Before you start the branding process for your company, you need a mood board to help you create a coherent and distinctive brand identity. Here’s how to make a compact mood board with your design ideas, in a few simple steps.
If you are a small business owner or a graphic designer working on a branding project, you probably have hundreds of reference points, screenshots, saved and pinned posts, and a grand idea of your visual identity in your head. But scattered pieces and snippets will complicate your branding process, and you need to sort all visual assets and ideas into a brand board.
Let’s take it step by step.
What is a mood board?
A mood board is a collage or compilation of design ideas and visual references that you can use as visual direction when developing your brand and visual identity.
It consists of many things, from photos, ads, typography, design elements, symbols, etc, that will serve as design inspiration and guidelines for a graphic designer. Whether you need branding assets, such as a logo and website, or email banners and social media posts, nothing should be inconsistent and different from the other design assets, so a branding mood board will help you decide and nurture a certain identity and vibe.
Business owners aren’t always visual people, so ideas are sometimes abstract in their heads. But for a new brand, it’s really important to have distinguishable styling, while professionals will be able to translate all the ideas and wishes into a tangible concept.
You can create a physical mood board with styrofoam and cut out snippets from print materials, or opt for a digital mood board. The latter one is more convenient, easy to send to your designer, and if you don’t know how to make one there are mood board templates online.
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What do I need a mood board for?
Your mood board will make your life easier and your branding consistent because of a few things:
- It will guide you through your design process and make communication with graphic designers easier. You’ll have something precise and tangible to show them for a reference.
- You will be able to compare new ideas with your mood board and see if you stray too far away.
- It can serve as inspiration when you’ll need some last-minute visuals or work on new campaigns that you want to be in line with your brand identity.
- It helps with overall effectiveness. Precise briefs and reference points = quick production and fewer reworks.
Research your target audience
Before you start adding things to your Pinterest board, you need to define your audience and find a style that is visually appealing to them.
The smartest thing would be to create buyer personas. This will help you not just with the making of your mood board, but also with media and ad targeting, value propositions, social media strategies, etc.
After you’ve defined your core audience, research what kind of aesthetic is popular and appealing to that group. For example, millennials love pastel colors, monochrome, and minimal design and organic patterns. An older, female audience would probably be attracted to something more colorful and catchy, like floral designs and bolder typography.
It goes without saying that you need to build your brand in accordance with the nature of your product or service. So keep that in mind too.
What to collect for your mood board
Now that we’ve defined what a mood board is and made a strong case for its importance, you’re probably headed to Behance, Pinterest, and Stockphotos. But hold your horses, because you need to know what exactly you should be looking for.
Photos can serve as a good reference point for the overall aesthetic and feel you want your visual identity to have. You’ll probably need to create photos of your own: team portraits, offices, stores, hero images for your web design, etc. Keep in mind that you won’t use the photos you compile, just use them as inspiration and reference. Thanks to social media and design community platforms, you can find photos everywhere nowadays. There’s also a lot of free stock photos on Pexels and Unsplash.
If you’re working on a physical mood board, get your scissors and glue out and keep filing them in an organized fashion.
Illustrations are great to attract attention to landing pages, websites, social media, banners, ads, and other assets. You can find them in the ManyPixels free gallery, Dribbble, Behance, Creative Market, Pinterest… or make screenshots if you stumble upon one you like accidentally.
From logo design to the body text on your ads, you will need a suitable font that looks in line with your brand and will enhance every design project. Search for typefaces and their characteristics and use on dedicated pages, or read more about fonts on our blog.
4. Value propositions
If you already have a marketing strategy and an elevator pitch, you know your greatest value propositions and things that make your business differ from the competition. Still, you might find a sentence that describes a company perfectly (tagline), a copy that is snarky and witty, or just hits the bullseye. Compile them too, because you’ll have many campaigns to create in the future.
5. Color palette
You probably have a basic palette by now from all the things you’ve compiled, but turn to color psychology for the effect you want to get. Black and blue are professional and stern, red is homely and inviting, yellow makes us enthusiastic and awakens our appetite… That’s just the surface. And if you have a certain color you’re fixed on using in your branding, you can use this cool color scheme generator.
6. Textures and patterns
Design assets sometimes need a cool background, like a fun pattern or a luscious texture. You can also go the extra mile and have textured deliverables (flyers, brochures, stickers…).
You also need to invent your own visual language, because advertisements are rarely good when they’re literal. Find things that symbolize what you sell well: a beach means relaxation, a table full of food reminds us of time with our family, a lion will remind us of power… You get the point.
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You will need to create ads yourself, so find cool examples from companies who nailed it. There are also cool communities or blogs where you can find ad ideas, like HubSpot, Neil Patel, Mad Over Marketing, or our extensive blog post on 20 Facebook Ads that work.
9. Website design examples
What’s a business without a good website these days? Before you go through a hundred mockups and tweaks in your UX and web design, help your designers and developers with references of websites that you like.
How to compile everything in a coherent mood board?
When you get to this point, you probably have too much material. It will be hard to narrow down your pins and inspirations, but you need to be precise and coherent. Here’s what to have in mind.
It might be hard to give up on something you really like, but if it doesn’t fit in the whole image, don’t push it. You need consistency and coherency. Also, keep in mind that you’ll surely see something you like in the future, so you can use the mood board to see if it fits.
Weed out the things that don’t fit perfectly
Although detailed, a mood board shouldn’t be too expansive. Keep only the design inspiration that fits perfectly. If you’re thinking if something should or shouldn’t make the cut, you can clearly do without it.
Don’t overdo it
A brand mood board isn’t the same as a brand guide. Don’t do too detailed research and too much work about it. Think of it as a scrapbook that’s both inspiration and fun to create.
What do I produce now that I have my mood board?
Anything your brand design covers. When you’re in doubt and not sure about a visual approach, a certain design or color palette, turn to your mood board. And show it to people who work on your branding and marketing.