Hello, lovely friendlies!
I’ve received a fair amount of comments and compliments on Instagram on my moodboard sharing posts. I’ve even been asked where I get my templates (BLUSH)- the secret’s out- I don’t use templates! Dun dun daaaa! Don’t panic though. I’m here to walk through you step by step how I create curated and creative moodboards for all kinds of brands and projects, so you can take my process and apply it in your own business or life!
So, what is a moodboard then?
How rude of me to assume that everyone lives in my happy little world of glitter, Pinterest, and moodboard Mondays! Let me let you in on the secret real quick here: a moodboard is a canvas for inspiration for us creative types. Basically, we throw together a bunch of photos, typography, graphics, and colours that evoke feeling and convey a particular “mood” which reflects the project or brand that we are beginning to create. I use moodboards very often in my business; particularly for my logo and branding clients but I also use them from time to time to gather inspiration for editorial or print projects. Shhhh- I also totally use them in my personal life for FUN- like for the season, for a particular design style, or just to gather my feelings for the week. I know, I’m weird- I do extra work for personal enjoyment.
That sounds like a (kinda fun) mega time waster. Can’t I just start designing? I mean, sure, of course you can! I will say though, moodbaording is a great method of discovery for both yourself and the client in terms of the direction you would like to take the brand. If you skip this step, the project will likely end up taking even LONGER because you’ll be spending more time honing in on the vision, message and mood for the brand. Moodboarding isn’t just a fun kitchy activity, it actually plays a massive role in brand development and ensuring that you are on the same page as your client for the direction of the project.
Okay, I’m convinced. So where do I start?
With so much available content out there, it might seem REALLY overwhelming to get started and eventually hone in on your elements to create something that is cohesive, pretty, and conveys a message or at least a “mood”.
01| Client creative brief or personal brainstorming session
This part is really important (especially if you’re working with a client on a particular project.) This will allow you to have a framework for the brand mood and message on paper to refer back to you as you collect assets for the moodboard. If you’re unfamiliar with the design world, a creative brief is essentially questionnaire given to the client by the designer to fill out which is typically reviewed on a phonecall. It will fill the designer on the brand values, audience, messaging, key words, feelings, colours, and inspiration. (If you guys want a detailed post on my creative brief and brand discovery process- let me know!) If you aren’t working with a client, and you’re wanting to moodboard for personal enjoyment or for a personal project, this step is totally optional, though I’d still encourage you to get even just some inspirational words on to paper to guide you through the image sourcing process.
02| Asset sourcing (who doesn’t love a good pin sesh?!)
This is where the magic happens. Well, arguably the next step is, but it’s all part of a pretty magical process if you ask me. This is where we throw on the tunes (bonus points if you can match your tunes to the “mood” you’re creating) and head over to our good friend, Pinterest. Basically, you start searching for key words that have come up in your creative brief or discovery session and find photos that accurately reflect and represent them. Feel free to get creative with different terms and combinations, for example, you might search for terms like: soft blues, industrial photography, country wedding, or strong women.
If you use Pinterest for your business, I recommend creating a SECRET Pinterest board for each new moodboard you create. This keeps everything neat and private, particularly if you’re working on a project with a client that you don’t want the world to see until it’s done! You can make your mooboard secret by creating a new board, titling it the name of your client or project, and sliding the button from “public” to “private.”
If you’re working with a client, it can be really fun to involve them in the moodboarding process by inviting them to collaborate on the secret board. You can do this directly through the board and invite them to collaborate via their email or Pinterest profile.
What if I need my images to be royalty free?
Pinterest images are not royalty free, meaning you technically shouldn’t be publishing your work anywhere with images found on Pinterest. Luckily, Unsplash is the next best photo resource, and is absolutely free and royalty free! Their image bank is growing and diversifying every day, and their search function is just as easy as on Pinterest. This is also an awesome resource for finding free photography for use on your website and social media. I honestly prefer Unsplash photography to what is typically found on stock photography websites as it is very real and often styled in a much more current way.
03| Refining your collection of photos
Okay Chelsea, so I have about a million and a half pins on my board now and feel absolutely overwhelmed. What now? Well, what I do is I go through and pick my absolute favorite images from the board. This can be anywhere between 10 and 20 as you will hone in even further after this. You want to choose images based on aesthetic (how nice is the photography, colouring, resolution, etc.) AND mood/ brand reflection (how accurately does this photo reflect a feeling I am trying to convey?) Take those 10-20 photo or elements and place them in a project named folder on your desktop. (It’s important to have them in a special location on your computer and keep them there, because if you move them around after placing them in your Illustrator document, they will disappear once you close it.
04| Creating your moodboard document
Okay, so this is obviously directed towards those who are working or amateur creatives with access to the adobe creative suite. I’m sorry if you don’t fall into this category- what I can recommend as an alternative is creating a document in Canva, however I’m not sure about the creative capabilities and options in comparison to Illustrator.
Typically, I open up a letter sized portrait style document, but it is totally up to you what size and format you’d like to design in. What I do next is “file > place” all of the assets from my folder into the document at a small size and position them spread out around the artboard. This is when I typically choose a background colour, which isn’t crucial as you can change it at any time, but I have a look at all of the assets and choose a shade that compliments without distracting from the elements. It’s usually something neutral (sounds about right…).
05| Image placement
Now I would start grouping my assets outside of the artboard into categories. How you do this is totally up to you- could be by theme, colour scheme, feeling, type of asset, etc. After this is your time to get creative and start placing elements on the artboard. Do your best to not feel intimidated and truly just PLAY, you will start to feel more comfortable and confident in your placement as you continue developing the board. I do this completely by eye and feeling, putting elements in whichever position I think looks nice. The way that I prefer to moodboard is to leave whitespace (or background colour space) around my images. This prevents your moodboard from looking like a thrown together collage and more of an intentional piece of art that conveys a specific brand message or feeling. In order to achieve ample whitespace, I would advise to place no more than 10 images on your moodboard. Try to have variety eg. Texture, colour, photography, to increase interest and contrast between the images.
Extra image tips:
You can also play with layering and slightly overlapping your images on the board. For this, playing with the opacity on the images can create a cool effect making some of them appear semi-transparent. You can also use the crop tool to modify an images frame/ how much of it shows. You can also “place” specific images into a shape, for example a circle, via the “draw inside” button on your toolbar, which essentially tuns the shape into a frame.
06| Integrating colour palette inspiration
Once you feel happy with the placement of your assets, you have the option to also add colour palette inspiration to the board. If you’re working with a client, colour palette is likely something you’ve covered with them in the creative brief or on a discovery call. In order to select specific shade that suit the board, I often go in with the eyedropper tool and select colours directly from the photos on the board. I also love to use the website Coolors to get colour palette inspiration. (Hot tip! You can upload a photo to their website and it will help you select a colour palette based on the photo. How genius!)
I like to add my colours in a suite of 3 to 4 circles placed somewhere on the board. You can use squares, hexagons, triangles, or anything other shape your heart desires- I just tend to gravitate towards circles. I liked to line them up evenly spaced somewhere along the surrounding edge of the photos. I typically don’t go over three colours for the moldboard as I use it to tie the assets together and convey a cohesive mood rather than making sure I have the full and finalized colour palette done and ready to go. This comes later in the branding process- remember, the moodboard is simply for design INSPIRATION.
07| Typography and extra elements
This part is totally optional but also totally FUN! Adding in some typography is a great way to get your design juices flowing (as typically my next step in the branding process is logo design). I either find bits of typography from graphics on Pinterest or implement some text in the form of words, quotes, or simply the alphabet from a font that I feel fits and reflects the brand and the feelings in the moodboard.
In terms of extra elements, I tend to add in some lines (either squiggly or straight.) I don’t really know why, but I love the way this looks and I feel like it tends to tie everything together really nicely. You can easily make a straight line wavy by using the curvature tool in Illustrator. I also sometimes add in little boxes to “frame” the elements and mock pieces of tape holding them on to the board. For this you can play with opacity and make them semi transparent.
Well, that about rounds up my moodboarding process and all the little steps I take to get to the final piece. I hope this post helps you to gain creative clarity and inspiration on your own personal and client projects. If you make your own moodboard based on my guide, I would LOVE to see your work– tag me on Instagram @honeyandcocreative!
Until next time,