What is a Visual Inventory?

Written on January 9, 2017

Without going into a deep dive of our process (we'll get to that in later blog articles, I promise), the Visual Inventory is an early step in how we develop new websites. It provides a quick, low-barrier-to-entry point to start a design conversation. But what is it exactly?

Visual Inventory Definition and Purpose

Our first interaction with the term "Visual Inventory" was from an article by Dan Mall. In the article, Dan basically states that the Visual Inventory is a way to gather examples of design styles (read: screenshots) from the internet without having to design from scratch. With these samples, a catalog of possibilities is created that can help guide the design discussion process at a rapid pace.

At Thrive, we've taken it a step further. Because an endless amount of options exist out there on the web, we actually start to narrow the field with our Visual Inventories. Our intent with a Visual Inventory is to begin to steer the design discussion in the direction that we think will be most successful for the client. We can come up with a design direction in short order and move from "preliminary talks" to "custom design".

When We Use It

Internally, we have a process that we use for each part of our branding projects. (We even have an internal site with this process documentation!) Where the Visual Inventory falls is right between our kickoff meeting and an Element Collage - an explanation of which we'll save for a later time. Basically, we want to find out what the requirements are for any given website at the initial kickoff meeting and go right into design exploration. So much time can be dedicated to designing a website that we want to make sure we're all on the same page first. That's when we rock out a Visual Inventory.

Once we have buy in on the overall vision of the design direction, we can get approval to start on custom design work.

Parts of a Visual Inventory

There are three main parts to a Visual Inventory. By splitting the inventory into a few parts, we can isolate the different parts of design. This way, an apprehension to certain colors doesn't sway a bias for the accompanying typography, icons, layout, and so on...


The concept section is a collection of screenshots - not necessarily industry-related - that serve to scout out the desired overall layout and aesthetic. Colors and tone should be ignored (temporarily) while the bigger picture is determined.

This section serves also to present some of the feature possibilities along with general photography and iconography examples.

Color and Type

Color and type is critical for setting an emotion, an expectation of quality, and attention to detail. Colors can set the mood and trigger emotional responses. Typography sets the tone (corporate vs. fun vs. wild) and prioritizes content.


The tone of a brand is a brand’s personality - an outward expression of its culture. The tone is often set naturally by a company’s team, but in some cases it needs to be intentionally crafted to send the appropriate message.

Want some?

You can! We'd love to sit down with you, talk through your web design and branding needs, and get started on a Visual Inventory just for you. (Although, you'll find our Element Collages to be even more fun!)

Give us a shout at 407-971-2244 or fill out our short contact form to get the ball rolling on your new brand!