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Mood matters: how to make a mood board that slays without killing your creative vibes.

Mood boards.

We talk about these a lot in the design space. So if you're coming from a designerly space (an ad agency, an interior decorator's office, out from behind a camera, etc) you can stop reading right now because you probably eat mood boards for breakfast and sleep with them under your pillow at night.

But if you're new to design-land (welcome!), read on. Because you're going to need to know what we're all talking about.

A mood board is a document that illustrates the feeling you want to achieve with a creative piece. And it puts your designer in a good mood when they get one. And then you'll be in a good mood because you get results you love.

There are a few components to a good mood board.

  1. Style

  2. Imagery

  3. Font choice

  4. Color

Knowing what you vibe with in each of these areas will help your creative team give you something you love. There are so many choices in the world—if you don't help us narrow it down, the odds are we'll give you something you hate (sorry) and then we'll have to fix it and honestly that's frustrating for everyone.

Ok. First thing. Style.

The first thing to consider is style. Imagine this: you're launching a mobile dog-washing business (no joke, I got to work with a client who did this, it was awesome, ask me about it some time, it's actually a pretty funny story). What kind of style vibe are you going for? I'll show you what I mean. Here are six different styles, and some image grabs from our old friend Google to round out the picture:

Next. Imagery.

The next thing to consider...and this might be really the different between content and image. Here what I mean: imagine you love dogs. Imagine you took a picture of your canine companion, during a precious moment that will remember for the rest of your life. It's the kind of moment that's defining, and it fills you with feeling. The picture might look something like this:

Now, NO offense to your memory, but this will not help your designer. Look for an image (or set of images) that tells your design-person the story. The words behind the story might go something like this:

I'd love to see a medium-sized family dog as part of the brand design. A silly one, with big lovey eyes.

And that can bring to mind a lot of different images. But pair it with this...and now we've got a vision to work with:

It's black and white—artsy—and super high contrast. Pair that story with a different dog? One that's softer, more blurred and out of focus in places. You've got a totally different tone to your story:

Your design pro will see the nuance in these photos, and bring that feel to the table.

Next up: fonts

Here's the secret. Fonts are a mystery to all, even those of us who love them.

There is a time-honored and great debate about which fonts are more legible, which are more popular, and which ones you can use where (there are LOTS of rules and believe me when I tell you they are inconvenient). But you don't need to tell us that. We just want to know what you like. It's seriously as doing an image search for fonts, and picking the one you just simply like better. We'll take it from there:

Lastly, color.

We call it color theory, and there are classes upon classes you can take to learn about it. You can also google it, and talk to your friends about it. There are lots of opinions, and even an industry expert called Pantone who publishes a color of the year, every year. We are all huge nerds for it. But you don't have to be. Here's what we want to know:

  • Do you have a favorite color? This is only important if you want it as part of your brand.

  • Are there any colors that you'd specifically like to see?

  • What colors are aesthetically pleasing to you? What combos of colors?

There's a tool out there that I love called Coolers, and it can help you answer these Qs by generating lots of different color palettes for you to react to:

Like the fonts situation...just tell us what you like and we'll take it from there.

Now that you've got the basic down, you're ready.

Here's how to make one:

Jump on Pinterest. No fancy design software needed. Create a board called "Brand Vision" and fill it with things. Brands you envy. Visuals you crave. Colors that make your heart sing. Textures even. Graphics that bring you the kind of emotion you'd like to channel with your brand.

Here are a few examples that my clients have made for me:

The good news? You can't mess this up. It's impossible. You can't do too much. You can't do too little. There are no right answers, just as there are no wrong ones. Just have a little fun, and let's see your creative spirit.

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