Tag Archives: mood boards


“mood board for fall/winter 2013”

Story boards can be a great way to convey your design style, helping you hone your ideas and get into “ the mood” early on. From my viewpoint, a fashion storyboard is when a designer already has a feel for what he/she are showing and they just organize the board in the manner they want to present it.


Photo: fashion-fringe-haizhen

However, if you’re not at that stage and inspiration is fleeting then I would take a couple of steps back to the thinking process and start a mood board. That is when you take various things like fabric swatches, colour samples, different textures, prints and everything else that inspires you to think about what you want to create. Mood boards usually have illustrations and photographs as well. The only thing is it all has to be cohesive and represent the type of feel you are going for.

When trying to convey a design idea, moods, feelings and touchy-feely stuff are hard to communicate. So fashion designers will often use mood boards: a collage of textures, images and text related to a design theme as a reference point.


Telepathy would save a lot of time but sadly for most of us it’s not an option. What I’m thinking and feeling about a creative idea, my intended vision for a piece of work, is limited to how good my verbal communication skills are at expressing this to my design team or sales reps. Mood boards help others to ‘get inside our heads’ in order to convey a thematic setting for a design or to explain function in piece of work.


“bright red interpreted by Pierre Carr”

That said, mood boards can be a pain to create, with many hours spent trawling image galleries, websites, books and magazines looking for that perfect image to sum up your intended feel for the work at hand.

So here are a collection of tips to help make your pin board-making more effective and double your chances of getting what you want to convey!


 Look beyond the fashion world

When putting together mood boards, it’s easy (and therefore tempting) to just use fashion sources. But just because you’re working on a fashion product, don’t just look for fashion inspiration. For example, looked at other forms of lifestyle and worldly interests, online or in printed format, in order to express how powerful and effective an image plus a caption can be for telling your story. Current affairs and travel make the world a smaller place. Entertainment and fashion often overlap in pop culture. Look at television, movies, music, art exhibits, advertisements, international news.

Real world inspiration such as this can be a very powerful ‘convincer’ when putting together a board for communicating your creative vision.

Take photos when you’re out and about. Real world inspirations are all around us. So use the camera or your smart-phone to take pictures of everything you see that inspires you – whether it’s the gal (or guy) on the street, a great use of typography on a sign, or local landmarks. They don’t have to be great photos in the traditional sense – it’s all about capturing thoughts, impressions, themes and feelings.

steampunk mood

“steampunk mood”



 The basic concept: a collage or pinning of textures, images and text related to a design theme as a reference point.


What you leave out is as important as what you choose.

Have you ever had the misfortune of going to a gallery exhibition and it just not doing anything for you? You weren’t ‘touched’ by the exhibition or ‘moved’ by what was on show – and other similar emotive profusions. It’s very easy to shove a load of stuff together and call it a collection; it’s an absolute talent to curate threads and synergies between works and call it a collection.


Photo: John working @ vitialcoaching

 When putting together mood boards, think of yourself as a curator rather than a collector, and try to have meaning and threads from one image to the next. It makes for easier interpretation.

Choose the right format

Decide at the outset whether your mood board is going to be solely for you alone or presented to co-workers or friends. The answer will decide whether you produce a private or public mood board. The distinction is not trivial: the two formats demand very different approaches.

A private mood board will generally be looser in style and require the extra kick and emotive spark that comes from it being presented as inspiration or direction. A public mood board should be tighter and will generally need to work harder to convey a theme or style.

Build things up around a large image

Whether your pinboard is electronic or physical, the layout of your mood board needs to give prominence to key theme images, then surround these with smaller supporting images that enhance the theme.


“green mood board”

Again, it’s a subliminal trick. When someone looks at a large image on your board in their heads they’ll have questions about it – which they’ll quickly scan the rest of the board to find answers for. If you place smaller supporting images around the larger image they should do this job for you by clarifying the messaging given in the larger one.

Get tactile

When making an actual physical pin board, don’t be afraid to get, well, physical. Traditionally mood boards are made from foam-core board and cutting this stuff up with a scalpel and spray mounting cut-out images onto it can be a pain, especially if you’re not dexterous with a blade. But it’s extremely effective as a presentation tool. The tactile nature of cut-out images glued onto boards enhances the emotiveness of what’s being explained. Add swatches of fabrics and trims, even hardware to show actual colour, texture, and finishes.


“Coach ® mood board”

It may seem like a ridiculously old fashioned thing to do, but perception-wise it’s a real ace up your sleeve as a designer. Just be careful with your fingers on that blade.


Show your mood board early

Generally mood boards are considered to be separate to pitch or presentation work as a story board; they stand alone to show mood and tone and are presented in the early process of designing. This is standard practice, but consider instead making them part of your look-book presentation in your final design stages, as well. Remember, you’re trying to use subliminal visual tricks to make others ‘get it’.

Save the surprise

It’s important to make sure that a well-meaning project manager doesn’t email a mood board ahead of the presentation ‘so they know what we’re presenting’. For a mood board it’s far better to let it all sink in to the viewer’s mind as you showcase it, rather than come armed with lots of questions before you even start.

Get involved in the pitch

If your mood board is being presented to the client or your sales reps, try to be involved yourself. It makes no sense to have something which originated in your head being communicated by someone else, because that way meaning can become muddled in a Chinese whispers-type mess. You are the designer, own it.

Keep things loose

Locking an idea or a style down in a mood board can be detrimental, as you will feel shoehorned into going with a particular style. Keep everything a little loose and don’t make everything look too finalized. Creative ideas come from everywhere, at any time.

Watch the audience’s faces

When you’re presenting a mood board, watch the faces of those you’re showing it to. Ignore any verbal ‘oohs and ahhs’ but instead watch their facial and emotive reactions as they look around the board. This will give you a much more honest take on whether the board is doing its job and if they’re reacting well or badly to what you’re showing them. You have to put these people ‘in your mood’ so ignore their mutterings and watch their emotive reactions.

General pointers

Hone your mood board skills. Practice makes prefect. Look at other examples of mood boards and story boards.


Brand gurus Pinterest uses a form of pin board to showcase personal “likes” to other members of their site. Formed as a “scrapbook” grid, it gives their audience an insight into what that the pinner is like; their interests, loves, passions, cares and worries. If you ever want to test out your mood boarding skills – the ultimate challenge at making mood boards – try this out and showcase it to your colleagues.

Text it up

Don’t ignore the power of a few isolated words on a board. They’re fantastic show-stoppers and give your viewer pause for thought as they have to mentally read what’s in front of them. Big, bold words juxtaposed together work very well at creating drama, tone and meaning for any project.



Make the theme obvious

Obscure references can be fun but try to have a number of relocatable items or ‘touch points’ featured in your mood board. You want to let others in, so being deliberately obtuse will earn you no points at all. It’s much harder to be clear and use imagery to sell your vision than hiding behind a pile of incomprehensible references just to fill the board out with. But it’s worth the effort to do so.

Aim to spark an emotional response

Think a little bit left of centre if you’re presenting a mood board. What would give your audience a genuine emotive response to? Real world objects are good for this. If you were inspired by the beach, bring in a shell. If your eureka moment happened on the bus, bring in the ticket. This type of thing intrigues people’s brains and gains that all-important emotive reaction.


“art deco mood”

Don’t make presumptions

Presumption making can be the difference between a successful mood board and one that’s dismissed as being too cerebral. There’s a danger of expecting too much of the audience – that they’ll ‘know what you mean’. Chances are they won’t. So if it takes a few more references, images or textures to get what’s inside your head into a client’s then add them in.

Test your mood board

Finally, don’t forget to test out your boards before you present it. Remember, it’s not a game of Pictionary®, so if your testing audience have to ask too many times what an image means or why it’s there, then it probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Have fun!

The whole process of creating mood boards should be fun – a refreshing break from the often tedious tasks of the fashion designer. If you’re not having fun then it’s a sure sign you’re going about things the wrong way.


Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Insight, Design Inspiration