You’ve probably heard the saying “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” It’s a classic, but hammers can be used for all kinds of things besides driving nails. They can split wood, tear down drywall, break up ice, or straighten metal. With ingenuity, a basic tool can serve many purposes.
Consider the humble lightbox. It’s a simple feature that provides easy access to stored visual assets and makes it easy to quickly view images, especially in sequence. Lightbox functions appear in several different applications from digital asset management (DAM) systems to blogging platforms like WordPress.
Thinking outside the lightbox opens new possibilities for creatives. Use them for generating, developing and communicating new ideas. Below are five versatile ways to use a tool many marketers take for granted.
Focused brainstorming and ideation
Building lightboxes is a solid way to conduct visual explorations for projects. Many creatives love using sites like Pinterest for this. But like all well-designed social media platforms, Pinterest is addictive.
Lightboxes have the advantage of being disconnected from distracting social inputs, while remaining shareable with those who need to collaborate. It’s fine to start with Pinterest or a Google image search, but once you have 10 or so good pieces of inspiration, move them to a lightbox.
From there, you can keep track of inspiring ideas without being tempted to keep pinning until 2am (Pinterest addicts will understand). By curating a less distracting idea palette, your brain’s neural pathways can start making connections between perception and imagination.
Private and shared workspaces
If a project is in early stages, sharing inspiration with stakeholders can help a project find direction early. Compare what’s in the lightbox against the creative brief before any heavy design begins. If the goal is to present multiple directions to a client, use several unique lightboxes.
Using a lightbox to make decisions can save an enormous amount of time. Add or remove images until there’s consensus on direction. This is equivalent to measuring twice and cutting once in the wood-working world.
When the mood board is moody enough, it’s time to get to work. If you’re using a platform with an integration to Adobe, like Webdam, you can access lightboxes in your workspace. Pull in elements from other lightboxes and libraries as needed without interrupting workflow.
If a project changes hands, it’s helpful to have these inspiration lightboxes as a guide. They’ll help the new designer understand the direction and have a stronger idea of what expectations are. Having the ideas locked down and organized will allow them to spend more time in design rather than research.
When several assets are meant to be used in the same campaign, place them in lightboxes when finalized. This is an easy way to share them and it will help marketing understand how they live together in whatever environment they’re intended for. Having assets organized like this can also speed up the process of putting together marketing project post-mortems.
Lightboxes for mobile photography
Lightboxes are excellent for collaborating with photographers. Especially at live events. When it’s time to upload photos, place them into specific event categories. For example, if a sports team like the Orlando Magic wanted to organize photos by game, they could set up lightboxes before the event and have all the content captured there.
This can help social media teams get content out the door quickly. Photographs could even be organized by quarter for live-blogging or tweeting. The Webdam mobile app puts even more power into the hands of marketing teams. Users are able to upload images directly from their phones into lightboxes.
Another potential use for mobile lightboxes is for trend hunting in the real world. Creatives could snap pictures of interesting outfits, textures on walls or natural spaces and load them directly into lightboxes for designers. This gives creatives an opportunity to start with original sources rather than what is already floating around the internet, which can help keep brands out of copyright trouble.
Create lightboxes for personas
Marketing or buyer personas are fictionalized representations of idealized customers. They can help marketers better understand customer demographics. This is super useful. According to an ITSMA survey, “82% of companies using Personas have managed to create an improved value proposition.”
Companies have a lot of different ways of creating personas, but they should always represent real types of customers. For example, imagine a yoga apparel company. One of their personas might be “yoga moms.” To build this persona out and make it more accurate, the company has to research what they’re actually like. This can be done visually, through social media sites like Instagram.
Marketers and product designers can build lightboxes for each of their personas and start filling it with inspiration pulled from influencer accounts, blogs and even original photography using the mobile example in the previous section. These can become living visual documents, shareable with marketers and sales teams. Comparing these lightboxes with others containing marketing intended for these consumer segments allows companies a relatively inexpensive way to watch trends.
Make a digital asset hall of fame
The amount of content getting made now is staggering. According to Forbes, on Facebook alone, there are well over 5 million active advertisers and 65 million businesses have profile pages. Brands need to produce more content than ever and it has to be good.
Keeping your best-performing content handy in a lightbox will allow you to assess what’s working over time as well as audit for visual consistency. It’s also possible to look at a “greatest hits” lightbox as a resource for choosing content to reuse and repurpose.
Lightbox shareability means these examples can be spread around an organization quickly to promote best practices and consistency. Annual campaigns can also be featured in unique lightboxes so teams have an idea of where they’ve been historically.
Sharpen your tools
These examples are useful, but the real purpose of this article is to get you thinking about ways to get every bit of value out of your work tools. Think about the technology you use every day and imagine alternate ways to use it. Then develop practices to improve your workflow and make room for creativity.
There’s a considerable amount of time and energy invested into learning these tools, but it’s like Ben Franklin said, “the best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.” It pays to master them.