Anatomy of a Mood Board

As a designer, I am guilty of stalking Pinterest to find the perfect combination of textures, patterns and colors. Seeing these things come together in a visual way is like being a kid in a candy store.. it’s overwhelming and beautiful at the same time! In this post I’ll talk about the anatomy of a mood board and why I use them!

What is a mood board?

A mood board is a visual inspiration compiled of photos, textures, patterns and colors that represent a style, theme or project. The color palette created in the mood board usually reflects similar colors found in the surrounding photos. Often times a color theme can be seen, like a strong pull towards purple or a more specific combination like emerald & peacock blue. These design elements are placed in an organized fashion that uses symmetry and structure and are created in an array of platforms such as Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Canva. Although they follow the same layout structure, however, each project’s mood board is vasty different from the last.

Why are mood boards important?

I have found that creating a mood board around a client’s branding can both stimulate creativity and serve as a guide for design direction going forward. A client can visualize their brand before you even create their logo and they may even show more excitement throughout the process. A mood board also serves as a way for a designer to organize photos and textures that go well together, ruling out a style of photography that doesn’t feel right or a pattern that doesn’t fit the project. A client can let you know if a color isn’t working out or if they have a sudden change of direction BEFORE you even start on their project. Because of the power that mood boards hold, I have saved myself hours of frustration in going down a direction that wasn’t right for the project.

How do you create a mood board?

I begin by creating a secret Pinterest board with the client or project name. Keeping the theme in mind I start pinning and collecting photos and patterns that I find online. Sometimes I search inside Pinterest and other times I find things while pursuing other sites. After I have collected and pinned 15-30 inspirational photos, I go to my design program (I use InDesign!) and open a template I have created. I place each photo in a designated space, paying close attention to how each photo feels in the space. If something doesn’t look right I use another photo or replace it with a texture. Once all the photos are placed, I pull colors from the pictures using the eyedropper tool. Some projects require 6+ colors while some need only 3! When the color palette feels perfect I save the file and send to the client!


What is your template?

There are several ways to design a mood board and I will show you 3 using the same Pinterest board! The first is to design with the colors on the right side and a signature circle photo in the middle of the grid.

The second board style has fewer colors and uses geometric triangle shapes to house some of the photos. There are also more diverse shapes like a tall rectangle and a more square shape.

The last template that I tend to use frequently is one that almost mimics the Pinterest board itself. I love having a few photos on the edges that don’t have a hard shape and stand out organically among the grid. I also group the colors together in a small section that doesn’t overpower the space. So whatever your project may be, there’s a mood board style out there for you! Go ahead and start creating one today.


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