Brainstorm using Mood Boards

Mood boards are collages that are put together to plan an activity or to visualize a concept. Some rightly call these inspiration boards because in the process of creating these boards, you use other people’s works to gather inspiration from them.

When you involve your clients to create a mood board together, you can easily find key information up front in a low-risk way. The alternative would be creating a series of visual prototypes – a lengthy and potentially expensive process – and risky if your client consists of multiple decision makers.

Who uses mood boards?

Many web professionals and design firms use mood boards as a way to convey their idea to the client. Some even preach it as a way to fix the design by committee problem in web projects – which is often the case when a boutique firm is doing work for a large corporation. One firm – Viget – even claim that mood boards is an integral part of their process.

Photographers are likely the second group of people who creates mood boards extensively. Lindsay Adler gather inspirations and develops concepts by creating mood boards – and some of these boards makes up the plan for the photo shoot later on. These boards provide the aesthetic and direction of the shoot and useful for communicating visual ideas with the client without needing waste hours in creating throwaway previsualization materials.

A number of authors also found that mood boards are a great way to communicate an idea to design a book cover. In fact, Graeme Shimmin shows how he designed how he used mood boards to communicate with his graphic designer on a book cover. As good book cover design is vital to get the book picked up by a browsing reader, authors need to spend good effort in the cover design.

Last but not least, mood boards would also be useful for businesspeople and startup founders. The business model canvas is really a type of mood board, albeit less visual. It’s a single board that shows all aspects of a business in a single glance. Of course there’s nothing that stops you from including visuals in to spice things up a bit (e.g. include a persona picture of your target market).

How to use it?

One way to brainstorm using mood boards is to follow these four steps:

  1. Gather relevant materials and place them into the board.
  2. See how they are interconnected and group related things together
  3. Remove materials that are not relevant.
  4. Take a photo of the board and then repeat from Step 1.

After having through a number of these iterations, then you should all go back and see which boards that made sense the most. Finally choose the one that’s best and that would be the result of your session.

Free Template

I’ve put together a Keynote template to help you plan the scope of your next project. These templates should get your brains rolling and not simply stare at a blank page and get stuck. There are a number of slide layouts available that you can use for your own brainstorming sessions:

  • Website Design
  • Photo Shoot
  • Book Cover
  • Lean Canvas

The website design mood board template takes inspiration from style tiles. There are placeholders for colors, textures, fonts, and buttons. Furthermore there are placeholders for you to place adjectives to show the gist of the site. These style tiles are meant to get an overview of the overall “feel” of a website and typically a few of them are presented to the client or constructed with their participation. Eventually these elements would make their way into the actual design of the site – in the form of stylesheets and textures.

Web Design mood board template

The photo shoot mood board template collects past portfolios or other sample photos in order to plan a photo taking session as well as a guide for everyone that will be on the site. Having a mood board not only help the client visualize the end result of photo, but also to align the team for the shoot – wardrobe, makeup, lighting, props, even the models as well.

Photo shoot mood board template 2x

Similarly the book cover mood board template collects sample covers from other books, movie posters, or other artwork to help communicate what kind of cover that the author desires. The template also has a number of color well placeholders that are meant to set the color scheme of the cover art.

Book Cover mood board template

Finally the lean canvas template is mainly meant for planning a new business or product. It forces the participants to think about the new venture holistically – not just about the new product and the problems it’s going to solve, but also who are the customers, how to reach those customers, and how to sustain the business profitably.

Lean Canvas template

We’re also pondering whether an app would be useful to help create mood boards collaboratively. That is a brainstorming meeting which revolves around creating a mood board together to scope out the project. We’d figure this would be useful when you don’t have a big white board available or empty wall that you can use to write on and iterate ideas.

If you think this is a good idea, please sign up to our app’s launch list. You’ll get the free mood board templates after you have confirmed your e-mail in the list. More details on the app available after the jump.

Get Free Template


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