Creating an Effective Mood Board

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.


A mood board acts as a style guide and sets the creative direction for the project. You are free to include anything, 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 sometimes be helpful to fill in any gaps in information.

Besides defining design elements such as color and typography, a mood board is often used 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.

A mood board by Sarah Stark
A mood board by Sarah Stark


It might seem like a waste of time to create a mood board when you could just dive right into design creation. However, creating a mood board will save you a lot of headache down the road. A visual display of ideas will kickstart the discussion between you and the client, allowing you to reach a consensus on the creative direction moving forward. And because a mood board is a low-cost investment, you won’t lose much even if the client wants to go in a different direction

By showing the mood board to the client, you encourage them to think about what the design they really want. Oftentimes, your intent and the client’s needs are different, so it’s important to get the client involved. Essentially, you are eliminating the biggest uncertainty in any design process — the client.

In addition, once the mood board is approved by the client, your workflow becomes much smoother since you have a foundation to work with.

See also: A Typical Design Process

And don’t stop with one mood board. Consider creating a few mood boards based around different themes. For example, you might want to focus on brand aesthetics in one, while going for something different in another. You can also scale things down and create a mood board for a single design element.


Although you can include just about anything in a mood board, make sure that it’s organized and presentable to the client. You don’t want to waste their time by sending a mood board with hundreds of random images. Instead, choose only the ones you feel best represent what you have in mind and arrange them accordingly.


Since you are likely working online, consider creating your mood boards digitally with these two recommendations:

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 since you never know when they might come in handy.

Mood boards, when used effectively, can work wonders for a graphic designer’s workflow. If mood boarding has never been part of your design process, why not give it a go? Who knows, you might be amazed by its effectiveness.

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1 Comment

  1. Breakdown Cover

    Thanks for continuing to write such amazing blog posts!

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