Mood boards have long been a tried and tested creative device for establishing the feel and aesthetic of a project but sometimes we designers shy away from them because they’re time consuming to put together.
In my experience, mood boards are worth the time and effort you put into them. They offer a tangible way to communicate feelings and help your clients understand the creative process that’s happening within your imagination. In other words, they can help others get inside your head. This can prevent problems with miscommunication down the line and help make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the direction your design concepts will take.
With a well put together mood board, you can show clients your ideas, get early sign off and even win pitches.
Here are my top tips for creating a killer mood board:
- Find out how you’re going to be presenting your mood board
Before you start creating a mood board, it’s important to understand when and how it will be seen by your client or your wider creative team. Will you have the opportunity to present a physical mood board at a pitch or will you be emailing it to your client before you start the initial designs?
With a physical mood board, you can afford to put it together in a looser way, filling in any gaps with your verbal presentation, perhaps by telling the story behind each item. With a digital mood board to be sent by email, it has to be more closely tied together so that the client doesn’t come away with too many questions that can’t be answered there and then.
- Use real world inspiration
Even if you’ll be sending a digital mood board to a client, it’s important to turn to real world inspiration instead of just pulling together ideas from Google Images or free image sites like Pixabay. Inspired by a headline in a magazine? Take a picture of it. Spotted a perfect font on a local shop sign? Snap it and drop it into your mood board.
If you’re presenting a physical mood board, make it tactile by adding materials with different textures or even bringing in a real world item around which you’re basing your colour palate. Physical items that your clients can see and touch can help evoke an emotional response – for example, a sea shell immediately conjures up the colours of the beach; a pine cone, the colours of autumn; a train ticket, a journey, and so on.
- View yourself as a curator, not a collector
In my experience, mood boards can snowball so you end up with large amounts of images, fonts and ideas that all express some aspect of your thought process. As professional designers, our role is to act as a curator, not just a collector. What we leave out matters as much as what we keep in.
Try to group things together logically on your mood board. It works well to have a large image supported by several smaller images. The idea is that these smaller images will answer many of the questions that might come up about the most prominent image. Put too much in your mood board and it will overwhelm the client and even dilute your ideas, so ask yourself whether an item really needs to be there.
- Use words for impact
Words are important to mood boards but there shouldn’t be too many. Just a few choice words that sum up your concept can add impact, tone, drama and meaning. By putting a handful of big, bold words in prominent positions on the mood board, your clients will get an instant sense of what you want to communicate.
- Keep it simple
The idea of a mood board is to help others understand your creative concepts and ensure they meet the design brief. For your mood board to make the most impact, it needs to communicate the key themes, concepts, colour scheme, textures, etc. at a glance rather than raising questions and confusing people. It’s advisable to keep your mood board simple and think about what it needs to include to create an emotional response or take people on an emotional journey.
Digital mood board tools
There are some great digital mood board tools available online. You might like to try:
- Moodboard (iPad app)
- Moodboard Lite (iPad app, free version)
- Gimme Bar
Do you use mood boards for every project? Have you ever used a mood board to help you win a pitch? I’d love to hear your experiences over on the Grafixbiz Facebook page.
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