire with the community, getting pinned and repinned. All those collective eyeballs can simply click back to the original retailer’s site to buy – and many do.

From my Should I Buy This? board

Infographic-makers can submit their thought-provoking graphs to Pinterest and watch the referral traffic (hopefully) roll in. However, as the above indicates, Pinterest skews heavily towards affluent adult women – pictures of killer crankshafts or infographics that don’t speak to this demographic may fizzle with this audience fast.

Why should designers and color fans care?

Pinterest sits at a crossroads right now. It captures the DIY-handmade aesthetic (and associated shopping urge) of Etsy. As its collected images diversify from the merely cutesy, it could become a super-charged version of Flickr.

From fffound.com via Thao Huynh

Most crucially for designers, this is an images-driven social community. In other words, it’s built for your kind to positively dominate. While many of the good moms using Pinterest aren’t clued in to the latest design looks, they are a madly appreciative crowd – if you offer up your gorgeous images, you will be met with copious applause. Anyone posting their portfolio to Behance or Core77 should double up with a little Pinterest test. After all, Pinterest users are well-educated, affluent females who likely wield serious hiring power in between Pinterest coffee breaks.

If you’re selling retail designed goods, pin your products so that site traffic flows back to your preferred retail site. That may be your Etsy storefront or a retail partner. But Pinterest users are definitely, permanently in a shopping mode – and they like buying design-driven stuff.

Question Mark via Christi Harris

In addition to yours truly, here are a few Pinterest boards and people to get you started. (Note: you can follow everything a user pins, or just follow one or several of their boards.)

Amy Nalette / Color
Amanda Pearl Brotman / Color
COLOURLovers (and check out the COLOURLovers book Color Inspirations here)
Sight Unseen
Sha Hwang

Happy pinning to you!


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3 thoughts on “A Pinterest Cheatsheet for Design and Color Fans

  1. Jude Stewart

    Amen, anonymous – thanks for sharing this perspective. The debate around Pinterest and the credit issue is still very much raging, and like you we’re following the outcome closely since the stakes are so high for folks who create for a living. I’m personally encouraged that content attribution was a hot topic at last week’s South by Southwest conference (http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP10618). The dynamics are pretty simple: you can only afford to create for a living if you’re paid for your work, whatever the business model ultimately looks like.
    Thanks for speaking up!

  2. anonymous

    What isn’t covered is the artist who makes all or part of their living from their visual artwork. When pins are pinned and repinned again and again the original links are often lost. Then the artist gets no revenue back to their store where the image originated. And having an image plastered across the internet 500,000 times lowers the desirability of the work because too many people have it on their boards. I see very little about this dilemma for artists. It sickens me that it is happening. After forty years of perfecting my skills it’s very disheartening to see how people are voracious for the next visual pretty with little regard for who made it. To pinners credit, I think there is a lot of concern about crediting artists. But what is not understood is how massive distribution lowers the value of the artwork.I’ve seen some people with upwards of three hundred boards who pin and pin with no consideration for copyright. I double check all my pins with a reverse search and if I can’t find the artist I do not pin it. I only pin public domain or creative commons work that allows it.Sorry for the rant. Wait. I’m not sorry for the rant. I’m pretty proud to stand up for artists. Somebody needs to! 

  3. Jude Stewart

    A very interesting wrinkle in the Pinterest story that developed after we posted this article: In an article entitled, How You Could Get Sued Using Pinterest, ReadWriteWeb describes how the Boston Business Journal decided after one day to stop using Pinterest, because the company’s user agreement gives Pinterest the right to sell images pinned via its service. In other words, Pinterest’s user agreement legally shields them from copyright claims – but leaves the pinner high and dry. Read on here:
    It’s worth skimming the comments on this article, too, as at least one lawyer chimes in to indicate that the article’s claims may be overstated. (In typical lawyerly fashion, of course, he also disclaims the heck out of his own contribution to the debate.)
    Copyright law is notoriously thorny, and image-driven sites like Tumblr, Posterous and a boatload of others have been enabling image-swapping at a furious clip with impunity. (Then again, Pinterest may well be the first such tool to break through into mainstream popularity.) As a community of designers Imprint backs the image-makers on this one: give credit wherever possible, and refer your site traffic to the image source that the person who created whatever gorgeousness you’re pinning can profit from his or her work. (Pinterest does function nicely as a referral-traffic engine for retailers or Etsy storefronts.)
    We’ll surely be watching closely to see how Pinterest responds to these claims. I found no mention of it as yet on the Pinterest blog. What do you make of all of this?