Mood Boards 101


When we begin our creative journey with a client, it often starts with a mood board. Mood boards are an effective way to communicate the high-level aesthetic before the more detailed creative process begins. This tool gives the client an expectation for what the finished project will look like and makes sure that everyone is on the same page from the start. Designing a mood board can be a challenge if you’ve never done it before. We’ve outlined a strategy for composing a mood board that you’ll be proud of and your client will love.

Choose a Focus Word or Theme… and Make it Obvious

The best way to kick off the mood board process is by defining a theme to work within. From a creative standpoint, setting a constraint on yourself might sound a bit unnatural, but it helps to ensure that your images tie together to convey a message through the big picture. Choose a theme that relates to the client’s brand guidelines so you know they will easily be able to relate. Whatever focus or theme you decide on, it should be a reflection the brand’s voice and be geared toward the target audience for your project.

Find Components

Now that you’ve selected a theme it’s time to begin your search for photos and elements for your mood board. Two great resources are Unsplash and Pinterest, but you can really use any website that works for you as far as image sourcing. The images you select should relate directly or indirectly to your focus word or overall theme. Consider the components a visual snapshot of the brand displaying lifestyle images, textures, patterns etc. It’s best to gather more images than you intend to put in your mood board so that you have a good selection when organizing the components on the board itself.

Determine Your Color Palette

The next step is to determine your color palette. This stage in the process may take some time as you shuffle through images, but once you create a stock of images you’ll begin to see a trend in hues and dominant colors. The ultimate goal is for the color palette to match the branding elements that are relative to the client. It also helps visually tie everything together if you include the color swatches within the mood board.

Organize The Elements

The best way to begin putting everything together is to determine the layout that your images will be placed in. As you position each element on the mood board be aware of how the components interact with each other and fit spatially on the board. As the viewer's eyes move across the board, the goal is to make sure there is a natural flow, avoiding any images that are out of place or don’t fit in with the main aesthetic. Keep in mind if you are using an image that is bolder than the rest that’s where the viewer’s eyes will immediately land on the page (any images of people usually have this effect).

Look at the Big Picture

Once you’ve organized all the elements, step back and look at the board for an emotional response. How does it make you feel? Is the board conveying the theme or word that you were intending during step one? If the goals have not been achieved, you may have to make some adjustments or perhaps begin the board again. Sometimes it takes a few attempts to create the perfect board, and that’s ok because it’s just part of the creative process.

After you’ve successfully created your mood board, you now have a set of guidelines for your project that will make the rest of your work come much more easily. Developing your creative concept ahead of time will prove to be so valuable as you progress from your initial abstract idea to your end result. 

Story By: Sophie Duncan