Creating an Inspiration Board for Your Visual Strategy

We've already spent some time diving into what a visual strategy is, the importance of styling your brand and the role that a visual strategy plays in the first part of this little three part series, so now it's time for the next step in the visual strategy development process: exploring the visual side of your brand and building an inspiration board.

This is when it starts to get really fun, as I’m essentially giving you permission to play on Pinterest in an attempt to start collecting visual inspiration that will help you start to define your own visual strategy. Always one of my favourite parts of the process, this is when we start to see themes emerge, details take shape and your vision begin to materialize.

Time to Run Wild on Pinterest

Start a new board for this project, and pin anything that stands out to you, whether it’s a colour palette you’re drawn to, a feeling that an image evokes, or a styling detail that resonates with your brand.

At this beginning stage, it’s important to not get too hung up on pinning the “right” or “perfect” images. We’re really looking to populate the board with as many photos as possible, paying attention to anything that feels right or that we’re drawn to through the filter of our own brand and what it stands for. Ultimately, what we really want is to create is a collection of imagery that evokes the same feelings that we want our brand to evoke. Use your brand tones words as search terms on Pinterest.

Another important thing to keep in mind as you’re going through this step is that the content in the images you’re pinning doesn’t have to be a direct relation to the end result of your project. Inspiration can come in many forms, so think about pulling typography samples from a magazine spread or packaging design, colour inspiration from an interior decor image or a travel shot, and texture references from an outfit detail.

Make Notes and Narrow Down Your Inspiration

Now it’s time to start narrowing down the inspiration you’ve collected by going back through your Pinterest board, reevaluating your pins and making notes on each photo. We want to eliminate any images that don’t feel 100% right, so ask yourself what each image represents for your brand and why you’re drawn to it, eliminating it if it doesn’t make the cut.

For the images that remain, we want to make actual notes in the caption of each photo, noting what you like about it and what it represents in relation to your brand. Again, we’re articulating a language for your brand, so this stage is important in order to capture these thoughts to refer back to and also to communicate them with others who may be involved in some capacity down the line.

After we’ve narrowed down the images, chances are there are going to be some gaps in content, or some new ideas that have been generated, so take some time to do one more pass at finding images that will fill out your board until you feel like it’s at a good place and a well-rounded visual representation of your brand or the specific project you're working on.

Creating Your Final Inspiration Board

Once you’re happy with where your collection of images is, it’s time to build your final board. You have a few options for this, as you can either leave it as a Pinterest board, save each image and build a digital inspiration board with a graphics program of your choice, or print off the images and build a physical inspiration board.

However you choose to build this final collection of images, remember that the idea is that this will serve as a visual reference as you move forward with your project, so make sure it’s kept in a spot where you can easily go back to it in order to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction.

I tend to keep a digital version of my inspiration board on my computer and phone for easy reference when I’m creating content, and I also print off the images and have them hanging in my studio, providing an inspirational corner in my workspace. Sharing little peeks at your inspiration boards is also a great content idea for social media, providing your online community with a glimpse at what you’re working on behind the scenes and further communicating what your brand style is through visuals.

It’s also important to note that this is an ongoing process, and though it’s important to go through it in a more structured way periodically so that you’re able to walk away with this “final” version of your brand inspiration board, you’ll likely also want to continue to add to that original Pinterest board as you come across more imagery that fits with your brand style.

Now that we’ve spent the time creating our own brand inspiration board, we’re ready for the final part of developing a visual strategy, which we’ll be covering next week in the final instalment of this series. We’ll go over how to translate what you’ve discovered in these first two steps into an actionable strategy, how to use your inspiration to define your brand style and story, the various elements of a brand strategy, and where (and how) the details might show up.