You might be able to say your brand’s mission statement.
You might be able to tell us your business’s target audience.
Heck, you might even be able to write in your brand’s voice.
But can you tell us what your brand looks like? How it feels? How it tastes? A mood board can help you do exactly that.
With a mood board, we can visualize and express our brand’s qualities in ways words can’t. They can be crucial tools when making design choices for everything from websites to logos to the font you use on your blog. And they can be wells of inspiration for when you need it most.
Let’s take a look at what a mood board is exactly—as well as give you 10 great mood board examples to help inspire your brand’s next big project.
What is a mood board?
We like the definition UX designer (and Inside Design writer!), Clark Wimberley, wrote:
“A mood board is a collection of like-minded design examples, organized and presented to accomplish a task.”
Like this one here:
Mood boards are typically used for three main purposes:
- Definition. Visually define your brand, product, or marketing campaign.
- Inspiration. Help stimulate creativity by drawing upon different styles and motifs.
- Direction. Act as a guide to help designers navigate any tough design decisions in a project—much in the way a mission statement can help you through a tough business decision.
Think of a mood board as the “North Star” for your design decisions, helping you along the design process by providing a visualization of the emotions you want to evoke.
A study published in the Journal of Business Research has even shown that mood boards help balance coordination with creative freedom when developing products.
“With any good design, you should always keep your target audience in mind. After all, you’re creating the design for them, not you.”
Having a mood board doesn’t just help your in-house design decisions. It can also help attract prospective clients or give current clients a good idea of what the finished product of your designs can be allowing your clients to make changes if they feel something doesn’t connect. That way, you can deliver a product to them that is up to their standard.
What goes on a mood board?
Curating your mood board is a balance of including enough images to convey the emotions and experience you want for your product, while not overwhelming the viewer with too many elements.
Here are a few good tips to help you decide what should go on your mood board.
Look for “threads”
The key to any good mood board is consistency. Someone looking at your mood board should be able to pick up on one or a few recurring thematic elements.
Perhaps it’s a recurring color pattern?
Maybe the style is consistent with a specific era?
Or maybe there’s a specific emotion your images are evoking?
And sometimes, you won’t be able to see these things until you get it all on the board. While you can certainly play and push the boundaries with your mood board, remember that you also need to remain consistent to your brand as well—which brings us to…
Remember your audience
With any good design, you should always keep your target audience in mind. After all, you’re creating the design for them, not you.
Who is your target audience? Where do they live? What are they struggling with and how can your design communicate a solution to those struggles?
For example, if your target audience was thirty-something men living in Topeka, your mood board is going to differ wildly from a brand whose target audience is teenage girls who love Korean pop music. They come from different generations and have different tastes in everything from music to the websites they visit.
This is crucial because your design should always be serving your user.
Mix your media
Don’t be afraid to push creatively with your mood board. That might mean doing something other than gathering and curating images you found online.
“While you can certainly play and push the boundaries with your mood board, remember that you also need to remain consistent to your brand.”
UX designer William Yarbrough did this well during a personal branding project where he wanted to “capture the golden age of air travel.”
To do so, he found a host of original travel tags and postcards from the era to use in his mood board:
Also, feel free to do a mix of physical mood boards AND digital mood boards as well. You should never feel relegated to just one.
Above: A bad mood board.
How to create a mood board
There are two ways you can create your mood board:
- Physically. This mood board is a board you create using physical materials such as papers, fabrics, and paint.
- Digitally. This mood board exists on digital software and computer platforms.
Let’s walk you through each one to see how you can create them.
“Curating your mood board is a balance of including enough images to convey the emotions and experience you want for your product, while not overwhelming the viewer with too many elements.”
How to create a physical mood board
Back in the olden days when a steak dinner cost a nickel and computers were actual, living people, designers and marketers created physical mood boards in order to get their ideas across.
Even today, there are a number of reasons you might want to consider creating your own physical mood boards.
- They’re tactile.
- You can use a wider range of materials from photographs, paints, and even plants.
- You can add scents to them to smell (as one perfumery did).
- They’re great for in-person presentations.
Naturally, these mood boards are limited by physical space. You might not be able to put absolutely everything you wanted to on the board. You also may not be able to physically obtain all of your inspiring elements. Still, there are plenty of benefits for creating a physical mood board—so much so that even brands like Anthropologie use them today.
If you want to create your own, be sure to keep the following in mind:
Gather your inspiration from everywhere
Now it’s time to curate all the items you’ll need for your mood board. This can be anything that sparks the core mood of your project.
Some areas you can curate your materials:
- Cologne/Perfume scents
Here are a few examples of physical mood boards:
If it’s consistent with your brand and audience, you can likely put it on your board.
How to create a digital mood board
Digital mood boards are much more flexible than their physical counterparts.
- You’re not relegated to a small amount of space.
- You can curate images from all across the web.
- You can easily share your mood board with people all over the world.
Since digital mood boards are so flexible, there are a ton of different ways to create one. You can use one of the many digital platforms to curate your images (as you’ll see below) or you can even simply create a folder and drop images in there.
Whatever you ultimately choose is up to you and your team. If you want some good suggestions for digital tools to use though, here are five that we recommend.
1. Invision Boards
Get your design process together into a familiar, central location. Share your Boards with anyone (even on mobile and tablet devices). Boards support your entire design process—from initial idea to handoff. Sign up for boards and play with an example.
Canva is a free online mood board creator. It uses a drag and drop editor to help designers and marketers create their mood boards. The service also comes with more than 50,000 design templates to help you create a perfect board.
Pinterest is a popular and free social media platform that allows users to curate images and videos onto their own digital boards—making it a fantastic platform for your mood board. Simply create a board on your account and start “pinning” images to it.
4. Sample Board
Sample Board is a digital mood board creator that allows designers and marketers to upload their images and organize them into files dedicated to their projects. Also includes a feature that lets you upload your mood boards onto social media or other documents making it easy to share.
Instagram isn’t just good for meme accounts and keeping tabs on your ex. It’s also a great way to curate and follow great inspirational mood boards. For example, the above image comes from JPPM—a digital art agency that has a “never-ending mood board” on Instagram. You can also use Instagram’s “collections” feature to curate your own board of inspirational images.
10 mood boards to inspire your UX designs
Now that you know how to create a mood board and what goes into creating good ones, here are ten mood boards to help jump start your next design project.
They’re a mix of digital and physical—and also leverage different tools and platforms. Use them to draw inspiration to create your own mood board later.
1. Saxon Campbell
2. Bernice K.
3. Ashley Lynn Fry
4. Beasty Design
5. Lauren Saylor
8. Le Kilt
9. Helle Jorgensen
10. Vivek Venkatraman
Let InVision help with your next mood board
With a good mood board, you’ll be able to inspire, guide, and define your brand or project with ease. What your mood board looks like is ultimately up to you.
We’re big fans of mood boards here at InVision. So much so, that we decided to create a powerful tool on our app to help designers and marketers create the best mood boards possible.
With Boards, you’ll be able to create custom mood and brand boards, share image galleries, and professionally present your design assets to impress any client.
A few benefits of using Boards:
- Intuitive. With features like built-in layout options and interactive designs, Boards helps make your design experience both easier and more fun.
- Collaborative. Boards allows multiple users to comment, download, and share. This creates a space conducive for teamwork and collaboration.
- Beautiful. With Boards, you’ll be able to create gorgeous mood boards that tell the visual story of your brands and products.
Sign up below for free to start using Boards today.
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by Tony Ho Tran
Tony is a content marketing consultant and freelance writer. His work has been seen in Business Insider, MSNBC, Hootsuite, and GrowthLab.