inspiration

6 best tips for making a mood board

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Crafting a mood board can be a crucial aspect of any pre-design process because it’s a quick and effective way to set the graphic and emotional tones of a project.

In case you’re not sure, a mood board (or vision board or inspiration board) is simply a collage of imagery that conveys the overall look, feel, personality and identity for a particular collaboration or event — very handy when you’re having a hard time presenting or expressing your vision and ideas. Most people use a mix of photos, colors, words/quotes, typefaces, textures, patterns, illustrations and more to showcase a variety of visuals that will inspire and give life to a larger design concept.  

It doesn’t matter whether you are focused on your branding, a website, a brochure or ad campaign. A mood board can be created for literally anything! It can even be used when you’re planning to renovate a room in your house and you want to curate the colors, style and vibes before you buy that first can of paint, carpet, trim or fixtures.

Without further ado, let’s dive into 6 best tips for making a mood board for your next big project!

  1. Physical or digital? Mood boards can be crafted either way — that’s the fun part! Decide what works best for you and the particular project that you’re working on. If you want to go the “old school” route, cut out imagery from magazines and paste them to a poster or canvas, go for it! And, if you want to put your puzzle pieces together digitally, you can use Adobe programs like Illustrator or Photoshop, to drop your imagery into various shapes, organized by lines — in a grid-like format. If you’re not very Adobe-savvy, no fear! I’ve included links to a couple of good online resources and mood board generators that can come to the rescue:

    Canva Mood Board — Canva offers countless templates that you can play with. If you’re not already using Canva, you can sign up for a free account. It’s easy and user-friendly!

    Milanote — This is another website through which you can grab a free account. You can use their pre-made templates or design your own, as well as use their pre-loaded imagery or upload your own. They take it one step further and even allow you to upload videos and animated GIFs, so that your boards can be really modern and dynamic!

  2. Plan with Pinterest — If you’re designing a digital mood board, you can create boards and save pins that resonate with you, save them to a folder on your desktop — and then add them to your mood board(s) later. (Or, print them off for your physical board!) Pinterest makes it easy to find specific types of images, so that you’re not spending a lot of time searching Google (even though, you can totally use Google, too.) Again, try to collect a mix of photos, colors, quotes and textures that will really capture and express the essence of your design’s identity.

  3. Think emotional, not just literal — Something important to keep in mind is not just using images that physically represent your brand (or any other design initiative.) Think “mood” after all! What feelings do you want to express? Colorful, youthful, vibrant, bold? Light, whimsical, fresh, airy? Sleek, sophisticated, elegant, chic? Whatever the direction, especially be sure to include colors that speak to these emotions — that will make someone truly feel something.    

  4. Consider your audience — Don’t just create a mood board with no clear direction or messaging in mind. Think about the project that you’re using the mood board to inspire and think about the audience who will be experiencing it. Don’t just put a collage together of random photos, text and colors that don’t make any sense. Have some rhyme and reason to the overall “puzzle” that you’re piecing together. This idea goes back to thinking about the emotional aspects of the board — be clear on who you’re speaking to and what about.

  5. Create at least 3 — There really are no rules, but I like to create at least 3 different mood boards initially (all using the same overall look and feel) and then take the best combination of imagery from each and make (1) really strong one. Tweak your board until it’s a good representation and expression of your design vision.

  6. Only use it for inspiration — Remember that if you’re pulling images from Pinterest, Google and even from publications — they have copyrights. Putting together a mood board should be strictly kept for the “conceptual” phase of your design project — and not for anything that is publicly distributed, shared or published. For example, I would be careful about not sharing it on your blog or website. I normally only share a mood board 1:1 privately, with a client. I’m not a lawyer and suggest consulting one if you have questions! Just be aware of the legal and illegal uses of imagery that belong to other people.

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3 simple places where inspiration can be found

“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.”

–Bruce Garrabrandt (author/colored pencil artist)

Whether you’re a graphic designer trying to find visual solutions for your current project, a chef perfecting your next unique and delicious recipe, a writer crafting your next award-winning story, a teacher decorating your classroom door or a bridesmaid trying to plan your best friend’s wedding shower, it’s happened to us all — the dreaded “creative block.” When you hit this annoying wall and you can’t seem to find a way over or around it, what do you do and where do you turn? While I’m still (and will always be) guilty of stalking Pinterest boards and my favorite online designers that I admire — I’ve also learned to go back to some old school and simple ways of finding the best kinds of inspiration and creative boosts that I need to get back to the drawing board and actually be productive!

1) Step away from the work.

Sometimes the best thing that will benefit your work is actually taking a day off (or at least a few hours.) And, if you need an even longer amount of time, take a vacation! When you walk away from something for a little while and actually stop thinking so much, that little invisible light bulb above your head magically goes on and the methods, processes and results that you’ve been longing to find and execute all of a sudden just come to you. It’s really that simple. And, it’s also known as one of the greatest feelings in the world. 

2) NOT looking at what others are doing.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the virtual comparison game. You know the one — just like in real life — when you find yourself looking at what “everybody else” is doing, instead of focusing on what YOU need to do for yourself. It’s easy to get sucked into that black hole of the Internet, not feel good enough or as confident as you should — which doesn’t end up getting you anywhere. Instead of following everyone on your Instagram feed, choose just 2-3 individuals or businesses that you admire and take what bits and pieces of inspiration that you need from time to time — but NOT ALL of the time. The less time you spend worrying about everyone else, the more time that you will have to create something really special, genuine and unique. In turn, others will be admiring the great work that YOU put out into the world — and they will draw their own inspiration from it.   

3) Everyday things.

There truly is so much beauty in the world, but we often get too caught up in our digital platforms — living and working behind screens that keep us from getting outside and breathing in some fresh air — and keeping us from really “taking it all in.” Similar to stepping away from the work, it’s important to observe nature and the environment, animals, people and conversations happening around us. With a clear mind and through real life experiences, we can better understand and appreciate colors, sights, sounds, textures, smells and stories that can be more easily translated into a design, onto paper, a canvas, or party plan. Take a walk or go for a run — activity away from your desk is just plain healthy, anyway.

Creative blocks can really keep you from scheming up something amazing, but only if you let them. If you take even just a small amount of time, step away from what you’re struggling with, don’t spend time comparing yourself or your work to others and observe the everyday world around you, you’ll allow your mind to be opened up and stimulated “non-digitally.”   

And, if you still can’t seem to shake a creative block when it comes to your next big idea or business, maybe I can help