What is a Mood Board?


To-may-to, To-mah-to.

Two people can say the same word (like tomato), and it can come out so differently, right?

Or consider this phrase thousands of teenagers have uttered—“I’m sorry.”

The tone of voice used, the emphasis on specific words, the facial expressions. There can be a million subtle differences that come into play as to whether “I’m sorry” is a genuine apology, a sarcastic mumbling, or an all-out war starter.

Are we speaking the same language?

Graphic design is all about communication. From start to finish of a project, when I’m working with a client on his or her brand, I want to make sure we’re both saying the exact same thing throughout the entire process.

It can be difficult for both a client and a designer to put their ideas into words the other will understand. How do we know we’re having the same vision when talking about ideas, styles, and concepts? These things can be really hard to express in words.

What I might describe as “minimal” (to-may-to), you might see as bland, stark, or boring (to-mah-to).

To avoid confusion and frustration, as well as endless rounds of revisions, it’s important for the two of us to be on same page—speaking the same language.

Enter, the mood board.

What is a mood board?

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Why? Because an image can tell a story that words can fail to convey.

A mood board is a communication tool that uses a curated collection of images to help everyone—clients and designers—visualize ideas, styles, and concepts.

Ideas, styles, and concepts, like I said before, can be difficult to put into words everyone understands. A mood board bridges the gap.

It’s like a lens that takes the fuzzy thoughts we struggle to express and brings into focus a clear, detailed picture of our expectations and goals.


Luxury, hospitality,
and warmth

This mood board shows the inspiration for The Itinerary Artist’s logo and brand—a modern blending of sand, sun, water, and light to communicate the luxury, hospitality and warmth of their services.

How do you make a mood board?

At its most basic level, a mood board is just a collection of images. However, you have to be intentional in selecting elements that will communicate your intended message.

Here is the process I follow in creating mood boards for my clients:

Step 1 - Have a clear goal in mind.

Create a list of words that describe how you want your business to appear to your customers. I call this your brand’s voice. Keep the list short, including only three to five adjectives. These words will guide you as you search for inspiration.

Step 2 – Collect lots of images.

Gather images that picture how you envision your brand voice. You can include logos, designs, colors, patterns, textures, typefaces, photographs, and illustrations.

Ask yourself what stands out as representative of your business, your brand, your personality? What inspires you?

If you don’t know where to start or stuck in your search, try searching Pinterest or Google Images for terms that match your brand voice adjectives. For example, if your adjectives are modern, luxury, and global, try search terms such as “Modern logo” or “luxury travel design”. Looking outside your industry for inspiration can be helpful as well.

Save these images where you have easy access to them. Create a Pinterest board, a Dropbox folder, or save them to your computer.

Step 3 - Refine your collection.

Limit the number of elements you include on your mood board. This will clarify the vision you want to communicate. I recommend you refine your selections until you have less than 20 images.

To help in your final selections, consider how your images relate to each other, what colors are most like your brand voice, what photos speak best to your business’ personality.

If you feel like the mood board isn’t perfect with the images you have left, ask yourself what is missing or what needs to change. Perhaps you need different colors, fonts, or to add a pattern.

How to use a mood board?

Now you have a finished mood board. What’s next?

What use is having all these images pulled together? Remember a mood board can be a very helpful communication tool that brings into focus a clear, detailed picture of a project’s vision and goals.

In our design process, we use mood boards as a visual road map to guides us and our branding clients from start to finish. Here’s how:

  • A mood board helps bring a client’s brand voice into focus from the very beginning.
    The client’s unique personality becomes something tangible—a goal that directs the rest of the design process. We are set up for success if we can agree on the goals before ever sketching a single concept.

  • A mood board keeps everyone on the right track.
    During the branding process, the mood board serves as a reference point for both designer and client. A designer can create logos that flow naturally from the inspiration the mood board provides. In giving feedback, the client can reference the mood board to ask, “does this concept fit the style the mood board conveys?”

  • A mood board supports a cohesive, consistent brand.
    Beyond development of the logo, every new brochure, business card, website, etc. can be compared with the mood board to build a strong, recognizable brand identity. That is success!

Our Mood Boards

We’d love to help you create
memorable, outstanding, consistent brand
that gives your dreams life.

If you’re ready for to build a strong, recognizable brand identity, contact us today to set up a free consult. We’d love to hear you vision!