How to create an authentic mood board for your brand

Creating a mood board is an important process for building your brand. I sometimes see small business owners who don’t have a brand style guide and that makes it difficult to create a consistent brand. Before I begin creating logo concepts or a brand identity, I always start by collecting inspiration from photos, graphics, and typography and compiling them into a simple and cohesive inspiration board. This step is fundamental to my design process.

For example, many of my clients skip creating the brand visual elements and ask me to create a simple and clean website for them. I do specialize in clean and simple design, but there are literally thousands of different colors, fonts, and brand tones that I could use to create that particular style. Also, each client has a different niche and purpose. Visual communication is sometimes easier than verbal communication. A mood board helps both me as a designer, and you as my client, to focus our energies in a particular direction.

It helps by giving me, as a designer, a starting point and a direction to go in. Without that starting point, it’s like throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded. It also helps me to stay focused on your style throughout the entire project. When in doubt, I go back to the mood board.

In addition to the above benefit, it helps to save time. Without the mood board, it will take much longer to arrive at a design that truly resonates with you. Only you know what truly looks and feels right for your company.

In this post, I’m going to give you a little behind-the-scenes look at my process for creating a simple and well-organized brand mood board. Whether you’ve just started to work with a designer to rebrand or you’ve decided to create your brand by yourself, my hope is that you will find this post helpful to create a mood board that gets your project going in the right direction.

What is a mood board?

A mood board is a collage of visual ideas and concepts that helps you establish the creative direction for a project. It’s an assortment of ideas, patterns, textures, fonts, and images that you feel accurately reflects your brand’s personality, style, and message.

How to create your mood board:

When making your mood board, there are some key points to remember:

  • Keep your brand voice and buyer persona in mind - this is ultimately who you want to resonate with, so keep bringing your ideal client to mind throughout the process. If you need help with defining your audience, download a Brand Clarity workbook to help determine your target audience and brand message.

  • It’s not just pictures - There’s a whole world of options out there: different patterns, textures, fonts, and images. When you’re first starting out, try a lot of different styles. Later on in the process, you’ll get to look back and see what themes keep repeating.

  • Refine and edit - after you have chosen at least 50 images, go back through all of them and see which ones really jump out at you and clearly expresses the entire feel of your brand.  

Step 1. Start with a few keywords that truly reflect your brand

It’s likely when you think of your brand, certain words come to mind. This is part of your brand personality. For example, words that would describe a nutritionist in the health and wellness industry, would be healthy lifestyle, clean, natural, and trust. Whichever words you choose, pick 3-5 words that best reflect your brand.

Step 2. Pin to your Pinterest board

Pinterest is a great application to use when creating your inspiration board. Start by creating a new board and label it "(name of project) ideas". If you don’t want to show this board to anyone, you can make it private. Now think back to those 3-5 keywords you just picked and start to locate images that reflect those words. There are no rules as to how many images you should curate. Just remember, it’s not always visuals of your industry; it’s color swatches, textures (refine, rough, etc.), patterns (organic, stripes, polka dots, etc.) as well.

Pinterest board examples by Natsumi Nishizumi

A quick note about the items you pin, always keep your pinning purposeful. While going through this process you are seeing it through the lens of your own brand, and also trying to seeing it through the lens of your ideal client. How does the image make you feel and how would it make your audience feel? Is that the message you want to send?

If you’re not using Pinterest yet, sign up for a free account here.

Once your private mood board is set up, start adding to your board. A great way to get started is to search for the words that describe your brand (remember those 3-5 keywords?).

Create a Pinterest board and pin 30-50 images. I have created a sample Pinterest board: Modern health and wellness.

Health and wellness inspiration board sample

Step 3. Pick your top 10-15 favorite images

Now for the hard part. It’s time to go back over those images and pick your favorites. Remember, it’s not just what you love, it’s what best reflects your brand and what you feel will click with your ideal client. Choose 10-15 images by right-clicking on the ones that seem to fit best and save the images to your desktop.

Mood board sample for modern health and wellness

Step 4. Start building your mood board.

You can build a mood board in many different programs like Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Powerpoint,  even free software like Canva. I use Adobe Photoshop.

If you need a mood board template, start by downloading my mood board template in Photoshop.

Photoshop mood board template

Step 5: Select your color palette.

Now that you’ve got a nice, organized mood board in front of you, it’s time to pick out some colors. Go back through your images and look for color themes that repeat.

Choose no more than 2-3 colors for your color palette. These are going to be your main colors so they should be strong. Also, choose 1 or 2 colors from a more neutral color palette to serve as accent colors. If you’d like to keep your brand simple and clean, I would suggest keeping the brand colors to a minimum.

Once you have your mood board and color palette, you should have a good understanding of your brand’s visual style. With that part of the process behind you, can now create your brand essentials: your brand style guide, your logo, and brand identity. Whether you are creating a brand identity for your own business or you’re about to work with a designer, a mood board will help you build a solid foundation for your brand.

Mood board example for health and wellness.

Have you made a mood board for your brand? Has it helped you refine your branding? If you need help bringing your brand voice into your visual assets, let me know. Let’s work together.