Thursday, January 26, 2012

How I'm Using Pinterest for Work and a word for designers and pinners

Ah, the red P for Pinterest. Are you using it?  As the use of this relatively new photo pinboard website started growing, there were more and more tweets in my Twitter stream extolling the virtues of the site, with comments like "I'm addicted to..." and lamentations on the hours spent "pinning" away. I was skeptical. Were people just mindlessly gathering photographic images and for what purpose besides just looking at them? Hmm. Sometimes I'm an early adopter and at other times I decide something is a cult and I don't want to just run along with the herd. Eventually, there was so much chatter and I'd received a fair share of emails about it from various SM connections that I figured it was time to check it out. I tried to create an account, only to be told I would be placed on a waiting list or would need to be invited. What??? How is it everyone was doing it, but it was invite only??? Irritation ensued, followed by an indignant tweet, which of course brought me several invitations. I still don't understand the need to be invited and waiting lists, other than to create buzz, which is probably all that is.

Anyway, I got in and started following people I knew there. And suddenly my inbox was flooded with notifications about who was following me, who pinned what, etc. I did not sign up for more mail, I get enough as it is! I didn't realize the social media nature of the beast, but luckily found that all notifications can be turned off (whew). I played around with it a bit, saw what others were pinning and basically didn't get too excited over it. Until I figured how to make it work for me.

For the return of Downton Abbey on PBS, I decided to resurrect my long time series of "Get that Look" posts. Historically, these involved a lot of searching and saving images and links to resources. With Pinterest, I can simply create a specific pin "board" for the post I am working on and throughout the week as I ran across items that were right for the post, I could pin them to the board and forget about them. The pins link back to the source, which is the first time I've been easily able to track sources outside of copy them into the post directly. What a time saver!

From the Pinterest board, I can easily drag the images off the screen into a document (Apple's Pages program) to create a simple design board on the topic, which I put in my post as seen here. Since all the Pinterest images link back to their sources, I can simply direct readers to the pins and from there the sources and photo credits. Please note that I do watermark my board with my website (bottom right) so it always comes back to me in some way.

I write several articles a month freelance for the website Many of my pieces are called "Designer's Picks" where I select a bunch of products within a theme and describe them.  Pinterest has revolutionized this process for me. An article published today illustrates this well. The above image is my board specific to the recent assignment of "Discreet, foldaway desks for small spaces". I first searched within Pinterest for products, following links back to the seller or manufacturer and repinned to my board. I then, over the course of several days, searched the web and pinned items I liked. Since all pins go back to the page where the item was pinned from, I can easily transfer the links to the Word doc I write the article in. I may end up pinning more items than make the article, but I end up with a selection to choose the best from.  You can click the image below to see the article in full.

I've also found Pinterest incredibly useful when working with clients. I am currently working with a woman who is planning the opening of a yarn shop. She came to me to help create a space that is not the typical old musty yarn shop that is common in our area.  I gathered ideas for her to view and comment on in two different boards. One was on an Industrial Chic theme and the other a softer more White Washed look that will still clean and simple. Both can be achieved on a tight budget with some elbow grease, which is what she was looking for. As we emailed back and forth, I pinned new images and rearranged things until we came settled on the Industrial Chic/Natural look with splashes of a warm orange. I then created a new board, seen above, that pulled in all the ideas into this one design inspiration board. It includes images of other offices or stores, plus products. I also uploaded my digital renderings of her space so she had one place to go to see everything. This has really fast tracked the design process - both on the inspiration end and on the communications end. Of course, since she's still not "announced" the shop opening, I am not sharing names or locations, but it begins the pre-publicity for her as well as promotes my work as a designer. I was able to do both by including this in my recent newsletter to my mailing list as well.

I created a branded digital design board which went to the client and also showcased in my recent newsletter. Since many on my mailing list are local, this sets the stage for her store opening announcement. Cross promotion is the name of the game here. Of course, all of this was done with permission from my client and I would never have shared so much of the concept without that permission. I'd love for Pinterest to offer the option of a "private" board, even if this were a pay feature. I've been creating these on my own website for clients for several years, but it's time consuming to create and update. I'd pay to have the ease of Pinterest in a private setting. As of yet, this is not a feature, but I would bet that it will happen in the future.

 As a designer, I want to get my name and work out in front of as many people as I can - after all, why else do we as business professionals put so much time and effort into social media? I wondered if other designers pinned their own portfolio images into their boards on Pinterest and tweeted the question out. I received only one response (hello, I have nearly 3,800 followers and 1 response?) from someone who said they were not a designer, but would certainly do it if they were. I decided that it made sense to post my own images and get them out in the viral world. But of course, they need to come back to me as well by virtue of viewers knowing whose work is in the image. I decided to re-upload the images in my portfolio with my website watermarked in the bottom corner and then pinned the images into a board called "Linda Merrill Portfolio".

A nice feature of Pinterest is that the source website with a direct link is attached to each pin and travels with the image as long as it's repinned within Pinterest. You will see in the image above the link near the top: (my original business name that sticks to me like glue!) and will go directly to my website page featuring the image. You will also see my URL in the bottom right hand corner of the image. If this image ends up on a blog or some other site outside of Pinterest and the user doesn't properly link or credit the image, it's still branded as mine. Although it's not shown above, I also list my photographer Michael J. Lee with a link to his website in the description field. These links become live automatically which is a nice feature.

 You will notice that the two images above are of the same kitchen, but staged differently. The color rendering is a bit different too. (On a side note, this is a good lesson about viewing colors on a computer - same kitchen, same photographer, slightly different color result). The second image was shot for a feature story in Country Living Magazine, which you will notice is the link listed in the above. I went back and forth about watermarking this image as well, but since it's not mine, it's technically the magazine's (where I pinned it from) and Michael's, I decided not to. You will also notice where I credit Michael in the notes section. In less than a day, all but two of my images have been pinned onto other boards. I've also seen a significant upswing in hits to my website from Pinterest. Pretty good early results I'd say.

I know this has been a long post, but I do want to say something about the nature of photo rights and the attribution of work shown in interiors photos. Once upon a time, a photographer was hired to shoot a designer's work. Photographers retained the rights to the images and licensed them to the designer or publication for their use. These image licenses could be simple or complex, involve cash payments, or not. But it was fairly straight forward. With the advent and growth of the internet, the ability for any of us to swipe an image to use in any way we want to is made easy. But just because it's easy doesn't make it right. Designer's work hard and would like to receive proper credit for work well done. Photographer's work hard and would also like to be credited, if not paid a license fee, for their work.  But for the most part, neither party has much power over the swipe and distribute nature of websites, blogs, Tumblr and yes, even Pinterest. It's too prolific. But that said, law suits, especially in the form of a class action suit, is not out of the question and large websites such as Pinterest and others will need to be working on how to limit the uncredited distribution of images.

This was apparently an issue that came up at the recent Alt Summit that I picked on up in a tweet from Grace Bonney.

In the meantime, if you're a blogger and use images that are not your own, please make sure to credit the image as best as you can WITH A LINK back to your source. It's being noted that many bloggers are merely saying "Via Pinterest" with or without a link and if there is a link, it's to Pinterest's main page, not the source page of the image. This is wrong and unfair to the person responsible for the work you must admire enough to use on your site. This holds true if you use images from a magazine or other online source. It's not enough to say "House Beautiful", you should be linking directly to the page on the HB site where the image came from. You should also be listing the designer and photographer where you can. But at minimum, a link should be made to the page, because that information will be there for anyone who wants to find it. And if you're pinning to Pinterest, try to drill down to find the source of the image and pin the image from its source. This means if you see a beautiful image on a blog and it references Traditional Home or Architectural Digest with a link, then click on that link and pin the image from the original source. It usually only takes a few extra seconds, but that simple act shows your support of the people behind the image.

If you're a designer or architect, you should absolutely be watermarking your portfolio images. Why let your work float around the internet without attribution? It may happen anyway, but there is no need to help the matter along. Watermarking an image simply means that you add type to the image with your name, or URL or some identifying information. It can be discreet so as not to interfere with the image, but it's important nonetheless. You can do this using Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or the latest version of Preview on Macintosh computers. You can also use Picnik which is currently a free web based program. You upload your image, add the text and save back to your computer. Picnik is part of Google and will become part of their account based family of offerings within a few months. But for now it's free.  My photographer Michael just wrote an excellent post about the subject of pinning and watermarking as well, which you can read here.

And finally (I know, finally!) here is a link to an article on which lists the brands who are very adept at harnessing the power of Pinterest to further their marketing goals, including High Point Market, Matchbook Magazine and Mod Cloth.

A final word about using Pinterest. If you're on a diet, do not go on after 9PM in the evenings. More often than not, your screen will be flooded with delicious looking images of sweet and savory delights. Torture.

Sorry for the long post!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks! Subscribe to ::Surroundings::

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