Creating + Using Mood Boards

Creating and Using Mood Boards | Lemon and the Sea:  How I create and use mood boards for my clients and in my own business.

I previously talked about how I use design questionnaires to get to know my client's business and design aesthetic. After the questionnaires are completed, I ask each of my clients to create a secret Pinterest board of images that inspire them for their brand. By using these two things together, I'm able to put together a mood board that then directs the rest of the project.

What is a Mood Board?

I'm often asked this question when talking with potential clients because this step may seem unnecessary to some. Basically, a mood board is a collection of images and colors that reflect the overall goal and feeling you want to achieve with your visual brand.

It's important for a very simple (but huge) reason: it serves as the reference point for the entire design. 

When I create a mood board for a project, I take a lot of time to look through my client's questionnaire answers, Pinterest board, and current branding. I also refer back to any conversations we've had. I spend all this time up front because if the mood board doesn't fit what my client is looking for, then it's very difficult to keep the rest of the project on track.

Think of it this way: the mood board is the instruction manual that I use to design and if the instructions aren't clear, then the project won't come together the way it should.

For the Designer and the Client

Once my client approves their mood board, it basically becomes law (unless we do a lot of communicating otherwise). I refer to it when I'm designing. They refer to it when they're evaluating and giving feedback. If either of us feels that something isn't fitting correctly, we can take the other back to the mood board and discuss it.

Mood boards are all about the feeling of a brand and therefore serve as a great check in during every step in the design process. I have it open any time I'm designing for a client, especially when coming up with initial concepts.

Creating your own mood board

While a designer can help you put together a mood board that reflects the feeling you want your brand to have, you can also create one for yourself if you're still in the DIY stage. These are a few of the questions I use to really start pulling together cohesive images:

  • Who is your target audience and what do they look like? (I like to include one picture of the target audience in each mood board.)
  • What words describe the feeling you want your brand to have?
  • What colors do you definitely want to include/leave out?
  • What movie or television show best represents your brand?

This last question is a recent addition for me, but it's certainly helpful. Movies and television shows are all about communicating a certain feeling to a certain audience. When writing and directing a movie, the ideal audience is carefully chosen and then choice is based on that demographic. While movies generally have a wider reach than online businesses, we're still trying to do the same thing: visually communicate a feeling to the people we want to connect with.

I always ask clients to describe how they want their brand to feel, but sometimes those words mean different things to different people. By also asking them to name a movie that represents that same feeling, I can get a much better idea of what they have in mind. (Plus, it gives me something to watch as inspiration.)

If someone tells me they want a brand that is fun and feminine, I have to dig deeper into what that means. It could be Gilmore Girls or Legally Blonde. Those both represent the same feelings, but they're very different visually. Classic and pretty could be Gone with the Wind or Breakfast at Tiffany's. Both great choices, but they don't reach the same audience.

So, what movie do you want your brand to feel like?

Personally, I want Lemon and the Sea to be a Gilmore Girls (minus that last season) kind of place - open, feminine, free, smart, and authentic.