How to make a mood board that serves a purpose

 
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Ah, mood boards. What exactly are they, and why are all of your artsy fartsy friends always making them?

Mood boards, or inspiration boards, are a visual collection of ideas and themes, often used to guide the style of a project or event. I use them in branding projects to set the foundation for a business’ style guide development. Pinterest boards are essentially mood boards - so you’ve likely made one before.

Making a mood board is useful in business branding, event planning, wedding planning, and even when you're redecorating your living room or giving your wardrobe a makeover. (AKA all the fun stuff life has to offer.)

But here’s the thing with mood boards: you can throw a bunch of images together of Chris Pine and call it your “wedding mood board,” but unless you have an actual strategy in place, there’s no point in making one.

The same goes for making a mood board for a business. You can pin your heart away, gather thoughtful inspiration for your brand, and then create a collage of the images...but unless you’re being intentional about the layout and composition, you’re leaving great ideas on the table - and great ideas are cash, so you’re really leaving cash on the table.

DO NOT LEAVE CASH ON THE TABLE.

How to Make a Mood Board
 

Here are some guidelines for making your mood boards purposeful, not just pretty.

What is the problem you’re trying to solve with your mood board?

Ask yourself this before starting to make a mood board. What is your goal? Are you trying to determine your brand colors? If so, gather images that feel aligned with your brand values and organize by color trends later. Are you redesigning your kitchen and want to have a guide to reference when making decisions on big purchases and decor? If so, fill your board with images of the kitchens of your dreams. Set your goal in the beginning and let that guide your mood board process.

Size, Layout and Composition

The size of your mood board will depend on the project, but I am always inclined to use 10-15 images. I see a lot of mood boards on Instagram and design blogs that have 4 photos, and while pretty, they don’t really reveal enough. Four may be okay if you are gathering quick inspiration for a project, but for a brand design or event, you will need more images to truly convey your themes, values and style.

You can also use the layout to set the tone. If you’re going for a warm look, maybe your photos have rounded edges or are circular. If you’re going for something more edgy and artistic, maybe they overlap and are all different sizes.

Pay attention to the composition and content of your collage. Let the photos whose style you most want to emphasize be the largest and most prominent. Are 7 out of 10 pictures of flowers, because they feature colors you like? Is the sole purpose of your mood board to pick out floral arrangements? If not, then say bye to some of those blooms.

Color Consistency

Ideally, your mood board dictates a color palette for your project, one that doesn’t have more than 6 colors. If you are going with 6 colors, try to focus most of your imagery on 1-3 of them, and feature the secondary colors less across your mood board.

If you find images you love and you’re creating a digital mood board (on Pinterest, or using Canva or Photoshop), don’t hesitate to adjust the colors with photo editing software to make the image fit in.

Incorporate Values

This is maybe the heart of the matter, and it’s something I don’t see people doing nearly enough. It’s important that your mood board reflect your project or brand’s values.

You can do this by choosing imagery that evokes feelings of your values, or a really easy approach is to include images of your keywords words and quotes.

If you’re adding any wording to your mood board and your project or business has a style guide, it’s great to use the fonts from your branding. If your mood board is paving the way for font selection, choose fonts like the ones you will want to use later on.

Here’s an example of a style guide I created for a client that uses both words and a stylized quote. This quote is from the business owner, taken from her mission statement. The words are her brand keywords.

 
 

Hopefully this gives you some clarity on how to make a mood board for a business, for weddings, for events, or anything your heart desires! If you have any questions for me, please reach out using the comments below. :)

Haley