“The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke.”

Jerzy Kosiński

You know what your brand must promise. But the transition from words to images is very hard. Even the literary gifted (thank you) use visuals to clarify their ideas.

Luckily, there is a simple method to migrate your strategic thinking from the realm of imagination to something concrete. It’s called a mood board.

Mood boards visualize your brand promise.

In essence, mood boards are collages of images you will find online and offline. It can contain cut-outs of magazines, photos of packaging you liked or the greeting card your granny send you.

Besides sketching the “mood” your brand should evoke, they provide inspiration for the fonts, images, illustrations, colors, and logos that you’re about to develop.

This chapter covers:

  • Rules for mood boards.
  • Steps for making and presenting a mood board.

Rules for mood boards

Even though no-one outside your organization will see your mood board, there are many advantages to making one.

Use mood boards to build consensus.

A mood board is a great opportunity to involve your team or client – if you are designing an identity for someone else.

You can build consensus on what the brand should look like and which feelings it should evoke. These discussions will be far easier to have now.

Because once Brand Identity elements – colors, logo’s, etc. – they often feel wrong to colleagues or clients, without them able to articulate why.

A mood board settles everyone on a direction before the real work starts. And everyone who was allowed real-estate on the mood board tends to buy into the project.

Build multiple mood boards.

The choice offered by two or three concepts will make the resolve for a direction even firmer. It’s more work, but moods are best judged in context.

They’re also a political instrument. Bad ideas can be stashed on one mood board which is then voted down. This allows you to shepherd your vision without disrespecting those who still have to buy in.

Choose to make physical or digital moodboard.

If you’re old-school, you can collect your clippings and prints in a shoebox, then buy an empty foamboard and paste your inspiration onto it.

However, since physical mood boards are hard to reorganize and share, I prefer using Pinterest to collect my inspiration. It allows you organize inspiration neatly in one place.

Mood boards are essential to brief a designer.

Designers have many abilities, but very few are psychic. So, if you’re hiring one for designing your Brand Identity, brief her with both your strategic thinking and a mood board.

Step 1: Collect the ingredients

The Michaelangelo’s amongst my readers will be knee-deep in cut-outs by now. For the brainy types, I’ve compiled a list of ingredients for your board:

  • Images – The bread and butter of your board. Add all the photos, illustrations, posters and advertisements that hint at the proper feeling. Then dig a bit deeper. What images are related to your originals?
  • Colors – What colors define your brand? Will you be a warm brand – selling soda? Or a cool brand – selling lab equipment? Are you loud with bold colors or discreet with muted colors?
  • Metaphors – Perhaps your organization is very sustainable or artisan. Are there visual metaphors that evoke this? Like a polar bear or a chisel? And how about your project qualities? If it’s healing, you might want to include a fresh garden or a fountain. If it contains a fighting spirit, you might want to use lions. Stay away from metaphors with bad connotations like hyenas, communists or Canadians.
  • Quotes – Are there any sayings from famous people that capture the spirit of your brand? Recruiting agencies always plaster their walls with aspirational quotes. Be careful not to ruin your mood board with corny platitudes.
  • Textures – Paper, fabric, glass or wood, all are uniquely textured and can bring a special touch to your brand. This is handy if you deal in physical things or have a physical store to decorate.
  • Fonts – You will settle on fonts in a later chapter. Yet perhaps there is some calligraphy that instantly evokes the mood you are looking for.

Every item should evoke and visualize your brand promise.

Step 2: Curate and organize your ingredients

Mood boards can be whatever works for you – from orderly outlines to crazy collages. But before you start pasting together random thoughts like a serial killer – let’s review the rules.

The mood board should convey the brand promise to your audience.

This is not about you and your fancies, it’s about what appeals to your chosen segment. What grabs their interest and attention? Your mood board should focus on what conveys the brand promise to your audience.

The mood board should be consistent.

The board doesn’t have to be a modern-art masterpiece. But only a consistent whole can provide visual guidance in a direction. Don’t include logos or pictures just because they tickle you funny.

Calibrate the volume.

If you clog your mood board with every relevant image, it will cause sensory overload and confuse everyone. However, just a few images won’t provide adequate inspiration and direction. Therefore, keep a nice mean between a lot and a little.

Step 3: Fancify your mood board (optional).

Are you presenting to your boss or a client? Insert your collected content in a moodboard template . and rock their socks off.

For extra effect, print the designed mood board on a foam board and leave it behind after presenting.

Summary and steps for making a mood board

Mood boards visualize your brand promise. They give direction by converting words into images.

Step 1: Collect the ingredients that evoke/visualize the brand promise.

  1. Use Pinterest
  2. Use an empty shoebox.

Step 2: Curate and organize your materials

Step 3: Fancify (optional).

Save your work in a folder called “/brandname/identity/mood-boards/”. Take screenshots of your Pinterest board or photos of your physical mood board.