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How to create mood boards that inspire: 20 pro tips

how to create mood boards
(Image credit: cottonbro via Pexels)

Learning how to create mood boards can transform your experience of pitching design ideas to clients. At the start of a riversweeps 777 online casino app project, a mood board helps to communicate your vision as a designer. To impress the client, it should offer a visually stunning summary of your ideas, full of textures and images that paint a picture in ways that words alone could not achieve. In a way, it allows the client to get inside your creative mind, while also helping you to organise your own ideas. 

This means it's vital to make sure that your mood board is more than a confusing collage of disparate ideas. It should be a cohesive, visually attractive expression that makes your vision clear. But how do you create a mood board that achieves this? Below, we offer a series of tips that should allow you to effectively convey your creative ideas to a client. 

If you think your design portfolio also needs some work in order to accompany your next pitch, make sure you also see our tips to create a stunning portfolio website and our top portfolio examples for inspiration. Meanwhile, read on to see how to create mood boards to communicate your ideas.

How to create mood boards: 20 pro tips

01. Look beyond the digital world

When you begin working on a mood board, it's easy (and very tempting) only to use images that you find online. But even if you're working on a digital product, that doesn't mean you need to stick to digital inspiration (and chances are you may also be breaking copyright laws by using online images). 

It's worth stepping away from the computer and looking at other sources of inspiration too. When it worked working on the ITV riversweeps 777 online casino apps website, digital product design company turned to copies of the classic Picture Post magazine to explore how powerful and effective an image plus caption can be when it comes to telling a riversweeps 777 online casino apps story. Real-world inspiration like this can be a very powerful 'convincer' when putting together a board for a client.

02. Take pictures for your mood boards

use a form of mood board to showcase themselves to other members of the team. Individuals put together nine images in a 3 x 3 grid to give their work colleagues an insight into what they're like; their interests, passions, cares and worries.

13. Text it up

Don't ignore the power of isolated words on a mood board. A few well-chosen words can be fantastic show-stoppers that can give the viewer pause for thought because they have to mentally read what's in front of them. Big, bold words juxtaposed together work very well at creating drama, tone and meaning for any project.

14. Make the theme of your mood board clear

How to create mood boards: Dark Punk images

This mood board for UNICEF alongside the finished piece shows a clear theme

Obscure references can be fun, but try to have a number of relatable items or 'touchpoints' in your mood board to make sure that the theme is clear. You want to let others in, so being deliberately obtuse will earn you no points at all. It's easy to fill out a board with a pile of incomprehensible references; it often takes more thought to be clear and use imagery that can be easily interpreted to sell your vision.

15. Aim to spark an emotional response

Having said that, it also pays to think a little left of centre when you're presenting a mood board to a client. Ask yourself what would give them a genuine emotive response. Real-world objects are good for this. If you were inspired by the beach, bring in a shell. If your eureka moment happened on the train, bring in the ticket. This type of thing can create intrigue, which triggers that all-important emotive reaction.

16. Don't make presumptions

How to create mood boards: be clear

Ask yourself more questions to make sure your vision is as clear as possible

Expecting too much of your audience can make the difference between a successful mood board and one that's dismissed as being too cerebral – or downright confusing. There's a great danger in assuming that people will "know what you mean". The chances are they won't. Even if it takes a few more references, images or textures to really clarify what's inside your head, it's worth adding them in.

17. Test your mood board

How to create mood boards: test

Ask for feedback in test runs prior to the pitch

That leads us on to our next tip for how to create mood boards. It can really help to show your mood board to someone not involved in the project to check how it goes down before you share it with the client. Remember, it's not a game of Pictionary: if your test audience has to ask too many times what an image means or why it's there, then you should probably make changes.

18. Have fun with your mood board

How to create mood boards: fun

It should be a creative, fun part of the process

It's a lot of work, but the whole process of creating mood boards should be fun – and a refreshing break from the often tedious tasks of the jobbing designer. If you're not having fun, that's a sure sign you're going about things the wrong way.

19. Use mood boards to brief designers

How to create mood boards: images for Tom Baker

An Avengers-themed mood board for Tom Baker 

Mood boards are a good way to brief a creative. Don't be afraid to go into detail here. The mood board above was compiled for animator Tom Baker as a mood and style guide for a celebration of the Avengers TV series in 2011. Instead of relying on one example of a character, several types are shown in many different poses, which gave Baker a clear take on the style and direction of the piece.

How to create mood boards: Tom Baker's final Avengers designs

The finished characters 

20. Speed up client sign-off

How to create mood boards: sign off

A mood board should give a client enough info to sign off on the project

Mood boards aren't only for pitches. Consider preparing mood boards throughout projects before creating polished visuals. 'I'll know it when I see it' is a phrase that most of us are familiar with, and hearing this feedback when finished artwork comes back from a client can be gutting, meaning it's back to the drawing board. Using mood boards at different stages of the process can help you avoid this from happening by allowing you to get feedback along the way.

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Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He's in charge of getting our product reviews up onto the website and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to office supplies. He's worked as a writer and translator for 20 years and also works as a project manager at a design and branding agency based in London and Buenos Aires, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors.