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How to Make a Brilliant Mood Board

Have you ever thought you have an idea that is better than anything? Everything makes sense – in your head. But after pitching the idea to your co-workers, they just don’t get it. They can’t picture it.
There are several possible reasons for this. Maybe your idea isn’t that brilliant, or you’re extremely bad at presenting. The solution to your problem could be a mood board. A mood board gives your idea a visual foundation. It describes your vision and your feelings. It’s also a perfect starting point for something great.

What is a mood board?

A mood board is a collection of images, graphics, colors, material, words and emotions. It should give insight into your mindset and your creative thoughts. Although there are no rules for creating a mood board, there is still a distinction between doing it right and wrong. After reading this article, you will have an idea of how to create an impressive mood board.

Who should use mood boards?

Mood boards are not only for designers. They are useful in every kind of context. So mood boards can be used in:

  • The film and video business, to envision film sets.
  • Marketing and advertising, to visually define advertising campaigns.
  • Graphic design, to show your stylistic direction and idea of the final product.
  • Web design, to concretize and visualize your drafts.
  • Photography, to create mashups.
Mood boards are not only for designers
Mood boards are not only for designers

What’s the purpose of a mood board?

Many creatives struggle to understand why mood-boarding is so vital to the design process. They especially worry about the amount of time they spend on a mood board. But the main objective is to create an atmospheric impression or feeling, to give your client or your team an idea of what you are going to do. And if you do this well, you will save time instead of spending too much. You don’t have to stick to anything, just set your mind free and create something that is both beautiful and useful. There are no limits to your creativity. Your mood board should be the basis for further work.

Enhance creativity

As a creative professional, you are always on the hunt for inspiring stuff or the latest things. It’s about enhancing creativity. A mood board can cause a creativity boost, too. By digging through so many images, videos and ideas from other people you will definitely find some inspiration.

Give creative guidance

Take your client by the hand. In most cases, your clients are not as creative as you are. And their creative comprehension is not as high as yours. Be aware of this. Do not overcharge your client. Make it easy for him or her to follow your thoughts and imagination.

Get a feeling for your client’s expectations

The more you include your client in your workflow, the fewer mistakes you can make. Wrong! It’s important to include him or her, but don’t concede too much power. People who are not in the creative industry often want to change things so many times that it’s just annoying and not expedient. So listen as much as possible, but do it yourself!

How to create a mood board

Step 1

First of all, you should think about the values of the company or client you are working for. Large companies often have style guides that include all values or design aspects you should be aware of. In case your client doesn’t have one, there is still no reason to worry. Through investigation and talking with your client, you should be able to get some ideas.

Work in concepts

If there is no concrete flow to your mood board, it could be the case that your client just doesn’t understand what you want to tell or express. For that reason, it’s necessary to work in a clear and structured way. In case your are going to collect random online pictures, your mood board will be confusing and useless.

Work with concepts
Work with concepts

Step 2

Now you have an overview of your clients expectations. In this step, you have to reduce the number of your ideas and investigation results to a few expressive and powerful words or small sentences. The words should be substitutes for the final product. Avoid vague words like awesome, lasting or quality-conscious. Everybody uses them and you want to create something new.

Step 3

Step 3 is the same as step 1, just replace words with images. It’s important to spend some time on investigation and communication again. In the end it will be worth it, I promise. Collect as many images as you can. If you want to include your client in your workflow, he or she can search for some pictures, too. This reduces the risk of you doing something totally wrong.
You don’t have to worry about image copyrights, because mood boards are usual just for private use.

Use the power of images

The internet is full of inspiring pictures, videos and designs. It’s okay to take other people’s ideas as inspiration and use them as a basis for your further work. So this is no encouragement to steal other creatives’ ideas! But creativity is usually inspired by fresh input.
If there are no suitable pictures online, use your own. Take photos of everything. Interesting, inspiring or even weird stuff. Become a hoarder of images. Anything may become useful some day.

Use the power of images
Use the power of images

Step 4

Now it’s all coming together. Choose the most appropriate images and arrange them. The goal is to create a precise, expressive mood board that makes it possible to envision your further plans. This is the hardest part and it requires experience to do it well. Although it’s just about collecting pictures, there is a spectrum of doing it right or wrong. If you can get some advice by people who are experienced in mood boarding, take the chance and talk to them.

Work in details

To meet your clients’ expectations, you should work in detail during the early stages. It would be a huge mistake to assume that your client will instantly understand all your thoughts. Especially, if meeting in person is not possible. Make sure your client can get a clear vision of your idea.

Step 5

The final step. Now it’s all about creating the mood board itself. If investigation and planning went well, this should be the easiest part. Whether you do it digitally or analog doesn’t matter. Take a look at different sizes, dispositions and fonts. Everything should correspond with the values you defined earlier.

Use the best tools

There is no perfect tool for creatíng a mood board. Whether you use Photoshop, Word, Powerpoint, Evernote or Pinterest doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that it supports your creativity. Use something that allows you to include images, add text and move pictures around. Use the tool that makes you feel the most comfortable. I prefer Powerpoint, but that’s just a personal preference.

Use the tool that makes you feel the most comfortable
Use the tool that makes you feel the most comfortable

Conclusion and summary

To sum up, mood boards are a great way to visualize your ideas and make your imagination visible. In the end it will pay off, because clients are included in the early stages of the project and the risk that your work is off target diminishes.

The Ultimate Checklist for Creating Awesome Mood Boards

  • Spend time investigating and researching. It’s definitely worth it.
  • Get inspired by other people’s ideas.
  • Listen to your client’s wishes, but don’t cede too much power.
  • Work with a structured plan.
  • Use the power of images.
  • Work in detail.
  • Use the tool which is most convenient for you.
  • There are no rules. Have fun!

What are your experiences with mood boards? Do you have any best practices? Please let us know in the comments.

Bonus

Filestage is a software tailored to the needs of creative professionals. It’s an easy way to review videos, designs and documents with clients and co-workers. They simply click in the videos, images and audio files to leave precise comments and change requests.

Julian Sieber is a marketing associate at Filestage. He thinks that through exciting people, marketing is no more like selling.

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