Design

Why moodboard?

Moodboard, digital mashup, call it what you will. I used to find moodboarding distracting, it’d confuse me and lead me astray, now, after honing my design head I wouldn’t start a design project without it.

My personal preference is Pinterest. It’s easy to use and you can build a positive community with fellow ‘boarders. I use it regularly to get general creative inspiration by following some great designers and creatives. Although there are various other sites you can use, there’s nothing quite like doing one from scratch, open up Illustrator or Photoshop (or whatever you use) and get creative.

What is moodboarding?

Moodboarding is a technique used by creatives to show their visual interpretation of what the client is aiming for for a particular project or concept, it’s a collage of images, text, fonts, shapes, colours, icons (the list is endless) offering visual direction.

I recently created a board for a class I recently took that asked you to create a brand, the first moodboard I did started heading in a very different direction, the one you see above is the final incarnation after feedback and one that helped create the final brand result.

As a graphic designer I find them useful as a visual aid, the kind of design I do lends itself well to this form of inspiration. They can help set a tone for the client, if they aren’t happy with a board, or elements of the board you can change that instead of recreating the entire design, which means your precious productivity isn’t hindered when you finally put pen to paper (or cursor to pixel).

When I start my moodboard, I have a Creative Brief in front of me outlining the client’s requirements. At this stage I have an idea of the company background, their target audience, any distinguishing characteristics, tone and keywords. I make sure to include ideas for colours, shapes, patterns and textures along with any indication of what fonts I think would suit the project.

Colour

My favourite place for colour palettes is Design Seeds as it’s a visual delight. Jessica Colaluca uses photos of everyday prettiness to create her palettes and you can see the love that goes into the photos as well as the colour fixation she must have. Which is no bad thing! Another place I go to is Adobe Kuler. Dependent on the type of job I’m doing, this site is very useful for gathering hex, CMYK and RGB codes and you can create your own palettes, which can be very useful if things change.

Textures

I can’t get enough of Subtle Patterns for my textures. It’s as it suggests, a bunch of cool continuous subtle patterns that you can download for free for use as any kind of design background.

Fonts

This can be a challenge, each project requires a different font, or set of fonts, so trial and error is a formula I live by. Before searching through my collection of fonts to find something that will work, I take a peek at some examples of designs by simply searching for inspiration online. If I don’t have something suitable in my collection, I usually reach for Google Fonts, DaFont, MyFonts and I’ve also used Linotype in the past too.

The benefits of moodboarding is that they are free flowing, you aren’t creating the design itself, so if there are any differences between your vision and your clients’ they are easily altered and you will also have a clearer idea of the direction of the project saving yourself time on expensive and time consuming amends and alterations. They remind me of collaging when I was young, I’d spend hours cutting things out of magazines and newspapers, getting my hands sticky with glue, and ending up with a beautifully crafted mess. Although I don’t use glue much to assist me with client designs these days, I do still get similar feelings when gathering together images and colour schemes.

Give it a go today, and let me know what you think or if you do it already, get in touch with your Pinterest username, I love to see what inspires other people.

Nicola Jones

  • Ralph Echter

    Nice article, Nicola! I do use sometimes a moodboard together with the client to explore the visual associations with their (brand) personality and identity. A great (drag & drop) web application for this is Murally ( https://mural.ly ). Pinterest can only handle a fraction of what in my opinion is crucial for remotely and collaborative ‘moodboarding’.

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