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What is a Mood Board?

Mood Boards are a specific type of collage. The best design evokes emotion. Using a Mood Board or mood collage jumpstarts the creative process of incorporating mood into the design.

It is a tool that allows a designer to combine different colors, images, and fonts to give an overall sense of the final design. These collages are particularly helpful when a client has difficulty visualizing the final design. Mood Boards help to realize what is possible. They also provide a conversational tool that can foster shared ground between the client and the artist.

Many industries capitalize on Mood Boards, including interior designers, graphic designers, and photographers. Mood Boards help designers ground their creativity and provide a sense of structure to their ideas. These collages started as physical boards, but now they are created digitally and physically.

Digital versions help foster collaboration among designers and facilitate edits, while physical versions help elicit the emotion that is supposed to be evoked. These collages are only helpful if you know how to create them best. This guide will guide you stepwise through this process.

So, let’s discuss Mood Boards. For the purposes of these tips, they are tool agnostic. You can make them work with pretty much any graphic design program that you use. Clients and customers often have a hard time envisioning your final product and it is easy to see why. While you might have the final product visually seared into your mind, they don’t! Taking this further, what if the final design that you have in mind is not consistent with what the client wants to see? Mood Boards help to get everybody on the same page in terms of vision and finished product. The last thing a designer wants is to devote time to a project and have the client be dissatisfied with the outcome. These collages help to communicate ideas before a lot of time has been wasted.

Tip 1. Clarifying Language

As much as it would be nice, the English language does not have one meaning attached to each word. In addition, individual perspectives add ambiguity to the meanings of words. Clients could approach you as the designer and state that they want their product to be seasonal and contemporary. You might have a general sense of what these words depict in the design world, but your client does not live in the same world. By creating a composite using many materials and colors, you and the client can arrive at a common understanding of what these words mean to them.

Tip 2. Getting Standardized Information

As you gain more experience creating Mood Boards, you will know what information is needed from the client to create a collage that speaks to their needs.

Consider creating a template that allows the client to know what you need and allows you to know in what order this information will be presented. Consider asking for items like their mission and vision statement, goals, and objectives. Along with these, ask the client for a few to several adjectives that get at the words and emotions they want to produce in people who visit the website. For example, they want the website to invoke the following adjectives: sharp, functional, current, progressive, clean, and savvy. Now you have a vocabulary when you dig for images and other composite features.

Tip 3. Create Multiple Examples

The more resources you have for the client to review, the deeper the conversation will be. The same is true for Mood Boards. Each collage that you create should capture emotions in a slightly different way. The following are some examples of ideas based on the adjectives the client gave us.

The first board generates the notion of nature. Balancing modernity and nature in a way that provides a sense of vastness and peace simultaneously comes across in this design.

Nature Mood Board

This example gives the sense of minimalist look and feel. It focuses on the lines of the building and does not detract from the simple beauty.

Architecture Flyer Mood Board

The third example could assemble a visual representation of a modern graphic design for stationery. The key here is to choose the right amount of negative space and balance it with a minimal color scheme.

Minimalist Graphic Design Collage Mood Board

The fourth example could explore how to balance clean lines and crisp colors using the ocean. Sharp shades of blue and striking natural resources balance out warm and cool emotions.

Ocean Is Beautiful. Mood Board

Each of these examples is quite different even though they are all driven by the same set of adjectives. After the client reviews these and you discuss them, there will be less ambiguity around the terms that they use.

The more resources you have for the client to review, the deeper the conversation will be!

Tip 4. Ideating to Jumpstart Design

Nobody finishes a Mood Board session with a client knowing exactly what the finished product will look like. This process is really about idea generation and getting you to know what will work in the design when you see it. The client needs to be critical of the initial collage presented to them and provide substantive feedback.

Probe the client with questions such as:

  • What power do you want to connote through this design?
  • Whose voice should be represented?
  • What is the ratio of negative space that they want?
  • How many images should be used?
  • What colors should be featured, and which should be accented?

Tip 5. Creating the Mood Board

The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time structuring the layout correctly. It would be best if you always created a grid in the graphic design software that you prefer. This grid helps with the layout and balance of the collage. Go to whatever stock image site you like such as Unsplash, Shutterstock and start searching with the adjectives and other words from your creative ideas. Make sure that the images are clean and focused when you put them on the layout.

As you find images that you want to use, start popping them into the layout. Do not worry too much about their size and dimensions. You want to be able to make them clean enough to give the intended emotion and feel.

Also, consider the colors being used in the images. You want them to complement the colors that would be used in the final design. Ensure that you have a good balance of negative space so that the images and colors do not overwhelm the client. The images might need to be cropped or lightly edited in order to convey what you want.

Although four ideas were given earlier, you can create endless designs. Once the template for the first one is made, it is easy to switch out the content and generate additional concepts.

Tip 6. Time-Saving Measures

If the Mood Board was the final product, then you should spend a considerable amount of time creating it. However, it is not the final product! It is only the starting point. It is meant to provide another dimension to the information the client provides. It can give a visual representation of those words and more quickly give you and the client a mutual understanding of the end product. It provides a shared language of the words that the client initially used. They should be easily adaptable and changed, hence the reason for creating them in a grid layout.

In Conclusion

Mood Boards are an essential part of the design process. The critical word in the previous sentence is the process. This specific type of collage is not the end of the process, nor is it the only step. However, it is useful when communicating with the client about what exactly they are envisioning. It increases the odds that the client will be satisfied with the finished product.

Remember, be creative and take risks. If a client does not like your design, this is a low-risk prototype that can be easily modified to suit their needs. Whether it is a picture or color scheme, the grid template means a new image that can be used to provide a different emotional response.

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