A mood board is an essential tool for designers, creative professionals, and even hobbyists looking to bring an artistic vision to life. This collage of images, textures, colors, and text helps you clearly communicate the look, feel, and emotions you want to evoke in your project.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about making an outstanding mood board, whether using traditional physical materials or convenient digital tools.
What is a Mood Board?
A mood board is a visual presentation that conveys the overall style, emotions, aesthetics, and ambience of a creative project. It is a collection of images, materials, textures, colors, text, and other visual elements arranged in a cohesive composition.
Mood boards help align stakeholders and set the direction for the project early on. They provide inspiration and guidance to the team throughout the design process. The materials on a mood board should work together to clearly communicate the desired look and feel.
For example, an interior designer may create a mood board featuring swatches of fabrics, paint chips, photos of furniture, textiles, and decor elements to establish the style for a client‘s home renovation. A graphic designer might make a mood board with color schemes, typography, stock photos, and graphical elements to guide the branding for a startup company.
Mood boards are useful for all kinds of creative endeavors including visual design, fashion, photography, writing, and more. Anyone trying to convey an aesthetic vision can benefit from distilling ideas down into a cohesive mood board.
Who Uses Mood Boards?
Mood boards are used by all types of creative professionals and hobbyists including:
- Graphic designers – To guide branding and marketing material design
- Web/UI designers – To set visual direction for website or app interfaces
- Interior designers – To establish a cohesive decor for residential or commercial spaces
- Architects – To align on the style and ambience of building projects
- Fashion designers – To convey a clothing line‘s aesthetic and help design pieces
- Photographers – To plan for a photoshoot concept and styling
- Writers – To visualize a fictional setting or genre for stories and books
- Event planners – To decide on decor, styling, and ambience for events
- Crafters/DIYers – To create homemade crafts and decor aligned to a theme
- Students – To organize inspiration and ideas for artistic school projects
Essentially, mood boards are a versatile visualization tool used by anyone trying to communicate creative ideas and emotions through aesthetics. They help align teams and provide inspirational guidance throughout a project‘s development.
Why Use a Mood Board?
There are many benefits to using mood boards for creative projects:
Clarify vision – A mood board captures a clear creative direction and desired aesthetics in one place.
Align stakeholders – Share mood boards to get everyone on the same page from the start.
Guide design work – Mood boards provide visual inspiration to refer back to during the design process.
Simplify communication – Convey complex concepts visually rather than trying to explain abstract ideas.
Improve project efficiency – Reduce revisions by establishing the look and feel upfront.
Organize inspiration – Collect all your visual inspiration in one organized place.
Facilitate brainstorming – Mood boards help spark new ideas and concepts.
Increase creativity – The visuals stimulate your imagination in new directions.
Evoke emotions – Curate visuals that elicit the desired emotions from an audience.
Overcome creative block – Mood boards help get your creative juices flowing if feeling stuck.
In summary, mood boards enable you to visualize creative ideas, simplify communication, align teams, provide ongoing inspiration, increase creativity, and evoke the desired emotional response. Every creative project can benefit from developing a mood board upfront.
Types of Mood Boards
There are two main formats for creating mood boards:
Physical Mood Boards
Physical mood boards are tactile collages made from actual materials and objects. Traditional mood boards are crafted by cutting and pasting paper, fabrics, color swatches, textures, photos, and other physical items onto poster board or foam core.
The hands-on, tangible nature of physical mood boards makes them engaging to create and view. The materials have depth, texture, and color accuracy impossible to achieve digitally. Large format physical boards are easy to photograph and share. And they can be displayed in offices or studios to keep the creative direction visible.
Physical mood boards are best for:
- Tactile inspiration like fabrics, wallpapers, wood samples, etc.
- Large-format boards to hang on walls as visual inspiration
- As artifacts or decorations after the project is complete
Digital Mood Boards
Digital mood boards are created using software like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Canva, Pinterest, Milanote and more. Images, text, colors, and graphical elements are arranged digitally.
Digital mood boards are highly flexible and easy to edit. You can quickly make changes to layout, add new elements, or create variations. Digital boards also make it simple to share work-in-progress in online workspaces. And you can even turn them into interactive presentations or pdfs.
Digital mood boards work best when:
- Easy sharing and iteration is important
- You need to maintain lots of board variations/options
- Presenting boards remotely to dispersed teams
- You lack physical resources like large format printers
You can blend physical and digital too. Photograph textures and materials to import digitally, or print sections of digital boards for a hybrid approach. Choose the medium that aligns best with your project needs and creative process.
What to Include on a Mood Board
While mood boards can take many forms, most include some combination of:
Relevant photos, illustrations, and graphical elements that convey the visual direction. Show examples of textures, styles, objects, scenes, characters, etc. related to your project.
Curate a color palette that aligns with your vision. Include swatches of key colors. Show colors together to demonstrate harmonies and contrasts.
Select one or more fonts that embody the aesthetic you want. Show examples of how fonts are used – like headlines, text blocks, labels, etc.
Include tactile elements like fabric swatches, wood grains, brush strokes, paper types. Or show visual examples of textures.
If designing for a brand, include their logo, wordmark, and brand colors. Show how they could be used.
Add text to label, describe, explain, or guide the viewer through your board.
Show visuals that convey intangible concepts like emotions, energy, genres, movements, eras, themes, etc.
Arrange elements purposefully using alignment, proximity, repetition, contrast, negative space, etc.
Tailor your board to communicate your vision clearly. Only include elements that enhance understanding – don‘t clutter the board. Use your judgment of what helps bring the essence of your project to life visually.
How to Make a Mood Board
Here is a step-by-step guide to creating a stunning and effective mood board:
Brainstorm and Research
Start by clearly defining the goal for your mood board. Determine what you want it to communicate and achieve. Spend time brainstorming words, phrases, ideas, aesthetics, and emotions related to your project. Search for inspirational images, palettes, fonts, and visuals related to your brainstorming. Cast a wide net gathering anything that resonates.
Select Key Images
Review all the visual inspiration you‘ve collected. Narrow it down to the images that best embody the look, feel, emotions, qualities, or concepts you want to convey. Aim for high-res images with striking visual impact. Between 5 – 15 images is ideal.
Curate a Color Palette
Pull out key colors from your inspiration to develop a color palette. Aim for 5 – 7 harmonious or contrasting colors. Show swatches of each color near each other to demonstrate relationships. Add any important brand colors too.
Select one or more fonts to use on your board that align with your aesthetic goals. Monospaced fonts convey a different feeling than brush scripts for example. Show font examples at various scales.
Experiment with different configurations for positioning your elements on the page. Alignments, proximity, balance, paths, and visual flow all impact the viewing experience. Use white space intentionally.
Refine and Finalize
Review your board and make edits to perfect it. Simplify cluttered areas. Build connections between disparate elements. Fill in any gaps. Explain with text if helpful.Polish the board until it clearly communicates your vision.
Export and Share
Export your mood board in the optimal format for sharing – like JPG, PDF, PPT or PNG. Upload to project management tools or presentation software. Print it out. Do whatever is needed to effectively share your mood board with stakeholders.
Set aside time upfront in your project schedule for thoughtful mood board development. When done well, they set the vision and enrich the entire creative process that follows.
Examples of Great Mood Boards
Fashion Mood Board
This fashion mood board uses a colder, desaturated palette juxtaposed with warm wood tones. A youthful, artsy vibe comes through in the styling and accessories. Cool, neutral backgrounds let the outfits pop.
Branding Mood Board
For this startup branding mood board, tech-inspired and geometric visuals establish a sleek, innovative aesthetic. The electric color palette feels energetic. Sans-serif fonts complement the forward-thinking branding.
Website Design Mood Board
The muted color palette and natural textures of this web design mood board create a calming, eco-friendly vibe. Flowing organic shapes counterbalance straight edges. The mood is peaceful, balanced and relaxed.
Tips for Making Engaging Mood Boards
Use high-quality, evocative images. Photos should align aesthetically.
Limit text. Let the visuals tell the story.
Apply color thoughtfully to enhance emotions.
Make strategic use of negative space.
Align elements using margins, columns, borders, or frames.
Showcase inspiring typography scaled appropriately.
Use texture and backgrounds thoughtfully as supporting elements.
Iterate until the board feels cohesive. Remove anything that doesn‘t contribute.
Focus on conveying concepts visually rather than explaining verbally.
Best Practices for Mood Board Projects
Involve your team in mood board creation to align expectations early on.
Set a timeline for mood board sign-off before design begins.
Share mood board digitally so everyone can reference as needed.
Revisit and revise mood boards if creative direction shifts.
Capture photo documentation of physical boards for sharing easily.
Display mood boards visibly in offices for ongoing inspiration.
Treat your mood board as the creative north star that guides all decisions.
Mood Board Inspiration
Need a spark of visual inspiration from beautiful mood boards created by other pros? Check out these mood board galleries:
- Milanote Mood Board Examples
- Canva Mood Board Examples
- Niice Visual Inspiration
- Pinterest Mood Board Gallery
- Behance Branding Mood Boards
Mood Board Tools
Here are some great tools for assembling stunning digital mood boards:
Canva – Free graphic design tool with templates for visual collages
Niice – Site for collecting design inspiration and mood boards
Milanote – Digital workspace for mood boards and visual collaboration
Pinterest – Popular free pinboard site great for curating images
InDesign – Layout powerhouse for pro graphic design mood boards
Adobe Express – Quickly build free online visual collages
Figma – Leading UI/UX design platform with mood board frames
PicMonkey – Intuitive photo editing and design for simple mood boards
Developing a strong mood board lays the creative foundation for any visual project. Dedicate time upfront to dreaming up and curating a board filled with relevant imagery, color palettes, textures, typography, and graphic elements. Let your mood board guide each design decision, keeping the final vision always in sight. Your projects will have greater cohesion and impact when you hone the essence down into an inspiring mood board.