Fashion designers, interior designers and theatre costume designers have long used mood boards as a tool to flush out ideas and direction for their projects.

Fashion Mood Board Example

An example of a mood board that could represent a “look and feel” for a fashion or lifestyle brand.

Mood boards are an effective tool for designers to explore “looks and feels” of a new brand, and for clients to build and articulate the emotional tone and connection they want for their brand, beyond describing it with words and adjectives. It’s also a way to engage clients in the creative process.

Mood boards are what I call the “creative playground” phase of a project. They are particularly useful when it comes to creating a new brand personality, evolving an existing brand, branding a product or an event theme — such as a nonprofit fundraiser, a music tour, a corporate conference or awards ceremony.

Branding Using Moodboards

A collection of images, textures, typography, and colors to create a mood or emotions around a brand. Supporting adjectives and words might be collegiate, club, masculine, outdoors and connected that work to expand on the mood board exercise.

Branding Mood Board Example

Another example of a mood board. Notice how some of the images are cropped showing halves and the words chosen to evoke emotion. It’s anybody’s guess, but this brand could be about wanting connection, filling a void, spirituality, and water as a metaphor.

What a Mood Board Is: It’s a collection of colors, texture, typography, photography — consider it a collage that together creates a visual, emotional feeling that the client is looking to evoke in their brand. It can really help the client decide on a direction that feels on target and helps the designer work towards that look and feel.

What a Mood Board Isn’t: It isn’t the design. A mood board could be “interpreted as design in and of itself,” but rather a mood board is a launching place in which to create the design. Elements like color palette, style of photography and typography might be gleaned from a mood board and incorporated into a finished identity and stream into supporting marketing materials.

Hand Full of Dark Grapes Mood Board Sample

A technique I like to apply using mood boards is to take an image that ties closely to the “feel” of the brand and use it to form a color palette in which to build a logo mark, marketing materials, website, and packaging. The above example could be for a new restaurant featuring locally grown produce, a healthy lifestyle product or even a vineyard.

Waiting at the Train Station

A mood board image that appears monochromatic can surprise with a smart classic color palette to be discovered. A lot of emotions (and storylines) can come out of one image. This could be for metro transit (literally) but could be the desired emotions for a career counseling or mental health services brand, i.e. looking for direction in life, feeling left behind or moving forward, choices, looking for opportunities, etc.

By introducing clients to what a mood board is and how it can work into a project’s success, it’s a good idea to have a sample collection on hand to show them. These may be from past projects or they could simply be a collection of imagery that relates to a style or adjective, i.e. modern, conservative, classic, energetic, calm, healthy, etc.

Now there’s Niice, an online resource that allows designers to find inspiration on the web with a single search and collect it privately in smart, elegant mood boards that you can export, share with and present to clients with a link. That has us feeling tickled pink.