Imagine walking into Home Depot and totally winging it. You bring various cans of paint, slabs of tile and random lighting fixtures home to your partner, who kindly entrusted you with the very serious job of designing the home you’ll spend years in. Your partner looks at you, wide-eyed and helpless, as they realize you went in with absolutely no game plan, no vision and no inspiration. If this sounds like the kind of nightmare you wake up from in the middle of the night, it’s probably because you’re a Type A planner. The type of person who meticulously repins images to their “Home Living” board for months before a big move. Like most of us, you rely on inspiration in order to build something beautiful. When you’re launching a new website (or rebranding an existing one), there’s always a moment right in the beginning when you look at a blank screen and wonder what on Earth you’re going to create. This is the moment when having a brand inspiration board comes in handy.
Unfortunately, not all of us can afford Adobe Illustrator, which is what many designers recommend to build an inspirational frame of reference. Speaking of Adobe, according to its 2015 “State of Content” report, 38 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive. That is way too much traffic to leave up to chance. Fortunately, you don’t actually need any fancy services or bundles to make an inspiration board for a beautiful website. You just need these three resources.
Pinterest is a visual search engine, which is why so many of us rely on it to create visions of what we want our home, wedding, closet, or even life, to look like. It works the same way for brands. When starting a new project, create a shared Pinterest board, and ask your client to pin all the images that catches their attention. Trust me – almost no one ever minds spending a few hours on Pinterest, especially when it makes them feel productive. Keep in mind that the client isn’t the the designer in the group. If they seem caught up in creating a cohesive look, communicate that the most useful way to contribute is to pin every image that catches their attention. This will give you the most legroom to work with and the clearest idea of how their mind operates visually. As the board grows, pay attention to any common themes, colors and imagery that appear. Here’s the vision board I created while working on my own site. As that right brain of your’s begins to see patterns, it’s time to move on to the next tool.
Coolors is the design geek’s dream. Not only is it beautiful, but its intuitive design makes it easy to design drool-worthy color palettes in seconds. As you begin to notice recurring themes or colors, play with one color until it reflects the hue that you’re looking for. Then click the “lock” button. In the above palette, I started with the color #EEEEEE to establish a neutral base. From there, just tap the spacebar to generate new palettes that incorporate the color you’ve selected. As colors appear that make your eyeballs sing, lock them down. Eventually you should end up with a visually appealing color scheme and a definable look and feel.
Once your images and color scheme are defined, the real fun begins. Head over to Canva and select the poster template from the main navigation. This size will give you plenty of room to work with, allowing you to create a stunning design. In the Elements’ tab, take a look through the Grids’ section until you find one that has enough squares for what you’re looking to create. Remember to leave space for images and colors from your palette. All that’s left now is to fill it in. While you’re arranging and rearranging elements, think of this quote, which, ironically, tends to pop up when you save images on Canva.
“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” – Milton Glaser
Your final product should be something both you and your client respond “WOW!” to. If you’re working on your own site, show it to a friend with good taste, and see what they think. Keep at it until you get the wow-factor – adjusting the color palette as necessary until you have a beautiful brand inspiration board to reference. If you’re working for yourself, or handling every aspect of a client’s digital presence, be sure to keep this board handy throughout your website, social media profiles and content. With a strong, visually-focused brand, readers should be able to see a post on Facebook, Instagram or your blog, and immediately know it came from your brand. Having a frame of reference is an undeniable asset.
To recap, here are the steps to making a brand inspiration board:
- Create a Pinterest board and have your client pin everything that catches their eye. Take note of any recurring colors or themes.
- Select a base color, and use Coolors to create a custom color palette around it. As you run into colors you like, lock them down for safe-keeping.
- In Canva, select the poster canvas, and use the Grids element to arrange photos from your board and the colors you’ve selected into a cohesive design.
- Keep this design handy throughout your entire process.