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Mastering the Mood board

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

Mood boards have shown to increase creative freedom and are used across a wide range of fields, from designers to city planners. It is a great way to make sure you and your client are on the same page. However, an effective mood board needs to go beyond beautiful images and instead work as a way to help your client think creatively about future strategies. Done right, a well structured mood board can be a roadmap that will make your designing much easier. We have compiled tips from across industries to help you create mood boards that spur confidence and excitement.


  • Having the right people in the room

  • Choose the right structure

  • Use the 60:30:10 rule

  • Don’t overwhelm your clients with choices

  • Always ask “why”

  • Everyone’s imagination is different

  • Include strategy

  • Where to find visuals

  • Learning from Interior designers - get physical

  • Use the mood board as a vetting process for your ideas

design process

Having the right people in the room

If you only take away one thing from this post, this one could really make our break your project. At this stage, your client has signed your agreement, paid the deposit, they are on board. Now they need to assign someone (or a few people at most) who have final call on design decisions. If you spend hours crafting an effective and well researched strategy for your design, all this time is wasted if the decision maker only sees the final product and bases their decision on the colour. By having a small team on board from start to finish, you will spend less time explaining and more time designing.

Choose the right structure

Speaking to designers, we have picked up on two main directions that people like to take.

mood board

Approach 1

Have separate sections for different purposes. For example, a section for photography inspiration, one for different logo styles and so on. This means you can be highly specific and keep the client focused on the purpose of each step. You can also contrast different styles on the same page.

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Approach 2

You can also use the mood board as a priming stage for directions you think will work for the client. Each slide can represent the feeling, colours and imagery of a future concept. This is sometimes referred to as a 'style scape'. You avoid the client picking things from different styles for different purposes, such as a very ornate logo and tech inspired fonts. One risk with this approach is being tied in to a very specific style and not getting the unique ideas that come from a bit of style clash. Prevent this by using each slide to show the same goal, such as “excitement” with different visuals.

Use the 60:30:10 rule

This is a great way to create hierarchy in your mood board and to make sure clients pay attention to the most important images. Interior designers use the 60:30:10 rule to colour a room, with the main colour like walls being the 60%, key furniture like a sofa the 30% and 10% the accent colours like pillows. Think about what images are most important for driving home your message and make them larger in your board. This can be based on your strategy. If a company is very people focused, perhaps showing how customers will be portrayed in photography can be the largest image on your board, while colours and fonts take a back seat.

Don’t overwhelm your client with choices

We have all been there, we find so many great inspiration images that we end up stunning our poor clients. After all, they came to you because they are not design experts. Make sure all images you put in the mood board have a purpose. They can show a unique style, feeling or represent a brand that you think solve a similar problem. In his Ted talk, Barry Schwartz speaks about how having so many options often leave us paralysed. Try and find the right balance between showing enough different styles and not overwhelming your clients.

Always ask “why?”

Most likely, you will add images to your mood board with a very specific purpose in mind. This does not mean that your client likes or dislikes them for the same reasons. Many a time, we have shown clients different logo styles and had strong reactions to different options. When asking what aspects of each image they did or did not like, it often comes down to unexpected reactions such as colours or the size of the image, Make sure to always follow up with a “great! what makes you say that?".

Everyone’s imagination is different

This takes us nicely on to the next point, not everyone has visual imagination. If your mood board only includes images that represent the emotion you want to create, it is likely that your client has a hard time imagining what it will look like on their website or in print. Mockups, wonderful examples of existing work and even drawings can be your best friend. Creative Boom is a great source of design inspiration when you need real world examples.

Include Strategy

Besides looking at inspiring pictures, a mood board is the perfect place to explain what you have found in your market research and present possible directions and paths to avoid. An example of this could be the use of social media. If companies with the same target audience (same age, interests etc.) all have a strong Instagram presence but none of the direct competitors do, you can use the mood board to showcase effective ways to tie in branding with Instagram strategies. Similarly, if all the logos and websites in an industry look the same, you can discuss the benefits of taking a different approach.

Where to find the best visuals

A great mood board can have a mix of images you find on inspirational sites like Pinterest, photos you have taken and images you find of competitors or other companies while doing research. Below is a great starting point for places to find inspiration:







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Learn from interior designers, make it physical

This is especially relevant to print design and packaging. If your end product will be physical, why not discuss paper quality, print finish and foil treatment in the mood board. It will give you more freedom by opening your client up to new treatments, but also avoids you designing something beautiful just to find out that their budget does not allow for a good paper quality. We have found that letting clients feel and see the materials gives them an understanding of why print quality matters. If you are designing packaging, bringing some standard boxes, bottles or wraps can help both you and the client imagine ideas better in 3D.

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Use the mood board as a vetting process for your ideas

Your mind probably started working the moment you received that brief from your client. Chances are you already have some ideas of interesting mediums, print treatments or strategies you would like to incorporate. To avoid working on concepts that, for reasons you might be unaware of, will not be suitable, sneak in some inspiration from ideas you might want to explore. For example, if you would like to build brand awareness through influencers and a strong social media presence, add inspiration from other brands who have done this successfully and discuss the angle with your client. They might love the idea or they might tell you that they do not have enough staff to run social media accounts consistently. Either way you avoid unnecessary work and show your client that you are thinking creatively about their business.

What is your favourite tip for a great mood board? Join the discussion in our Facebook Community!

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