How Mood Boards Can Benefit Designers

Whether hardware, software or a trusty mechanical pencil, every designer has their go-to set of tools that allow them to excel creatively whatever their field may be.

Despite the ability to produce visually and/or technically stunning pieces of work, almost every professional designer will at some point in their career have had work rejected by a client due to it not being what they envisioned. After all that wasted time it’s back to the drawing board.

What if there was a tool that could help avoid such setbacks? The answer to that question is mood boards.

What are mood boards?

Mood boards are used across a variety of design roles in a plethora of industries. To describe them simply, they are a loose, informal collection of inspirations that summarise a projects creative direction. Mood boards can help to convey colour palettes, overall aesthetics, ambience, mood, tone, style, pattern and texture.

Industries such as interior, fashion and web design all commonly make use of mood boards as a broad starting point that can convey the initial ideas for a project and receive feedback before too much time is invested in what may be the wrong direction.

Take for example a client who has specified in their refurbishment brief that they require ‘luxury office furniture in the workplace’ including ‘luxury office desks’. The word luxury is an unqualifiable term, it means different things to different people depending on background. A mood board that showcases what the designer believes to be luxury materials would be an important first step in making sure the work that follows meets the client's vision, after all, time is money.

What can a mood board look like?

There are a whole host of ways to layout a mood board. It is important to choose a style that suits timescale and workflow but most importantly reflects the personality of the client and the project.

The first choice to make is between physical and digital. 

Digital collage mood board showing office furniture

Digital mood boards tend to be the much quicker option. Once a template is in place the internet becomes the designer's sandbox, it’s endless collection of images can be browsed and pulled together to create the perfect collection of design inspirations. As well as being quicker to create and collate, digital mood boards are also more easily distributed to clients. 

Physical collage mood board showing flooring materials

Although more time intensive a physical mood board has the advantage of being able to show colour, pattern and texture more accurately. This is much more effective when presenting materials, an example is for executive office chairs. A physical mood board in this example creates a much clearer understanding between designer and client.

Once the choice has been made between digital or physical the style of the board must be considered. A loose collage style can be used for clients that have worked with designers or marketers before and are aware of the process and aren’t necessarily sticklers for detail. Collage mood boards are quicker to produce as they allow a free-thinking approach where images etc are layered with no real structure. This style is more about the sum of the parts rather than the individual elements. 

Physical collage mood board for office flooring and kitchen

If the client is new to the design process it would be a good idea to create a more refined, structured mood board that lays out the different elements in a more formal manner. Using this method will help the client understand what is being shown to them and reduce the chance of confusion. 

Structured mood board showing colour palette

How should it be presented?

Once the mood board has been designed and the idea for the project is beginning to take shape it needs to be conveyed to the client, so any feedback can be taken on board and the project can progress.

Whilst mood boards can stand alone and speak for themselves, they are far more effective when accompanied by an explanation. It’s important to walk the client through the various ideas and inspirations on the board so that a firm understanding is reached by the end of the presentation. This understanding between client and designer should make the rest of the process a lot less stressful. Quite frequently clients will know if a mood board speaks to them quite early on.

Mood boards really are a no-brainer for designers in all sorts of roles. They can greatly reduce the time spent on rejected ideas, they get the client involved early on in the process improving the trust between client and designer. They provide designers with an early visual idea of what they should be working towards and on top of all that they are extremely fun to make!

If you are yet to incorporate this valuable tool into your workflow, give it a try, chances are you won’t be disappointed.

By Andrew Mairs – Marketing Executive, in collaboration with Aarti Ohri at Calibre Office Furniture