Put simply, a mood board is your brand come to life in a visual medium. It’s the bridge between the intellectual exercise of defining your brand and the process of creating your actual brand identity.
In other words, a mood board is the fun part of making your brand a reality! Remember making collages in school, when you got to seek out images on a theme and bring them all together? A mood board is really just a collage that’s centered around your brand. It’s composed of images, colors, designs, and fonts – anything that communicates your brand to someone in visual terms.
Create a mood board in 4 easy steps
Creating a mood board may seem daunting. After all, how can you sum up your entire brand identity in one single collage? What if the visuals you pick don’t resonate with your audience?
Not to worry. It all comes down to just 4 steps:
1. Make a list of words or phrases that describe your brand.
2. Search for colors, fonts, and images that connect to your words and phrases.
3. Put them together so that they tell a story.
4. Get feedback to see if your story resonates.
Now, let’s break down each step into its own manageable parts.
Step 1: Make a list of words or phrases that describe your brand.
What are the key words and phrases that describe your brand? If nothing comes immediately to mind, don’t panic. Think about what makes you and your brand unique, and write those things down. Is your brand fair trade and organic? Do a percentage of your proceeds go toward a good cause? Is your adorable dog on the packaging? Write down everything you can think of, and be sure to tie in your story where it’s impacted your brand. This is all part of what makes you and your products unique.
Now, review what you’ve written. Notice which words and phrases jump out at you, and create a list. The language you come up with should be emotionally evocative. Each word is important and should make you feel something. If you get a strong feeling by reading a word or phrase, keep it. If you don’t, get rid of it.
You may be tempted to skip this last step and just use your original list of what makes you unique. Resist that temptation! This step is important. You want to end up with only the most essential words and phrases so that when you create your mood board, you don’t get overwhelmed and try to move in too many directions at once.
Step 2: Search for colors, fonts, and images
What colors, fonts and images connect to your words and phrases?
Now that you have your essential words and phrases down, it’s time to begin searching for visual representations of them.
As you search, don’t overthink why you like certain things or don’t like others. Let your intuition guide you.
By the same token, don’t worry about whether the elements you choose are visually compatible or not. Just pick what resonates and let the process unfold naturally. As your mood board comes together, you’ll see patterns emerge.
Look for visual elements that evoke emotion. Ideally, you want your audience to have the same strong emotional reaction you do to the words and phrases you’ve chosen. So pay attention to your emotions as you collect visuals. If the images you pick stir a reaction in you, they’ll likely do the same for your potential buyers, and that’s exactly what you want.
Here are some places, both online and offline, to start looking:
Online: Google Image Search
To use Google Image Search:
- Create a mood board folder on your computer.
- Go to images.google.com and type in a word or phrase.
- When you find an image you like, click into it to enlarge it. You can either right click to save the image into your folder, or you can click through to “Visit,” find the image on the page that loads, and then right click to save the larger image.
- Repeat the process for other words and phrases.
While many pictures you find on Google Images can’t actually be used on your website, you can use them for your mood board as long as you don’t plan to publish it for public consumption.
To use Pinterest:
- Create a new pinboard.
- Search within Pinterest for your words and phrases and pin them to your new pinboard.
- The great thing about Pinterest is that as you add images, you are automatically making a collage. By putting them all on a single board, you’ll be able to see all of your pins in one place.
Offline: Magazines and Photos
To find mood board images offline:
- Seek out magazines that feel similar to your desired brand vibe.
- Instead of searching for specific phrases, rely on your senses and your gut to choose images that feel right.
- Cut them out and put them into a folder.
- You can also look through old photos or take pictures of things out in the world that inspire you. One good way to do this is to go on a walk and take photos of things that relate to your brand.
While you’re looking for fonts, colors and images, be sure to search for packaging designs that inspire you as well. You can either make a separate mood board for your packaging or integrate it into your larger brand board. Packaging is a critical way to separate your brand from others, so it’s important to keep it in mind early in the process.
Step 3: Put your images, fonts, and colors together into a collage
You can complete Step 3 either online or offline.
Online Tools for Creating a Digital Collage:
- Pixelmator (Mac only)
- Pages (Mac only)
Canva is a free online program that offers many different mood board templates you can use. It’s one of the easiest platforms to get started with, as it’s very user-friendly. It’s also chock full of beautiful designs, so it’s quick and easy to end up with a mood board that looks professional. Recently Canva made an All In One Photo Collage Page, where you can create custom photo collages, inspire bigger ideas in brand presentations, new moods on styling boards, and celebrate big moments.
If you used Pinterest in your image search, you can now go through and rearrange them or migrate groups of them to create a few different mood boards.
Other Online Tools:
Other tools for making a digital collage include Photoshop, Word, Pixelmator, and Pages. Some of these pieces of software (Photoshop in particular) have a steep learning curve; if you aren’t already comfortable using them, Canva or Pinterest will be much more approachable to start, and will yield beautiful results.
If you’re more of a DIY type, print out your images or use the magazine cut-outs and old photos you’ve gathered. Get a piece of foam board (or a few) and arrange the images on them. Once you’re done, glue or tape them down.
Step 4: Get feedback
Now that you’ve made at least one mood board, it’s time to get feedback.
Go to a few people who represent your target audience and ask them for their impressions. This can include customers as well as other stakeholders like team members or investors. Their opinions will help you determine if you’re on the right track. Notice which elements get lots of comments (positive or negative), and which are entirely overlooked.
If you’ve created more than one mood board, use the feedback to narrow in on just one board that you can use to inspire your logo. If you need to combine elements from multiple mood boards together in your final product, that’s perfectly fine. Just make sure that your end result tells a story and creates a connection with whoever is looking at it.
Hopefully this post illustrates just how approachable a mood board can be when you break it down into 4 simple steps. If you’re looking for a bit more inspiration, we’ve got you covered.
Creating your mood board is largely an intuitive process. Don’t harp on why you like a certain image, font, or color. Trust yourself and add it to your moodboard even if you’re not sure how it fits into the whole. You may eventually see a pattern you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Or, you may discard it later on, and that’s fine too.
Let yourself think outside the box. Don’t limit yourself to design elements that make direct, linear sense together. Sometimes the best brands are created when unexpected things are paired together. Let yourself play and make some choices that don’t seem to make sense. When you’re building your collage, purposely put un-like elements together and see how they look.
Build with intention. Although it’s important to freely choose elements that make sense to you, make sure there is intention behind everything you put into your mood board. Each and every choice you make with your mood board should connect back to your brand in some way. You may even want to jot down some notes about why you’ve chosen certain elements, in case you can’t remember later.
You will probably end up with a few different mood boards. That’s a good thing. You want to start out with a few different concepts so that you can narrow it down later and come out of the feedback process with a mood board that leads your brand in the right direction.
We’re always here to help
Mood boards are one of the first steps we take when creating a brand. We usually create 3 mood board options for our clients. This is a critical step to define the personality of the brand and identify the target audience. If at any point you get stuck and want the help of a designer to partner with you in creating a brand you love, let’s talk.