How to Create a Mood Board in Just Four Steps
Why should you make a mood board?
The purpose of a mood board is to help define the visual direction and color palette of your brand. It is a great exercise to try if you’re looking to narrow down your brand style by combining images that include texture, elements, patterns, and layouts that interest you or spark inspiration for the brand or product you’re working on.
What is a mood board?
A mood board is a living board that forms your brand's aesthetic in a single view.
What I mean by “living” is that it will constantly change and develop as your brand grows and matures.
How to make a mood board:
Step 01 - Define
Write down the overall mission of the brand or product you’re trying to define an aesthetic for. This will help you define the kind of imagery and tones you will be researching (in the next step).
Step 02 - Collect
This is when you have permission to really go down those rabbit holes. I heavily use Pinterest, but will head straight to the source(s), and Pin directly from Instagram (download the Pinterest plug-in for Chrome — it’s a life changer). More places to find things to collect …
Outside (take photos!)
Magazines (go old school and take photos of images or products you find!)
Try and gather at least 5 images in the following categories…
Lifestyle and/or Setting
These are the five main categories I use when creating boards. Note: color can also be part of a texture image, pattern or lifestyle.
Step 03 - Compile and Organize
Once you’ve collected all your research, decide where you want it all to live until you’re ready to create your actual mood board. I create private Pinterest boards for each mood board I’m creating for each individual project (sounds like a lot, but the separation makes it all easier in the long run!). Another benefit of using Pinterest boards is also the ability to share your findings and collaborate with others.
You can also use …
Whichever tool or platform you decide to use, make sure you label and keep it all in one place.
Step 04 - Create
Taking the top 6-8 images from your research, form your mood board. Make sure to use at least one image from each of the five categories. This makes for a cohesive, diverse, and successful board. I’ve created my own mood board template in Photoshop. If you aren’t a designer OR you simply don’t have access to Photoshop, there are many kinds of options to get you started on building your board.
1. Creative Market templates (cost $ and uses Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator):
2. Canva templates:
How to use a completed mood board:
There are many ways to use a mood board. A couple of ways I use them in my business …
To define color and an overall look and feel for a brand identity that I’m creating. I specifically pull out colors from the images (this is a great way to find unique color palettes, too!), as well as typography, to determine the brand's logo design and visual identity.
To help a collaborator understand the look and feel that I, as the Art Director, am trying to achieve with my brand or project. Example: I need to hire a photographer to shoot a styled piece for me … I can guide the photographer using these visuals that define the overall brand, instead of adjectives or a summary of the brand that could be interpreted in a different way.
More ways ...
If you are planning a party! There are so many great party themes and decor options out there (Have you heard of MeriMeri?), that it can be easy to buy and choose multiple items and products that clash. A mood board will help define a single theme to not only make a beautiful and cohesive party but to really help with decision making (and in turn, will save you money).
To exercise your creative brain! If you work in a non-creative job or not, creating a mood board for yourself can be an exciting and fleeting feeling.
To connect with yourself and your current emotions or thoughts. We all have some kind of day. Some days I find myself pinning dreary and rainy photos because that’s how I’m feeling in that current moment. Start collecting images at any given time and see what comes up. Maybe you’re feeling like running through a field of wildflowers and end up looking at a mood board for your next big and bright idea. OR, you find therapy in creating a mood board on a dreary day like I did (which also ended up being an incredible start to a brand identity).
Playing is crucial to your creativity. Have fun!
HOT TIP: Start collecting images you randomly find of any color and create individual folders for each. This not only saves time when researching for a future mood board, but also helps get your creative brain moving when taking a peek at each folder.