Creating Mood Boards: Tips, Tricks, and Tools for Visual Inspiration
Have you ever noticed specific brands evoke certain feelings? Whether it be the colour palette, typography or image selection, something about it gives off a certain vibe. Well, turns out that's not by accident. Brands know exactly what they're doing when their creative teams design their visual identity, and it all starts with a mood board. That’s why they’ve been used by advertisers, designers and artists for decades.
In this article, we've outlined the key steps involved in making a mood board.
What is a Mood Board?
A mood board, or ‘inspiration board’ is a collection of visuals that help define a concept, tone or emotion of a brand. It also encompasses more than visuals, but also textual references, scraps of material, videos (for digital mood boards) and other design elements to help evoke a particular feeling.
Mood boards act as the starting point for all creative projects, whether it’d be a logo redesign to a new website. It also acts as a single source for reference and inspiration, continually evolving through new ideas, visuals and trends. And once all team members are satisfied with its "feel", they can use it in their design process.
Types of Mood Boards
Mood boards aren't exclusive to marketing teams trying to define a brand's emotional context. It can be used by an interior designer, landscaping designer and even artists. It’s essentially a blank canvas for anyone wanting to put their creative thoughts into a tangible format.
Let's go through different types of mood boards, and how they can be used to achieve different goals.
Template-based Mood Boards
Many mood boards, such as Canva, provide a mood board template to create a desired concept in minutes. You'll find a wide array of visual elements, including images, fonts, colours, animations and shapes to bring your ideas to life. This is ideal for designers looking to save time and resources when designing.
Digital mood board that’s Customisable
Custom mood boards, which are not template-based, offer an empty space for digital marketers, and designers to put their unique ideas. These are customised by professionals who incorporate photoshop and graphic design to really make something new. Due to the free-flowing nature of these boards, attention to detail is key to ensure every visual idea is represented in the final product.
Traditional mood boards
These are your paper-based mood boards that contain illustrations, photographs, text and other ephemera. As it's not digital, you'll often see paper products such as magazine cutouts, fabric swatches and other physical items. While it's a little trickier to manage, it's old-school and more tangible, which many creatives prefer.
Ultimately, the best mood board depends on your preferences, time restraints, budget and the type of design project. If you want a relatively quick turnout with minimal fuss, go for a template-based mood board. If you're really trying to impress a client i.e a big company brand, custom mood boards which can be better tailored to the company's are ideal.
The Benefits of a Mood board
Before we dive in head-first into making a mood board, let's take a step back and look at the benefits it can offer.
Establishes your product's concept
Before an advertising agency designs a product concept, they first need to know what it is and what it does. Once the client explains the product's functionality, and their preferred design aesthetic, the designer can then create a unified look and feel.
A mood board is the starting point to develop a meaningful product concept. It allows designers and marketing experts to structure their artistic approach on something tangible, instead of relying on vague descriptions. Scattered visual ideas won’t cut it for a project that's trying to create a cohesive and impactful visual identity.
Enables Collaborates With Your Creative Team
Mood boards allow creative professionals to all input their unique design ideas and give and receive feedback. As members have different areas of expertise and unique design concepts, it lets everyone express their opinions. Contrast this to a single designer working on a product concept alone, which can lead to creative stagnation.
Let's Marketing Teams Explain their Vision to the Client
Brands hire external agencies to create their product's visual presence and mood. And while companies allow designers plenty of leeway, they still need to give approval before everything’s finalised. A mood board lets clients visualise the proposed product before it comes to fruition.
If a client isn't happy, the creative team can either start from scratch or make adjustments. Ultimately, both parties will save on costs, time and frustration when working together
10 Steps to Creating a Mood board that Your Clients will Love
Mood Boards are meant to express your most artistic and creative ideas, catering to a range of industries and projects. However, the creative process for making a mood board isn't always linear, and you may go back and forth until you’re done.
- Set the Direction of Your Project
Mood Boards have different objectives, depending on your needs. When creating one, ask yourself:
- Is the mood board for personal use or client presentation?
- Will the mood board's visual elements be used in practice or is it strictly for exploring new ideas?
- Am I starting a concept from scratch or refining an existing one?
While it's ideal to establish an objective, don't get too hooked on it. As your creative project develops, new and better ideas may change the final outcome. For example, your initial objective could involve incorporating a minimalist aesthetic, but you later discover more vibrant colour palettes work better.
Once you have a goal, give your motherboard a name. You can then jot down any initial ideas, along with the project's timeline and deliverables.
- Implement What You Already Know About the Product
When a company provides a product brief, it includes the product’s purpose, target market and a desired design aesthetic. They also include company values, tag-lines and any special features.
Collect all relevant project information and include it in the mood board. These can range from a company's logo, website colours and fonts to things that resonate with their target audience. For example, a mood board for a skincare product for women over 50, could feature mature models and elegant colour palettes that exude sophistication and quality.
At the very least, it lets you start the process with a clear direction. You can then use these gathered visuals as reference going forward.
- Brainstorm your Ideas by Yourself with Your Creative Team
Mood boards bring people together, storing the best, most relevant ideas in one place. By collaborating with your creative team, you gain access to new ways of thinking and development.
If you're alone, write down ideas and connect them to the project's objectives. While brainstorming, don't be too concerned about the finer details such as colour palettes and fonts, just include anything that comes up to mind.
For example, if your mood board is for a modern interior design, you can use words such as "clean lines", "multi-functional" and "minimalist", and anything else that could help create the desired aesthetic.
- Start with Your Competitive Landscape to Explore Ideas
Even the most artistic ideas are seldom original. Whether it'd be in fashion, design, music or visual arts, “new” ideas are generally inspired by past works. From there, you can create something that's novel and has its own unique elements.
If you don't want to discover new imagery blindly, turn to your competitors. Explore similar or identical products they're selling and what design elements they’ve used. If you've noticed most of your competitor's use a similar colour palette i.e light colours to instil a calming vibe, try something similar.
After you have a better feel for what works, go outside the box and include imagery from outside sources. This could include nature photos, culture-relevant images, and other visuals that capture your project's desired mood.
And don't worry about organising your images in a certain order or even including labels. Adopt the free-flowing nature to begin with and start organising once you've gathered enough images.
- Include Motion & Sound in Your Mood board
Think about it: what really evokes deep emotions?
Is it a still image of someone you know or a sound or song that reminds you of a certain place?
To truly capture the mood of your product or project, incorporate sounds or animations that match your overall theme. I.e for something lighthearted, you can try including a cartoon character or comical sound effects.
Online mood boards, especially template-based ones provide various animations in the form of GIFs. Incorporate these along with audio clips from online music libraries or Youtube to create a vivid and memorable experience.
- Add a splash of colour
If you haven't already, pick colours that will help create the right atmosphere. Colours can be vibrant and energetic or muted and calming, depending on your project's objectives and intended audience.
Experiment with different colour schemes, and add them to the project. Alternatively, you can use the same colours from your existing imagery and designs. This helps keep your colour palette consistent throughout your entire project.
Besides colour, you can add any text you deem relevant. This can range from famous quotes and lyrics to metaphors and poems. And while you're at it, explore different fonts to emphasise your project's overall aesthetic.
- Be Open to New Ideas, Wherever You Are
Creativity cannot be enclosed in the four walls of your office or home.
When you go out to a restaurant or to the grocery store, think about how the environment affects your mood. What colours and font do they use? What's their preferred textures, lighting and shapes and does it match with their brand identity?
Inspiration can be gathered from the most unexpected places. Keep your eyes open and record any ideas that pop up in your head.
- Organise Your Mood board That's Easily Understandable
Sometimes, even a mood board's primary designer can get lost in the sea of ideas. This is because images are scattered, off-thematic and hard to digest.
In this case, it's time to organise your imagery and colour schemes that can be easily understood.
To do this, create a hierarchy or sorts for your project. Start off with the logo at the top, and then arrange the other elements around it based on their importance and relevance to the project. You can use a grid system or resize images based on their importance.
When your mood board is organised, you're now ready to showcase your ideas to your client or team.
- If You're Working Alone, Seek Feedback
Creative teams generally work in unison to create a mood board. This involves sharing your board online to accommodate regular feedback and communication. But if you're working solo, your idea of perfection could be flawed from an outsider's perspective.
If you don't have a partner to collaborate with, reach out to other experts or people from your network. You can show your mood board and ask what emotions it invokes at first glance. From there, you can bounce off ideas and create the ultimate experience for your project.
Remember, that constructive criticism is different from unwarranted criticism. To really progress in anything, it's important to take into account the ideas of those around you.
- Explain Your Mood Board to Your Client
If you're working in advertising, you should be able to explain the project's vision to the client. After all, it's their vision and they're paying you to bring it to life.
Start off by introducing your client to the overall mood and feel of the project along with your goal. Then, you can begin explaining each design element and its significance. Show them why you chose particular colours, fonts, textures, and imagery, and if any competitors influenced your choices.
Once your client understands your mood board, they can add insights of their own. Most importantly they can say whether or not it matches their brand's identity.
Bringing Your Creative Vision to Life: The Power of Mood Boards
Now that you've completed your own mood board and turned a blank canvas into something tangible, it's time to act on it. Use it as a means for further exploration or actually implement it into your work.
At the end of the day, mood boards are a place to consolidate all of your team's wonderful ideas. Whether you prefer traditional or mood board templates, it will usually always be the starting point for any project. So don't be afraid to explore, experiment, and let your creativity run wild!
Gain Inspiration from Your Competitor’s with MagicBrief
Are your ads not receiving the same engagement as they once did?
Then you may want to turn to your competitor’s content for inspiration. With MagicBrief’s Chrome extension, you can save your competitors' ads and social media videos to our library, where you can study their content to gain insights on what strategies and tactics work.
You can then use our storyboard feature to create your own visual representation of the strategies you have learned from your competitors. With the help of MagicBrief, you’ll refine your marketing approach and create more effective campaigns!