Moodboards are physical or digital collages that organize images, materials, text and other design elements in a format representative of the final design style. Mood boards can be used to create brand designs, product designs, website designs and virtually any other type of design project.
Finding inspiration for design projects is one thing. Organizing it and turning that inspiration into a more cohesive basis for creating a design that captivates clients and customers is another thing entirely.
The solution? A moodboard
What are the purposes of a Moodboard?
Moodboards can serve many purposes, starting with organizing inspiration around a project. They can be a valuable resource throughout a design project, to help keep the style and aesthetic consistent and on track with a client’s goals and expectations.
Mood boards are also an excellent way to refine the style of a project before entering the actual design process. They are a much smaller investment than mockups and prototypes in terms of resources and time and can convey a lot about the look and feel of the final design.
Moodboards are also a great way to convey design ideas to clients. When a web designer says “minimalist” or “Grotesk fonts” or “realism,” many clients have no idea what they mean. But if they are shown a moodboard that incorporates those things, they will understand immediately and be able to express whether or not they like those ideas.
Finally, mood boards can also ensure that design teams are on the same page when working together on a project. One designer’s idea of minimalism may be much more maximalist than their colleague’s.
How to create a Moodboard
There are many ways to make a moodboard. They come in all formats, shapes and styles. Some designers create them digitally, while others create physical collages. For those who create moodboards digitally, there are several options available, from Photoshop templates to specific applications.
What to include on a MoodBoard
Every mood board is different, and what a designer chooses to include will vary depending on the project. Mood boards for a brand can include many more elements than those for a package or website design. The important thing is to include as many elements as necessary to convey the look and feel of the design being created.
Here are some ideas of things to include on a Moodboard:
Images: these can be brand images, stock photos, product images, photos found on Instagram or other photo sharing sites, illustrations and even things like logos.
Visual metaphors: Visual metaphors are an important part of modern advertising and branding, and can be included if appropriate.
Words: Words that relate to the brand or message to be conveyed can be an important part of any Mood boards.
Fonts: Designers should include specific fonts (or at least general font styles) on their Mood boards for any design where text is to be prominent.
Textures: Any textures or patterns that a design incorporates should be included on Mood boards.
Explanations: As needed, explanations of the elements included on the Mood boards can add context and make it easier to see how all the different parts will work together toward the final design.
The choice of a theme can give cohesion to the mood board and the final design based on it. The theme should be closely tied to the design or branding objectives, although it can be abstract. For example, a children’s clothing site may have a jungle or carnival theme, but that doesn’t mean it has to incorporate tigers or clowns. Instead, a Mood Board based on those themes could include things like natural textures or primary colors.
Gathering inspiration for your Mood Board
Inspiration for a Mood board can come from just about anywhere. Designers often save files of inspiration, which are a good place to start. You can also look to stock photo sites, design galleries, color palette sites like Coolors.co or Design Seeds, the physical environment and physical objects, typography galleries like Typewolf, and even social media (Instagram and Pinterest can be especially great places to find design inspiration). There are accounts that use typography for Instagram that you can take inspiration from.
When gathering inspiration for a Mood board, designers should keep in mind the goals of the finished project. They should also take into account aspects such as brand values and who the target user will be. All of this has a significant impact on the types of inspiration that are gathered.
For example, a website design for a law firm will likely have a very different tone and style than a street fashion site aimed at teenagers. If designers don’t take these differences into account when they start working on a Mood board, the finished board will likely not be a good fit for their client.
Not every element of the Mood board has to be directly or literally related to the final design. Finding images that evoke an overall feeling or style is just as important as fonts, colors and specific design elements.
Mood boards can be created in physical or digital format. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Physical mood boards can help digital designers think outside the confines of a screen. They can be great for projects that draw heavily from the physical world. But they can also require a lot of printing and a bit more mess to create. Physical Mood boards can also be more difficult to archive or share with clients or other team members (the best option for sharing them is usually to take photos of them).
Digital mood boards, on the other hand, can sometimes limit a designer’s creativity, in that they are going to use the same tools they use every day, which can mean they are using the same mindset they always use. In some cases, this isn’t a bad thing, but when it comes to creating a truly unique design, it can be a hindrance. However, digital Mood boards are very easy to share, as they can simply be exported as an image file and shared (and some programs allow direct sharing).
Software to design your Moodboard
There are several programs to create a moodboard. You can use almost any design program you are already using (templates are also available for most of them). Other options are:
- Pinterest. Creating a board for each project is a great way to organize ideas found on the Internet. Boards can be made public or private (and shared with specific people).
- Moodboard. Create free Mood boards without an account. There are templates to help you get started or create one from a blank design.
- Moodzer. Moodzer is new (currently a beta app) but seems to have all the features needed to create awesome Mood boards that are easy to share.
- Adobe Spark. Adobe Spark makes it easy to create moodboards in formats that work well with other Adobe products. It offers a lot of flexibility to create moodboards of different shapes and sizes, with a library of stock photos, fonts, and design elements.
- Canva. Canva offers Mood board templates and a variety of built-in fonts, design elements and stock photos.
The program used to create Mood boards is not important. What is important is that it is done in a format that sparks creativity and is easy to share with clients or other decision makers.
Mood Boards as Communication Tools
One of the biggest advantages of creating a moodboard before moving on to mockups and prototypes is that it is a valuable communication tool with clients and other team members. When designers create mockups and prototypes first, if the client is not happy with the design, it can result in not only a waste of time and resources, but also a loss of trust if the client feels it is totally different from what they wanted.
Creating a moodboard can also avoid the dreaded “I’ll know it when I see it” syndrome with clients. Showing them a moodboard gives them something to look at that is still relatively unsophisticated and easy to create. Designers can even create several moodboards if they are not sure what the client wants.
Showing clients a moodboard early in the process can also mean fewer revisions of finished designs, as it can put the designer and client on the same page early in the design process. And when designers meet client expectations early on (even when those expectations are not well articulated), the client has more confidence in the designer’s capabilities.
Whether designers make digital or physical mood boards, they are an important step in creating a cohesive design style for any project. Spending enough time on the mood board phase can make the project run more smoothly.
One of the great advantages of creating mood boards is that there are no real “rules” dictating what a mood board should include or what it should look like. This gives designers a great deal of creative freedom during this phase, which may diminish in later phases of the design (depending on the particular project, of course).
Given the advantages of mood boards and the lack of drawbacks (aside from the time invested), it makes sense for designers to incorporate mood boards into any design project they work on, whether it’s a simple website update or a complete branding concept.