Pinterest – some early thoughts

I’ve now had a good dig around and posted some stuff, and, I like it. I’ve now found the boards which look like they come from the partners and GBMs of the prevalent demographic :). That’ll be me then.

So my board is family stuff, old VWs and bikes. How hard will I have to look to find VW camper cufflinks in the Gifts section? Not very is my guess. Yes, mountain-biking veedub driving dad is definitely married to Boden-woman.

More seriously, and from the point of view of my research, this could make a really good collaborative online moodboard.

Empirical research into the effectiveness of moodboards is pretty limited. But there are some studies about, one found:

The sharing of inspirational materials tended to promote fruitful discussions, getting the designers on the same wavelength.

Traditionally, a marketing department would give the designer(s) words and numerical data to work from. Designers tend to be imagers. This indicates that communications to the designer(s) could be enhanced if other stakeholders used images, possibly as a part of mood boards.
(McDonagh & Storer, 2004)

Pinterest’s visual nature is a lot more seductive than more text based social networking sites. One of the most compelling ideas about what is really different about the Interweb is to do with the neuroscience of looking at images on screen vs. reading text. Your brain is not hard-wired to read, you don’t have a reading gene. Words are a technology and each human being who learns to read creates the neural networks to do it from scratch (Wolf, 2008). The ability to see (and to speak, listen, feel, etc) is hard-wired – so you can process sound, sight and touch quicker than text. All of those things will distract you from reading – or be more compelling – at an instinctive level.

So what? Well, when you combine Wolf’s insight with the concept(s) of associative thinking;

When data of any sort are placed in storage, they are filed alphabetically or numerically, and information is found (when it is) by tracing it down from subclass to subclass…  The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association.
(Bush, 1945)

and biassociation (the unconscious coming together of disparate ideas)  (Koestler, 1963) (check out The Act of Creation but good luck finding  copy at a decent price).

In biassociative thinking the ‘reader’ develops new thoughts through the montage of idea A followed by idea B (Miettinen, 2006). The two ideas may be quite strongly linked, or they may have nothing in common except that the user followed a hyperlink to get from one to the other. This is very similar to the concepts of ‘new combinations’ proposed by Schumpeter as one of the main driving forces behind innovation (Schumpeter, 1934). With digital ‘text’, particularly hyperlinked multimedia ‘text’, i.e. images, sounds and videos, the potential for innovative thoughts is immense (Wolf & Barzillai, 2009).

If you buy this association of ideas, then you should see how Pinterest could be a tool which allows individuals or teams to share images to generate associations, and thus ideas and innovation, more easily and readily than texty tools like twitter, blogs and wikis.

For example, I find myself thinking that maybe there is a market in Cath Kidston seat covers for VW Beetles and Campers… Now where did that thought come from?


Bush, V. (1945, July). As We May Think. The Atlantic .

Koestler, A. (1963). The Act of Creation. London: Penguin.

McDonagh, Deana &  Storer, Ian (2004) Mood Boards as a Design Catalyst and Resource: Researching an Under-Researched Area  The Design Journal,  pp. 16-31

Miettinen, R. (2006). The Sources of Novelty: A Cultural and Systemic View of Distributed Creativity. Creativity & Innovation Management , 173-181.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1934). The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry Into Profits, Capital, Interest and the Business Cycle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wolf, M. (2007). Proust and the Squid – the story and science of the reading brain. Cambridge, UK: Icon Books.

Wolf, M., & Barzillai, M. (2009). The Importance of Deep Reading. Educational Leadership , 66 (6), 32-37.