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Shelley Bassett

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Building a Mood Board


May 2, 2018

Creating a mood board is an important step early in the design process. A vision, inspiration or mood board can set the tone of the whole project

Just because you have inspiration doesn’t mean you have direction. A solid idea will not make a brilliant outcome. One step that can easily help to both refine the idea and easily and effectively communicate direction with team members is a mood board. These are sometimes called vision or inspiration boards, but basically, they’re another type of brainstorming.

Mood boards differ from early brainstorming in two ways. They’re more visual and they’re more focused. This step is about being able to communicate a feeling or emotion, and will tie directly in with the style guide.

Collecting Inspiration

Before constructing the final mood board, it’s best to see what we like. This is a totally visual exercise, so it works best with images, colours or even textures. Personally, I like the cleanliness of a digital mood board and has the bonus of being easy to share with a team or clients. Some people prefer more traditional mood boards, using either a large poster or cork board. It doesn’t matter which style you choose the process, and the result, is the same.

Mood Board for the Massacre in Melbourne web-app

Mood Board for the Massacre in Melbourne web-app

The images can come from anywhere. Pinterest is a great source of images from a wide variety of places, but Google Images is just a good. Find the overarching theme or feeling of the project and start searching. Save, clip or re-pin anything that speaks to you. That is, anything that directly represents the outcome that you’re aiming for. It might be a movie poster in a particular style, or the way a specific artist draws an animal. If it feel like it belongs with the project, then it probably belongs on the mood board. Like most early design steps, its better to have too many ideas than too few. We can refine this collection as we go.

Images, Colours, Textures and Fonts

Traditionally, mood boards really only include a few inspiration images, colours and textures. However, in the digital age, there are many more things that are likely to be added. It’s important to include these traditional backbones though. They’re tried and tested, and will still have a significant impact on the final designs. But now, we can also include fonts, UI/UX elements, sounds, animations and any number of other small ideas.

Evolving Ideas

One thing you may have noticed is that the images you collect are changing over time. You might have started out with very gloomy images, and at some point started choosing ones that have a splash of a contrast colour. This is what a mood board is about. We’re exploring the visual identity of the project without needing to redesign the final layouts a dozen times over.

Mood Board for the Urban Green Garden website

Mood Board for the Urban Green Garden website

When you’ve gotten to this point, it’s time to build the final mood board. From all the collected images, choose the ones that are most true to the final project style. This is the point that our designs will aim for. Its okay to be left with only a few quality resources, provided they effectively communicate the outcome we aim to achieve. The aim of our final mood board is to effectively and concisely describe the feel of the final project. Things might change and shift as we work, but this tool can help us to keep on track with what a client is expecting.

The Final Mood Board

Mood boards can be presented in a number of ways. It might be a slide in a PowerPoint or a spread in a design proposal. It might even be an actual board that you stick printed images to. However you choose to present your mood board, be sure to include the elements that will be most relevant to your final project. To see how to mood boards relate to a final outcome, you can view the UrbanGreen.Garden website, or take the Massacre in Melbourne tour. The colour pallets, images, and visual styles collected in these mood boards firmly determined the direction that the projects took.

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  1. Jason Bingham says:

    Very useful article! Prezi is also a good tool for mind mapping and mood boards!