A Simple Way to Visualize Your Brand
Moods boards. Inspiration boards. Vision boards.
Those are all different terms for a tool that gives the same outcome: a cohesive and visual representation of what your brand and brand identity will embody. You’ve seen these beautiful collections of hand-picked images all around Pinterest before, I’m sure, but maybe you're curious about how to create them and what they're useful for. Let’s dive into why they’re a helpful and simple way to help you visualize your brand and brand identity.
What exactly is a mood board?
Simply put, a mood board (or inspiration board or vision board) is a curated collection of visuals that work together to embody the vibe and feeling you want your brand to evoke. While mood boards can be used to spark inspiration for a variety of purposes, they are particularly helpful in the world of branding. Mood boards used for branding are not limited to just design-related images, rather, the collection works to influence the overall feeling and direction of the design and inspire new ideas.
Why is it helpful for branding?
A mood board acts as a visual representation of what a brand exudes. It takes key words and characteristics of a brand and gives them a more tangible form we can work off of. When someone says preppy, I think Kate Spade; my mind automatically takes a word or description and works to create a visual to correspond with it. It's proven that our minds work best and respond best to viusals, so it makes sense for an inspiration board to be an integral part of the design process. Having visuals makes our thoughts more concrete and they give us guide to measure our ideas against.
When I’m working with a new branding client, I have them fill out a creative brief with several questions that dive into the heart of their business, one of those questions being what tone or key words they would use to describe their brand. Those key words are a helpful starting point to rounding up images.
For example, let’s say I’m working with a client who tells me their brand can be described with the words classic, modern, fresh, and minimalistic, I know exactly what kind of images I need to be on the lookout for. I’ll be looking for images that have clean lines and lots of negative space, perhaps geometric shapes in a classic pattern (like houndstooth or herringbone), and a minimalistic color scheme (perhaps black or charcoal, white, and a soft green).
Once images are gathered, I narrow it down to the strongest selection that does the best job of giving a well-rounded and accurate visual guide for the next phases of the design process. Besides acting as a visual standard, mood boards are incredibly helpful in ensuring that everyone is on the same page as far as the direction of the design. Mood boards serve as a foundation for the brand identity to be built off of, a reference to come back to for guidance, and it can even be a great source of inspiration for other design elements, like patterns or fonts to use.
How do you create a mood board?
Are you sold on how beneficial mood boards are for visualizing your brand? Great! Mood boards are a versatile tool, especially since they can be digital or physical, and there’s more than one way to construct a mood board. Putting together an effective and cohesive mood boards comes down to how you curate your images, the best way to display it, and the purpose you’re using it for.
Pinterest is a prime example of a digital inspiration board. We collect images of the clothes we like, or the homes we wish we lived in. Similarly, we collect images that reflect the feelings we want our brand to exude. What I typically do for branding clients is encourage them to round up images they like and they feel align with their brand onto a secret Pinterest board. These are then filtered through, some additions are made, and then they’re placed onto a mood board template I have built in InDesign. However, you can also use Illustrator and Photoshop to create mood boards as well.
If you want to create a mood board that’s off-screen, having a physical, tangible place to collect inspiration is also really beneficial. I personally have a huge cork board hanging in my office where I’ll put together images that inspire me and make me feel happy (mostly outdoorsy images that make me wish it was summer!). A real-life mood board has even more flexibility than a digital one since you aren’t limited to just images. You can pin up fabric swatches, bits of nature, old postcards, letterpressed prints, drawings, and more.
There are different approaches to the way people curate images, but it all comes down to what you find the most inspirational and beneficial. There's no one right way to create a mood board. I personally like having images that all coordinate with a color scheme I’ve chosen for a client. I find that makes all the elements work best together, gives the mood board a more organized look, and helps me be more intentional about the images I use. However, other people simply choose images that embody the vibe or theme they’re looking for regardless of whether or not the colors fall into their selected palette. I also find that a variety of images do the best job of creating a fuller view of the branding direction, so I’ll look for a mix of photographs, patterns, and maybe some illustrations.
TIPS FOR CREATING BRANDING MOOD BOARDS
Get a variety of images to create a well-rounded visual representation of your brand.
Avoid using a lot of design-related images. Instead, seek inspiration in unexpected places. By including examples of logos you like, it makes it more challenging to get that concept out of your head and come up with an entirely unique design. Instead, opt for using images of typefaces or fonts you like, icons or illustrations you think align with your brand, etc, rather than using a completed, pre-existing brand identity.
Be really particular about images. More likely than not, you’re going to pin a bunch of images to your secret Pinterest board that could possibly work for your mood board. Be very selective when constructing your final inspiration board and only choose the highest quality images that will all contribute to adding to the vibe you’re wanting to create.
If you’re working with a designer on a branding project and a mood board is part of the process, or if you’re a designer working with a client, make sure you are both in total agreement on the mood board before you move on to designing the brand identity. Since this acts as a visual guide for the rest of the project, it’s vital that everyone is on the same page. It will help lay a good foundation for the rest of the project.
EXAMPLES OF MOOD BOARDS
If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels on how you want to visualize your brand, I’d encourage you to pinpoint key words for your brand and build a mood board that brings it to life. Having a visual guide is super helpful to kickstarting a brand identity project, and it’s a helpful for keeping you on track as the project progresses. This blog post might also be really helpful for you!
Do you use mood boards for projects? If so, what are the different ways you use them? Do you prefer a digital mood board or a physical board you can pin things to? Tell me about it in the comments section below!