Through redecorating a house, starting a new band, running an online magazine and cooking dinner, Pinterest has been there for Brooke White, the former “American Idol” star.
“It has changed my creative life,” says White, artist and singer-songwriter. Whether it is sharing photoshoot ideas with her band Jack & White, painting fireplace screens or developing a personal aesthetic, “I use this for everything.”
Pinterest is an online collection board; a visual bookmarking tool that enables users to organize and share everything from classroom ideas to wedding hair tutorials to deep-sea photography. It is taking off with, well, everyone.
“As a kid, I collected things — insects, stamps,” says Ben Silbermann, one of Pinterest’s co-founders. “We thought it’d be cool to create a service about collecting online.”
Silbermann says what sets Pinterest apart from other sites is its ability to share offline interests.
“People use Pinterest for a lot of the most important projects in their life right now that are happening off the computer,” he observes. “To us, that’s really cool. Our goal isn’t to provide an escape from your regular life – it’s actually to inspire you to go do the things that you might’ve been thinking about doing but didn’t necessarily have the energy yet to get done.”
Here’s how it works: users sign up for a Pinterest account. (Users have to request an invitation, but requested invitations are almost always granted). Users then create and collect ‘pins,’ either by uploading new content or linking to a web site or image. ‘Pinners’ can follow other users or boards based on interest or friendship.
The homepage resembles a photo album: ‘pins’ of friends cleanly pasted into a home screen. If you like someone else’s pin, you can repin it to your own board. Basically, it’s a tool to collect ideas and images from the web and keep them easily organized, accessed and shared
After its launch in March 2010, Pinterest snowballed in the blogosphere as people used it to share projects, ideas and inspiration.
“[Pinterest] has changed everything for me as far as cooking and baking goes,” says Kelsey Hansen, a recent college graduate who uses Pinterest to collect for easy recipes. “I have made a lot of things I see on Pinterest — I love it.”
“It’s being used by a lot of creative and crafty people,” says DIY blogger Stacy Risenway. She says people who liked her online, do-it-yourself home decor and craft tutorials shared them on Pinterest. “It was already the number one refer to my site even without me having an account.”
Evidently creativity is contagious. Pinterest’s staff currently does not release user statistics to the public, but Pinterest’s Facebook application has skyrocketed in its number of users over the past few months.
Web developer Ryan Probasco says he’s seen Pinterest’s popularity rise since he went to work for the Palo-Alto-based company last July.
“Cousins I haven’t talked to in years in different parts of the country are emailing me or phone-calling me asking me about [Pinterest],” Probasco says.
Despite its massive popularity, Pinterest is remarkably small-staffed — Probasco is one of only eight employees.
“It’s a different kind of creative outlet that I feel like I’m getting from any other service. And I think that’s reflected in our user base too,” Probasco says.
Pinterest is also increasingly used in professional spheres as teachers, photographers and graphic designers use the site to share ideas, self-promote and find inspiration.
“I would recommend Pinterest to anyone with a visual or design-based business or interest,” says James Hilton, photographer of J. Hilton photography. He says he uses the site for ideas and inspiration, as well as learning about current trends, styles of editing and shots.
“[Pinterest] is currently underused by men,” Hilton says. “I would recommend it to other guys — it would be interesting to see more of the ideas they have and their takes on aesthetics.”
The collaborative nature of Pinterest also lends itself well to business and group work.
“If I’m working with other photographers on the shoot, I could open the board to them and we could use that to visually bounce ideas off each other without having an endless string of emails, calls, messages, etc,” Hilton says. “It makes collaboration on a shoot a lot easier, you instantly know what the other person is thinking and you can see something more cohesive come together.”
Although there are no specific plans for advertising at present, the company is generating interest among Silicon Valley investors, including founders of Yelp, PayPal and EventBrite. The company continues to tweak the site, in addition to developing applications for the iPad and Android. And in the meantime, the curlicued ‘P’ becomes more and more popular as creativity finds a home.
“You realize how innovative and creative and smart and crafty people are,” says Brooke White. “Pinterest really celebrates that — how everyday life is creative.”