What is a Mood Board?
When beginning a project, I have become more and more appreciative of the process of creating a mood board, or series of mood boards, for myself and my client. “Mood Boards” are not just collages that contestants on Project Runway make; they are a really useful & fun way to begin any creative project. If you use Pinterest, than you probably already understand the basic concept of mood boards. A mood board is essentially a number of images ,within a particular subject, that you find captivating. Where Pinterest falls short though, is that on Pinterest you are collecting images over a long stretch of time and then you “pin” them onto vaguely defined boards. There is also something really sad about the padded space between the images. Personally, I love creating a cluster of images that may not look like they have anything in common to somebody else, but they make complete sense to my senses.
Using Mood Boards for Projects
As a freelance & full-time graphic designer, I accept a wide range of projects from a wide scope of clients. When I first began working, I felt very proud of my style and would often assume that my client would love anything/everything I created. This is not only an arrogant approach to working but it is also a quick way to pigeon-hole oneself into a specific style. Though it can be a bit uncomfortable, it is very important for a designer to take the time to try to really understand their client’s needs. Some of my best work was created when I resisted jumping into sketching/designing and I took the time to think about the client, think about the product, and really imagine who would be seeing it and how/where it would be used.
*Warning* I am about describe my thought-process and approach to the first steps of a design project. I am not much of a writer, and I have never tried to articulate this process before. I sincerely apologize if you feel dizzy after reading this.
After initial research and preliminary discussions with my client I will begin forming 3 distinct “feelings” to be captured onto 3 distinct boards. I will then search the web, magazines, and references to anything that also provokes the intended feeling. For each “feeling” I create a board. I develop each board until I feel satisfied and then I sit back and asses: “If this board were a person, what would they be like? A high-power business man? A girl who dresses like Zooey Deschanel?” “What typefaces would suit this board? Helvetica, Georgia, Curlz?”
These questions may seem a bit silly, but they can save you a lot of time and your client a lot of money (depending on how good you are at negotiating ). After I have developed 3 refined boards I send them to my client and ask for their feedback. Because each board has been created with images that I am instinctively attracted to, I am typically really happy with any choice they make. It is every designers dream to feel like they are creating something they love and something their client loves. I truly believe finding a shared visual direction is the first step to this success.
If you are in a creative field or do anything creative in your spare time, from poster design to re-decorating your bathroom, I would suggest investing in a bit of quality time with a few magazines, your scissors and a glue stick and start making your own boards.