As the saying goes, time is money, especially for a freelance graphic designer. To be successful, you want your design process to be as efficient as possible, while delivering high-quality designs.
After you have finished gathering information, the next step would be to brainstorm ideas and present them to the client.
However, it’s hard to communicate visual ideas with just words alone. You need a tool to translate them into visualizations — which is where a mood board comes in.
WHAT IS A MOOD BOARD?
A mood board acts as a style guide and sets the baselines for the design later on. It allows you to be creative by including anything that will define the style and direction of the project. From an 80s movie poster to a cat picture — the sky’s the limit when it comes to inspiration. It doesn’t have to be just images; words can help fill in any gaps in information.
Besides defining elements such as color and typography, an even better approach would be to use a mood board to set the overall aesthetic for the brand. In this example, Sarah Stark wanted to go with an organic feel that touches on the art nouveau movement as well as some Swiss design.
WHY DO YOU NEED A MOOD BOARD?
It might seem counterintuitive to spend time creating a mood board when you could be moving forward with the design process. But in fact, creating a mood board will actually save you a lot of headache down the road. It allows the client to visualize your ideas and provide you with feedback. And because a mood board is a low-cost investment, you won’t lose much even if the client rejects it.
In addition, by showing the mood board to the client, you encourage them to think about what they really want for the design. Oftentimes, your intent and the client’s needs are different, so it’s important to get the client involved. Essentially, you’re eliminating the biggest uncertainty in any design process — the client.
After the mood board is approved by the client, you can use it as a guideline to create your concepts, speeding up your workflow.
See also: A Typical Design Process
And don’t stop with one mood board — consider creating a few mood boards based on different themes. For example, you might want to focus on brand aesthetics in one, while going for a totally different style in another. Conversely, you can scale things down and use a mood board for each element of design.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD MOOD BOARD?
Although you can include just about anything in a mood board, you still have to make sure that it’s organized and presentable to the client. You don’t want to waste their time by sending them a mood board with hundreds of images.
Instead, choose only the ones you feel best represent the style you’re looking for. From there, think about visual hierarchy: arrange the items in a way that implies importance and group those that are related together.
In addition, everything on the mood board should work well together. Color plays a key role in a mood board, so you want to make sure the color palette matches the images you use; you don’t want to introduce warm colors with gritty photographs. In short, the client should be able to tell what’s going on at a glance.
WAYS TO CREATE A MOOD BOARD
Since you’re likely to be working online, it’s a good idea to create your mood boards digitally. Here are two of the best — and completely free — platforms that will allow you to do so at the click of a mouse.
Pinterest is very popular among graphic designers, and for good reason, It’s basically a one-stop shop combining both inspiration and mood boarding. After signing up, feel free to explore the site to your heart’s content and uncover thousands of visuals from which to create your mood boards.
Go Moodboard is perhaps the simplest tool, and requires no account to get started — just drop images into a selected template and upload. You also have the option to add comments to each image after it’s uploaded before sharing the mood board with the client.
Even without a client, having a few mood boards prepared beforehand is always recommended — you never know when they might come in handy.
Mood boards, when used effectively, can work wonders for a graphic designer. If you have never tried creating a mood board as part of your design process, give it a go and you will be amazed by the results.