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How to Create an Effective Mood Board

Creating a brand mood board

If you’ve ever watched an interior design show (and don’t try to tell me you’ve never indulged in some HGTV binging), you’ve probably seen the magic of the mood board. It’s one of the most tried-and-true ways to set the tone for a creative project — and you don’t have to be house-flipping to see the benefits.  

Whether you’re working with a new client, launching a new service, or rebranding, mood boards can be a huge help to your creative process. They’re great communication tools that have the potential to direct your brand’s aesthetic and bolster your strategy overall.

Related: Get more mileage from your content by turning print to digital.

Why Use Mood Boards?

The right mood board will help you nail down a creative direction that will guide you through a project. Doing this legwork upfront means streamlining your creative process and setting your team up to deliver a clear and cohesive final product.

The extra step may feel tedious at first, but it’ll save time in the long run by preventing you from laboring over fonts, images, and other visual components of your deliverable months down the road. Think of your mood board as a guiding light that keeps your project focused and consistent. 

When Should You Use a Mood Board?

Mood boards are meant for the beginning stages of a project. They’re the natural next step after any type of creative kickoff meeting.

How to Create the Perfect Mood Board

Step 1: Ask questions. Start by gathering as much information as possible about your project. Ideally, you’ll have that kickoff meeting so that you can talk things through with all involved parties, up front and in person, followed up by a creative brief that outlines the scope of the project. Ask plenty of questions in this initial stage.

Step 2: Think it through. Brainstorm the visuals you’ll need to satisfy the end goal. Choose adjectives that reflect how you would like someone to think of your company or project and seek out visual elements that represent those ideas.

Step 3: Dig in. Start pulling things that speak to you. Allow yourself to go a little wild at the start. Make a folder and drop in anything that strikes you. You’ll hone it down later.

Step 4: Curate your content. After you’ve got a small army of design elements, start subtracting the ones that don’t add anything or clash with the overall aesthetic you’re beginning to build. Look at the recurring colors and use those to build out a color palette.

Step 5: Make it work. Overlapping is fine as long as the images don’t overcrowd each other. To stay organized, try using a central image or word to describe the board, then build around it.

Where Should You Look for Inspiration?

The short answer: Anywhere.

When it comes to finding images, social media tools like Pinterest and Instagram are especially helpful since they almost act as mood boards themselves.

Remember to think outside the box. Mood boards are about more than color swatches and pictures; you may include images or words that define your project thematically (think: fire for feistiness; a runner for longevity).

Potential elements to include:

  • Images (a mix of objects, settings, people, and abstract)
  • Fonts
  • Color pallets
  • Keywords
  • Custom illustrations
  • Photography styles
  • Fabric swatches
  • Patterns
  • Logos and icons from other brands

An array of inspirational ideas is completely OK as long as your mood board’s look and feel is ultimately harmonious.

Physical or digital?

Mood boards can be physical or digital. There are benefits to both:

  • Digital mood boards are easily sharable and collaborative. You can add videos or GIFs, which is valuable if your project exists primarily online.
  • Physical boards are better for in-person presentations. You can add texture or layers, so it’s particularly good for projects with a strong tactile component.

We typically opt for digital because they’re more easily sharable and easily created via Pinterest, Canva, Adobe programs, and more. But it’s different for everyone — the key is to pick whatever best supports your team’s creativity.

This Is How We Do It

Here’s a peek at a mood board we made for a project with Texas Farm Bureau Insurance:

Mood Board for Texas Farm Bureau Insurance

The images are warm and evoke a spirit of Texas pride. They also convey the client’s key values: a sense of family, friendship, hard work, and a love of the great outdoors.

How to Judge an Effective Mood Board

A good mood board comes down to three key elements:

1. Does the mood board have a strong identity?

With a glance at your board, anyone outside of the process should be able to identify exactly what you’re going for — modern, minimalistic, rustic, bold, etc. Consider shopping the mood board around the office to test its visual clarity.  

2. Does the mood board set clear expectations for creative work?

Similarly, the mood board should set clear standards for all employees and freelancers. Fonts, color palettes, and photography styles should be listed or displayed. 

3. Is the mood board inspiring?

It’s easy to resort to the same styles again and again. Mood boards are a great way to break out of your comfort zone and avoid repetition. Above all, mood boards should inspire and encourage creative innovation within your team.

Need more guidance for kick-starting your creative project? We can help.