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 for inspiration, from an 80s movie poster to a cat picture. 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, a graphic designer based in Charlotte, North Carolina, 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 creating concepts off the top of your head. 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 discussing the mood board with the client, you encourage them to think about what they really want for the end product. 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.

Once the mood board is approved by the client, your workflow should become much smoother since you now 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 your intent and arrange them in a manner that’s easily understandable.


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 a simple-to-use 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 images , making it easier for you to share your thoughts with the client.

Even without a client, having a few mood boards prepared beforehand can be useful 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 and see if it works for you?

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1 Comment

  1. Breakdown Cover

    Thanks for continuing to write such amazing blog posts!

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