art & design

A Designer’s Guide To Pinterest

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Today I thought I would share how I use Pinterest. From reading a few tutorials it appears I don’t use Pinterest the same way as most, or even really the way Pinterest has designed it to be used. I don’t use any of the social networking aspects. I mainly use Pinterest for doing and collating research as part of my design projects. Because Pinterest has become so huge my method could probably be applied to any project you’re working on, not just design.

It’s important to remember you shouldn’t just use Pinterest to do research. Books are an important research tool too. But it is an extremely useful way to collate the research you have done.


When you sign up to Pinterest it will ask you to follow some people and boards. I don’t really follow anyone now because I find their content just clogs up my feed. The thing is a lot of people use Pinterest as a way to enforce their brand, by adding their own content for others to see. I don’t use Pinterest to be inundated with links to blog posts and the best way I found to avoid this is to not follow many people.

I should note that I have tried adding a board with links to my own blog posts on Pinterest however it did nothing for my blog in terms of increased referrals from Pinterest so I deleted it.

If you do want to see something in your feed the best thing I’ve found is to follow some topics. This way Pinterest will show pins in the general categories you might be looking for. Since I mostly use Pinterest for design related research I follow graphic design and branding topics.


Since I used Pinterest to do research for specific projects I find it’s easier to create a new board for each project. I have a few general boards full of imagery I come across which I find interesting but not linked to a project. Some of these pins do occasionally move around depending on projects.

All of my visual research for one project goes into that board. This means that as I go through a project and change what I need to research the contents of that board could change. Take the board for my Film Poster project. It starts out with some very basic research into the brief. At this point I have links to YouTube and links to other outcomes from the same brief. Then I go into examples of typographic film posters. From that I move on to research which will help me in my final outcome. I look at texture and examples of typography.

I don’t organise my boards so each defined area; film posters and typography are separate. Doing this could make other users more interested in following those boards. But gaining followers isn’t my goal with Pinterest. By creating my boards in the way I do, I’m almost creating a mood board with those images. After going back and looking at boards I can see the beginnings of a visual style which will continue on to my final outcome. This isn’t something of use to anyone viewing those boards. But it aids me while going through the design process.

Sometimes when a project is very large I will create separate boards for different parts. However Pinterest has recently made an update where you can create subcategories within boards. If we went back to my Film Poster board again this would mean that I could have my research on gradient posters and ticket stubs all contained within that one project (board) but still separate.


Once I’m done with a project I don’t go back to those boards. I don’t add anything new to them (something Pinterest tells me often that I should do). Sometimes something I’ve pinned may be useful in a new project, but mostly those boards are left alone. This also means I don’t use Pinterest all the time. I will add pins when I’m doing research and then totally forget about it for a month. Many people will say you should be pinning at least three things a day, there are even websites now where you can schedule pins. But I’m not into all that.

I don’t like pins. At all. If I comment on a pin I’m noting something specific about that pin which I want to remember for later. Usually why I like it and think it’s relevant to my research. I don’t use it for finding links, most pins link to some sort of website. I don’t use that aspect at all. To me Pinterest is just for images, I don’t care at all what the pin is linking to.


Despite doing all of this my Pinterest page seems to do rather well from an analytics point of view. My page gets around 5000 views per month however that has gone all the way over 15,000 views. But I don’t use it as a social network. It’s literally just a place for finding and collecting visual research. And that’s great for me, Pinterest makes it really easy to find images. But the way you use it entirely depends on what you want out of it.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did you might like to know I have an updated version with more tips on how to use Pinterest.


  • Magpiemakingdo

    I go through phases with Pinterest. Sometimes I want to delete everything and use it like you do, and then other times I’m all about the social aspects of it and essentially just digitally hoard pins about anything and everything that catches my eye. I wish I would just settle on one use, so that I can actually get some benefit from it either way!

    • Emma

      Yeah it took me a while to figure out how I liked to use Pinterest. I used to have really general lifestyle boards but deleted them because I never went back to them.

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