Inspiration Boards: The What and the Why!

Fashion inspires hair, it is that simple. As a hair stylist, participating in runway shows and photo shoots are important ways I develop ideas and return to the salon with trends I can translate in to new styles for my clients. I’ve learned the hard way, however, that these projects aren’t something to be approached lightly.

At the end of December, after I’ve visited with family and presents are unwrapped and put away, the gears start turning like clockwork and ideas flood forth for the NorthAmericanHairstylingAwards (NAHA). NAHA is the one shoot I’m involved in producing every year and my final shots are due in early February. This doesn’t leave a lot of time to produce a shoot while maintaining a day job and if I don’t organize my ideas I’m sure to not be happy with the results. Over the years I’ve found that an inspiration board, or story board, is the best way to accomplish this task.

Getting your ideas out of your head and recorded in some way is extremely important for well organized project. If you’re, like me, you have hundreds of great ideas are floating around that want to come out and play – too many ideas for one project!

The first thing I like to do is start with a very short story, or blurb. Getting these words on paper before I start sorting through pictures and notes I’ve saved over the years gives me a reference point to return to as I make my selections. For NAHA 2011 I have written the following:

I sat at some unknown sub-basement dive in the South Village sipping a very dry scotch, neat, when the girls walked in. They’re a tad out of place for this watering hole with their hipster-esque dresses. I generally hovered around this place, drink in one hand and cigarette in the other – a common person more interested in my buzz than creating a buzz – before returning home, the solitary studio painter. Tonight, however, the erotic functions of the three were like fireworks to my morose mood. With a little coaxing and a cheap fifth of whisky in hand we traveled the half block to my fourth level walk up. Their outfits wouldn’t do, but my ex-cohabitant had left, or forgotten, a portion of her morbidly grey almost fashion collection. These speed-queens were more than willing to shed their shells, barely dressing as they frolicked amongst themselves in my burnt out abode. I started, painting their hair – trying to keep up.

With words in hand I start sorting through photos and notes. I keep most of my ideas online, so I like to build my inspiration board in an application like Photoshop, but you could just as easily use a piece of poster board and some tape. This is a process and it’s less about how you do it and more about the fact that you are doing it.

For this project it made sense to start with four basic categories:

●      Inspirational Images – in my case this includes photos of color trends, vintage ads, photo shoots done by others and works of art – all meant to set the mood and push you forward.

●      Images and ideas that focus your inspiration – unlike the first set of images, these are meant to focus your thought process. Since primarily this is a shoot about hair I’ve pulled images that focus on just that.

●      Wardrobe – In this project I’ll be pulling the wardrobe for the shoot so I’ve included images that help me with that as well.

●      Models – finally as I start to select the models I post shots of them as well. This helps make sure the models fit the project and each other.

Now that you have a preliminary inspiration board you can start working with the other individuals involved on the project. For me this involves:

●      Communicating my shoot ideas and mood to the photographer,

●      Describing my theme to the make up artist,

●      Helping the models understand their role and the mood of the shots

It’s important to realize that as you start to organize with your team in the days leading up to the shoot that your inspiration board will change. Working with other people gives you the amazing opportunity of creative collaboration. Keep your ideas and board fluid, but don’t let it stray off course. In this case my focus, wardrobe and model images and ideas might change, but my original inspiration almost never varies.

Last but not least, make sure your board is ever present to guide you – especially on the final day of the project. In the case of the photo shoot, by the final day I may know the board like the back of my hand, but the hectic pace and rush of the day can destroy a project. The inspiration board is my happy place when I need that reminder of what is to be accomplished.

There really are no rules to creating an inspiration board other than making sure your ideas stay on point. Putting all of them together in one place helps you pick the best ideas from the rest. Whatever your project – be it a product display, a painting, a party or runway show – see if an inspiration board helps the outcome.


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