How to create a mood board

Have you ever wondered how huge projects such as big budget advertising campaigns, presentations and multi-page visual experiences are able to keep their projects looking consistent yet still surprise us with visual intrigue and creative expression?

In this fascinating and enriching article, we will investigate the immense power of mood boards, how they can help creative teams act as one aligning to the same goal. And further still, keep solo designers from dithering distractions. So, without further ado, let’s flow into the journey of creative thought, planning and execution.

What is a mood board?

Mood board

Visualize a detective solving a case, pinning up photographs of suspects and linking them to reported events in the hope of identifying the culprit. It’s detective role playing that designers find themselves in often, as they try to pin down the intended look of their colossal design project.

Replacing motives, suspects and events with concepts, branding and visual communication, designers have an overseeing advantage, enabling them to obtain full control of their creative project, its direction and what ideas fit into the concept, all while keeping the entire project in line with a certain aesthetic look.

In a nutshell, the mood board definition can be explained as a cluster of visuals and ideas that when arranged on a board, inspires the trajectory of a more complex design project. For a mood board to take shape, start with an idea or concept.

This will steer the direction of your mood board, acting as the central focus point. The strategist will then fill the board with visual elements, ideas, narratives, or anything that comes to mind that will strengthen the approach to something epic. Mood boards will help creatives design with confidence, whether working in a team or on their own. At the end of the day this is purely a planning and thinking process, so within reason, anything goes!

A mood board can be a physical or digital exercise, depending on your preferences and how social you want to make it. Thanks to innovations in online applications like Figma and Adobe Express, it is now easier than ever to collaborate with anyone around the world with little in the way of restrictions.

Mood boards are essential for graphic designers, marketers, and other creatives. They help organize your ideas, visual elements, and ignite inspiration in one place while also keeping them consistent throughout your project. However, creating a mood board can be daunting, as it requires a lot of thought and creativity.

Reasons to make your own mood board

make your own mood board

Why is a mood board important? Some projects are simply just too big to put into words. And when creative projects are expressed through multiple dimensions and mediums which is often the case for graphic design mood boards, using a mood board may be the only way to strategize complex assignments that need that extra attention.

Team strategy

Mood boards are an extremely effective way to guide creative teams towards the same goal. Picture a design agency strategizing their next big pitch. With floods of ideas coming in from different angles, you can imagine the mess that could follow.

Using a mood board, teams can present ideas in real-time, allowing for decisions to be made quickly and in a unified manner. Things like color, voice, and aesthetics can be openly discussed until all parties come to a solid conclusion. Mood boards are an essential planning method, and when it comes to big budgets and tight deadlines, this is a quick and decisive way to get the ball rolling on any project.

Going solo

Mood board surfer girl

Bear in mind this kind of strategy doesn’t just apply to big teams of corporate designers and marketers. Mood boards are just as helpful for those designing on their own. It can be a way to micro manage your projects, providing support and a solid foundation for you to visualize and develop concepts without letting your mind lead you astray.

Distraction can be a designer’s worst enemy! However, creating collages of images, pinning magazine cut outs and exploring color schemes will help make sense of all the crazy ideas your mind is churning out. A nice way to think of it would be a portrait of conceptual thought!

Physical mood boards vs mood boards online

As technology advances, so do our methods of creating mood boards. However, both old and new methods still revolve around the same principles. You have your board, your concept, and your sticky notes and visual elements. Choosing between them will always come down to practicalities, and neither methods are better than the other.

Physical mood board

Physical mood board

This more hands-on approach to creating mood boards rely heavily on social participation, and practical involvement. Therefore, international teams joining in on a video call may want to opt for the digital method.

Teams of creatives can discuss and express their ideas in a more sociable way. This can be important for creative thinkers who like to get more physically involved in expressing thoughts and ideas through body language and facial expressions, further emphasizing key points. They also enable us to touch, feel and even smell! This could be the right course of action for a marketing team strategizing a product launch and campaign proposal.

The good

  • Freedom of expression
  • Social interaction
  • A multi sensory experience
  • Practical
  • More fun!

The bad

  • Limited space
  • Preparation (printing, providing a board etc.)
  • Not much editing capability
  • There could be language barriers

Online mood board

Online mood board

The online approach opens up a world of possibilities when brainstorming the most complex ideas. Software like Figma enables participants to form international teams, opening up endless possibilities in more ways than one, even creating job opportunities that before were simply impossible.

The benefits don’t just stop there. Teams of unlimited sizes can collaborate in near-infinite spaces, jotting down ideas in multiple languages, pinning stock images, and creating vector graphics in real-time. This has revolutionized how millions of people work, with productivity stats that would scramble your brain.

All that being said, this mood board on steroids does have a catch. Sometimes, too much interaction can be a bad thing, with too many ideas flooding in at once, this can overwhelm the trajectory of the project, so maybe limiting the size of your team can counteract the mood board working against your project.

The good

  • Connect anywhere in the world
  • Live interaction
  • Access to the entire internet
  • Virtually unlimited space
  • Editable and you can press the save button!

The bad

  • No physical interaction
  • Less sociable
  • Lose the ability to feel, smell or perceive the scale of presented elements
  • Technical interruptions

The decision is up to you and the team you work with. In a lot of ways, online mood boards evidently have unrivaled benefits. Yet, for some, the physical presence of other human beings working together just wins. We are social beings that, from time to time, find great pleasure in collaborating, sharing, and discussing in the real world.

How to make a mood board in 5 steps

Now you have a little more understanding about the function of mood boards. Perhaps you are now in the mood to create one! In these five easy steps, you will learn how to create a mood board and realize just how effective mood boards really are, helping you think, plan and action your creative endeavors in a smooth and calculated fashion. These steps will apply to both physical and digital mood boards.

1. Define your project goals

Define your project goals to create a mood board

Creating a mood board without understanding the goals of your project is like building a house without a blueprint. It’s essential to have a clear idea of your project goals before creating a mood board. What are you trying to achieve? Who is your target audience? What emotions do you want to evoke? Answering these questions before diving into your mood board can help guide your design choices, giving your project cohesiveness and meaning.

2. Collect inspiration

After establishing your project goals, it’s time to collect visual inspiration for your mood board. Thankfully, inspiration can come from almost anywhere, from everyday occurrences to social media platforms. Ideally, you want to collect inspiration that aligns with your project goals and perhaps stay in tune with 2023 trends.

Stay open-minded and have a broad range of visuals. The more images and visual elements you have, the easier it will be to make meaningful connections and choose an aesthetic direction for your project.

3. Choose a color scheme

Choose a color scheme

Colors are one of the most powerful tools in design, enabling the ability to evoke different emotions and create moods. It’s important to choose a color scheme that aligns with the goals and emotions of your project. Whether you decide to use complementary colors or monochromatic tones, make sure to coordinate colors that work well with each other and with your project’s objectives.

4. Use the right tools

Mood board tennagers

When creating a mood board, it’s essential to use the right tools. Many design software tools, such as Figma, Sketch, and Adobe InDesign, are excellent for creating a mood board. Alternatively, you can use physical materials like magazines, printouts, or sketches to create your mood board. Consider what materials will work best with your workflow and project needs.

5. Experiment & refine

Mood board winter

Now it’s time for the fun part, experimenting and refining your mood board. Once you’ve selected all your visual elements, start arranging them in your tool of choice, keeping your project goals in mind. No matter how great your initial ideas are, creating the perfect mood board is a process of trial and error.

Be open to experimentation, and don’t be afraid to make changes if something isn’t working. When in doubt, remember your project goals, and ask yourself: “Does this element, color, or design align with my goals?”

Mood board templates

There is an abundance of aesthetic mood board examples and templates ripe for the picking that will save you heaps of time and resources so you can focus on the things that matter most. They too can be a source of inspiration with various color schemes and styles on display. All can be yours to own at the touch of a button. Let’s take a look at some!

  • Interior design: This selection of mood board designs are specially made to help convey an inviting feel, just like the perfect home should. Using warm color schemes and images of pristine, naturally lit indoor scenes, these mood boards are ideal for exploring the look of an interior design outlet, architect studio, or an upholstery service.
  • Fashion: Fashion is all about texture, color, and, of course, good looks. These stylish mood boards will help your textile dreams ping into existence, helping visualize a unified look for your next fashion branding project.
  • Christmas: The biggest event of the year is never far away, and with the mad rush to get everything ready before the big deadline, these unique festive mood boards will certainly help gather your thoughts yet keep your mood inspired with perfectly spaced elements and accurate color schemes.
  • Pastel: The effects pastel themes have on us are evident in their popularity across the board. Use this influential style to kick start your mood board journey, using the soft color tones as inspiration for your next big project.
  • Blue: With color at the very center of your mood board’s mood, starting with a blue-themed template might just push your idea in the right direction. Not to mention the positive psychological effects blue can have on communicating your design.
  • Green: Bringing the outside in, these green themed mood boards will help ground your project, providing a healthy and earthly feel to your inspiration board. Not a bad way to start any project in this day and age.

What kinds of images are best for a mood board template?

Mood board nature

When trying to achieve a cohesive look for your mood board and project, choosing the right imagery is vital. Photos communicate feelings of expression and can even speak to our subconscious through the use of color, composition, and the event captured in the imagery.

As complex as this all sounds, the solution is to know what you’re looking for in the first place, and with thousands of quality-checked, popular photos to choose from, there is a very good chance you’ll find what you need momentarily.

To align the image traits with the overall aesthetic of your mood board, ask yourself:

  • Does the image match the desired emotional response?
  • Is the image colored, and do these colors resonate with the color scheme?
  • How busy is the image, will it disrupt the atmosphere of the overall design?

Not all images are intended to make a feature. In fact, for the most part, images are there for inspiration, helping guide your project to stardom. Their visual language can, at times, convey a lot more than words and drawings can, and their usefulness in the creation of your mood board will become essential.

To wrap it up

The key to creating an ultimate mood board ultimately lies in the planning. By identifying your goals, collecting inspiration, choosing a color scheme, using the right tools, and experimenting and refining your work, you’ll create a cohesive and powerful mood board that effectively communicates your message. Now it’s your turn! Get inspired, experiment, and create!