As the World Cup approached, Ben Chiaramonte of Pinterest’s brand design team was looking for a way to engage with Pinterest users’ enthusiasm for the sport. A soccer fan himself, Chiaramonte began poking around on various boards, and again and again, a certain set of images came up that users had pinned from a portfolio site called Behance.
The images recreated great moments in soccer history using stark colors, a vintage feel, and simple compositions that focused on the player. Chiaramonte liked them; he especially liked the way they played with media and memory, using features of their designs to mimic the static of old broadcasts, for instance. One image of French footballer Eric Cantona in particular "brought back visceral memories" of watching soccer with his own father at 2 a.m. decades ago, recalls Chiaramonte.
Chiaramonte followed the links and found that a man named Jon Rogers was behind the images. Chiaramonte tracked down Rogers’ phone number and gave him a call. The two got to talking, and it quickly emerged that far from being a professional designer, Rogers was entirely self-taught, and had never practiced design professionally. A former college soccer player whose pro dreams were set aside after an injury, he was now a full-time soccer coach in a small Canadian community called Tsawwassen. Soon, Chiaramonte and Rogers started talking about collaborating.
Chiaramonte wanted to create a Pinterest page that brought together all the best places to watch the World Cup in various countries around the globe. The profile would showcase the power of "Place Pins," a relatively new Pinterest feature that helps pinners make travel plans on a map. Chiaramonte and Rogers worked out an hourly rate for Rogers, who began making cover images for each of the countries featured on the Pinterest profile.
"It was surprising, as I started getting initial drafts from Jon, to see the quality and organization he puts into these pieces," says Chiaramonte. "I work with some phenomenal graphic designers, and seeing Jon’s Photoshop files, our jaws dropped." As the two worked through several different ideas of how to represent the countries involved, Rogers ultimately struck upon the idea of mimicking luggage tags, lending the images an archival quality that squares with his other soccer-themed work.
Thirteen countries are represented in the "Places to watch the World Cup" profile, with 439 locations identified in the U.S. and 53 in Brazil. Over 900 venues in total are represented, and Pinterest has sent out decal stickers, "People love us on Yelp"-style, to many of the locations featured there. Many of those small businesses (largely, but not solely, bars) have in turn affixed those decals and tweeted pictures of them, says Chiaramonte. Pinterest says it’s seeing tens of thousands of page views and pins related to the World Cup, which is helping it evolve its reputation as a site largely for those with a passion for fashion or design. "Sports is something that’s growing rapidly on Pinterest," says Chiaramonte.
The unusual collaboration between Pinterest and an unknown artist whose work was bubbling up on the site reveals the way the company prides itself on celebrating the creativity of those who use the site.