When I was a kid growing up in Sweden, my room was filled with classic BRIO-designed wooden toys. I remember being fascinated with the simple designs, bright colors and mix of abstract geometrical shapes and organic forms. The way they looked and moved invited you in to play with them.

The wooden train system was especially great. You could fit the track pieces together into circles, straightaways, s-curves, whatever you wanted. But you had to be thoughtful about how you created your routes — there was a logic to how the pieces fit together, and you couldn’t force the geometry.

Some twenty years later, my own kids play with these very same relics from my childhood. I can hear them clunking against the wood floor of their room right now. The enduring designs have held up across years and generations of change.

This wonderful self-evident simplicity of BRIO was on my mind last spring, when I first started to focus on a big problem that had developed with the design of Pinterest. Actually, 3 big problems.

Our UI was inconsistent

Our visual system was stale

Our marketing felt disconnected from our product

Over the years, the designs for our website, apps and marketing had all begun to drift, so they no longer felt like they had the same personality. A number of new features had also been added without a clear vision to how they fit into the overall design, so the interface had begun to feel cluttered and hard to understand. There was no visual hierarchy or system to help you understand what was important when you looked at any given page. As a result, all the inspiring ideas people save on Pinterest — by far the most important part of our experience — were getting lost.

As it turns out, it’s damn hard to design consistent and beautiful things at scale.

A matter of principles

The Pinterest experience as a whole was in sore need of simplifying and unifying. And if we were going to do that, we needed to identify some core design principles for ourselves.

I retreated to a dark corner of the Pinterest basement and spent the next few weeks playing with designs. I wasn’t even sure what I was doing at first — basically it was like my own grown-up version of banging blocks together. I started mulling on questions like, Why do people love Pinterest? What makes our product unique? What’s our personality? What are we all about?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the essence of Pinterest is a lot like my family’s beloved collection of BRIO toys. Both of them encourage you to play with different options, connect pieces together and create your own world. You can start with your own goals and projects in mind, or you can get inspired by what someone else is doing and build off that. Jump in and immediately start playing, stop whenever you want, then come back and pick up right where you left off.

Pushing the thinking even further, the essential qualities that Pinterest and BRIO shared bubbled down to 3 simple principles. These described the best qualities of Pinterest today, and laid the foundation for where we wanted to take the product in the future.

FOR MORE DETAILS : Brand Storytelling Video


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