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Thanks to Pinterest, Everyone’s a Designer

Everyone wants to be a designer. It’s a smashing lifestyle: riveting conversations over cups of Four Barrel, lax business hours, and copious amounts of Apple tech-porn. Whether or not that’s entirely true, design thinking has been making waves for a while now and the term “designer” is so broadly used that when I ask self-proclaimed designers what their routines look like I get vastly different answers. All eyes are on us, and not only on the final products we’re creating, but the processes we employ. Ultimately, working efficiently benefits everyone, snarky nod to the now-ubiquitous phenomenon of designers aside. And while Pinterest may seem to serve the snark, what can Pinterest really do for the adoring masses it’s attracted?

As a designer, living in the tech bubble is stimulating but we’re inundated with social networks. Being selective about how we spend our time in social is a growing concern. ZDNet reported that in January of this year, the average Facebook user spent 405 minutes on the site. That’s just on Facebook! And despite my apprehension to jump on yet another social trend, I was on a vision quest and had questions: what’s the value here? What problem does Pinterest solve?

Once inside Pinterest space it was clear that its uses were vast. However, amidst this use spectrum, I quickly realized “Hey, this is very similar to how creatives work!” Pinterest is clearly a wonderful way to organize visuals, but is that its best use? We’re seeing increasingly creative approaches to addressing priorities and needs, sometimes spawned from the mere act of pivoting business goals to accommodate user behavior.

Two notable goal pivots are Facebook and Flickr. Remember when Facebook was just for students? Or did you even know Flickr started out as Game Neverending, an MMO (massively multiplayer online game)? How we know these products today was ultimately defined a response to how people were using them. Facebook was a great way to connect beyond college circles. Game Neverending’s photo component blew up. As a designer, I can’t stop seeing Pintrest as a giant social mood board, but for the designer, there’s a greater purpose to be had.

Compiling samples is traditionally done off-line: filing through magazines, type samples, and Pantone chips, ultimately assembling them on a physical board. Pinterest provides a digital means to collect samples. Curation is paramount in concept development, as well as communicating with other members of your team, and even clients. In a digital landscape that is increasingly collaborative, lean product development is supported by sharing.

A post by the The Daily Egg proposes three ways designers can get the most out of Pinterest: from building personal brand and a portfolio to design inspiration. This idea of building a personal brand is definitely relevant, but can we extend that work of creating a personal brand to actual client work? And even if we can, will Pinterest significantly contribute to the social business landscape?

Pinterest’s founding designer, Sahil Lavingia, writes in a recent article for Fast Company, “Design is shrinking the gap between what a product does and why it exists.” A great way to see what your product does is to watch how it is used. The problem isn’t inspiring people to connect, but rather what problem that connection solves. But more importantly, Pinterest is a true testament to how we work, not in the social sense, but in the visual. What Pinterest allows for visual organization and collaboration in an easy method to incorporate into workflow, making Pinterest a relevant business tool.

New products rule— they’re fun to explore, and they’re even better when you share that experience in the social sphere. But the exploration invariably begs the question: how is this product valuable to me? It’ll be interesting to see how people use Pinterest once the novelty dust has settled and true behavior is analyzed.

My behavior will include sitting with my Four Barrel and pinning for clients. Will you use Pinterest at work?