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Have you ever made or used a mood board before? If not, you’re in the right place. As it turns out, mood boards are actually really important, and if you are currently in the middle of a design project (like having your logo designed or updating your old website), it’s probably a good idea to stop and think about it for a moment.

By definition, a mood board is simply a collection of images that represent the feelings you wish to evoke when your product or brand is seen. This could be a feeling of happiness, excitement, elegance, sophistication, or any number of other emotions.

I can’t tell you how many times I, as a designer, have been in a situation where a client has said “I want this, but I don’t know what it should look like.” or the most famous of all: “I’ll know when I see it.” These statements are vague and they leave you with no direction whatsoever.

This is where a well-planned and executed mood board comes in: it’s a collection of images, colors, texts, textures, etc. that help you define exactly what you’re trying to communicate to your audience, and the images will help you make that communication happen.

Digital or Physical?

Mood boards can be created in physical or digital formats. Here are the pros and cons of both.

Digital Mood Board

Creating a digital mood board for any kind of design project is easier than ever these days with the availability of some pretty cool online sites like Pinterest or SampleBoard.

Pinterest, for example, it’s an online service that allows you to pull images from “pinboards” that have been curated by others. It’s an easy and convenient way to organize your own collection of images, whether it’s recipes, fashion, home decor, etc.

Pinterest is a great way to create a digital mood board. Source: Studio FLACH

One of our digital mood boards on Pinterest. Source: Studio FLACH

This digital mood board creation tool lets you upload your images and organize them into project folders that can be shared on social media or imported into documents. Intuitive and easy to use, it’s a great way to get professional results that can be easily shared with others.

Digital mood boards are really easy to share, as they can simply be exported as an image file and shared (and some programs allow sharing directly).

At our studio, 99% of our mood boards are digital, of course. Having the benefits of freedom and flexibility to collaborate, share, and invite the client to participate in the process is priceless. We like to have more of a “done-with-you” approach to mood boards.

Physical Mood Board

Great example of a physical mood board. Source: eclectictrends.com

A great example of a physical mood board. Source: Eclectic Trends

Designers can also take visual cues from a physical mood board to expand their design thinking and break free of the screen. This is a good way to approach projects that have a lot of inspiration from the physical world. In this case, we try to find images and shapes in the physical world.

But it can also require a lot of printing and a bit more mess to create. Also, if your colleagues and clients are not there with you, it’s going to be hard to collaborate. The only option to share the mood board is often taking a picture.

If you like to do things old school, to create your own, use a foam board base and spray mount images and materials to the surface. You can source your collections from magazines, newspapers, your own photos, or from a craft/art supply store, fabric store, or surplus stores.

Mood Board Examples

Here are some real mood boards from some of our clients here at Studio FLACH.

The Weigh of Ink

The Weight of Ink mood board. Source: Studio FLACH

The Weight of Ink mood board. Source: Studio FLACH

My client and I wanted a design inspired by freedom, lightness, friendliness, and many elements that are directly or indirectly related to writing (he’s a writer).

What we decided to do on the mood board was: a very light background (representing a piece of paper), with light and subtle gradients here and there + drops of black ink (representing vivid stories + ink of a feather pen), and some vintage elements that remind us of those old typewriters or old computer systems.

Live website: www.theweightofink.com

Dapper Don

Dapper Don mood board. Source: Studio FLACH

Dapper Don mood board. Source: Studio FLACH

This mood board is all about a skincare line. Made by men for men. We wanted to highlight this on the mood board so we could use it for the rest of the project.

A black background evokes a more masculine and luxurious look. We decided to go with black and white shades + a strong orange accent as an attention grabber (this gave the project an energetic touch). Because there’s a skull in the logo, we’re using other skulls illustrations as well + we focused a lot on the words. No boring “buy now” buttons here boy. We replaced those with “take my $” and “hell yeah” buttons. We could do this because it’s in the same line as the brand.

Brunchette

Brunchette mood board. Source: Studio FLACH

Brunchette mood board. Source: Studio FLACH

This mood board was used to create a website for a family-friendly restaurant.

We chose a light and friendly and pastel color palette (inspired by the multiple logos of each restaurant in the chain), along with lots of illustrations that are hand-drawn. With this, we wanted to evoke a friendly feeling to the website and encourage people to visit it.

Live website: www.brunchette.com

Mood Boards = Communication

Creating a mood board is the best way to communicate with your clients and other team members, especially when we’re getting things started on a new design project. A mood board is a great tool for sharing with your clients and team how you’re thinking about a project.

The problem with creating mockups and prototypes without a mood board in place is miscommunication. Maybe our client had a completely different idea in mind than we had. And there goes time and money down the hole because we spent energy on something that didn’t resonate with our client. That situation might result in a loss of trust and the cancelation of a design project.

Source: Unsplash

Creating a mood board can prevent the dreaded “I’ll know it when I see it” syndrome with clients. Letting your client see what you have in mind can be incredibly helpful in creating a design that fits their style. Creating a mood board is an excellent way to get a clearer sense of what a designer might be able to create for a project. We can even create multiple mood boards if our clients are entirely unsure of what they want.

Other benefits of creating mood boards first are fewer revisions, quicker approval times, and designers and clients on the same track right from the beginning.

Spend Time to Save (Even More) Time

Mood boards are one of the first steps to any project.

Yes, it takes time. But also yes, having a well thought and executed mood board in place will help both of us to save time, money, and energy throughout the rest of the project.

If you spend sufficient time on the mood board phase of your project, it will run more smoothly. Happier clients, happier designers.

If you’d like to get a project started with us, go to our contact page and send us a message (or you can quickly book a free call and talk with me).

Lucas Flach

Co-Founder and Designer at Studio FLACH. I write about design and business and everything in between these two. I specialize in brand and branding design.

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