Setting the tone

There are many different kinds of designers out there. Fashion designers, interior, web, digital, and so on. All of these artists, despite working towards a distinctive outcome, use very similar tools to achieve the same. A very prevalent —if not the most important one— mean used by them is what we know as Mood Boards.

Mood Boards are, just as its name plainly states it, a way for designers to convey an idea and present a concept. Tipically, a designer will work with either a creative crew or directly with a client that will vocalize their needs and preferences. Having these, the process of the mood board will set its pace. With this creative method, we have to use a great amount of brainstorming. The idea is to accumulate a wide variety of different images that channel more or less the same approach, to then put them together in coordination so as to identify the desired tone.

Prior to initiating the fun and enhancing process that is creating one of these boards, there are a couple of things that need to be taken into consideration. If working for a client, their concerns and ideas should play the main role in the task. Of course, a designer’s job is to use their creativity to attractively achieve an impression for a brand that could otherwise seem boring or dull. Nevertheless, it is important that as designers we pay close attention to our client’s demands, as they are the ones that will conclusively have the final say. On the other hand, if working for oneself, it is crucial that we understand and assemble a clear idea of what ‘mood’ we are trying to display before we start our mood-boarding journey.


Photo by Charles  on Unsplash

Before the web facilitated this practice with its various apps and pages for mood board building, these used to be assembled out of magazine scraps, textiles and handwritten and/or drawings set in a tangible piece of paper. Nowadays, we have multiple different tools that are not only for professional designers, but that also anyone with an internet connection can utilize.

  • Google: my personal favorite. Google has been helping us out with pretty much everything and anything for a few decades now. To this day, if one has any type of question, one will most likely resolve to ‘googling’ it so as to find an answer, or most likely hundreds of them. For that, Google is a designer’s great friend. Images, examples, ideas, and so on, come in handy when creating a mood board, and this extensive platform will give you infinite options to choose from.
  • Pinterest: this web page has been increasing in general popularity in the last years. For this creative process, it is an encompassing and extremely user-friendly tool that everyone in this industry should take advantage of. It is as simple as typing a word (one that perhaps describes the mood you are looking for) and this page will give you all the photos that have somewhat of a match to the word.
  • Mural: when working with a team, some might say that Mural is a fundamental tool to use. Essentially, this site will allow you and your team to pitch in ideas, write comments and concerns, plug in imagery if needed, and so on. Enabling you to put the brainstorming into action and have all the evidence from it showcasing in your screen all the while.
  • Evernote: for this particular application, some may not agree that it is as important. However, Evernote serves as a great tool for note-taking, specially when working with a client. Although it is true that one can simply use a pen and a piece of paper, when typing ideas the process becomes much quicker, and in this web page one can be sure that all of our info will be on track and well kept for later furthering.
  • Morpholio: last but not least, this is an application that allows anyone to build a mood board from scratch and with pretty much all the flexibility one could ask for. A few paragraphs back, I talked a little about the “old school” mood boards and how they worked. Morpholio works virtually the same way but in a screen.

MOOD-BOARDING: Do’s and Don’ts’

It seems to me that Mood-Boarding is a practice that should not be used only by designers, but instead by anyone that has dreams and aspirations. In my case, I have been doing this ever since I was a little girl (with the old school method, of course). When developing these boards, our creativity bursts out and allows us to think more openly and enter a clear set of ideas that were otherwise hidden or unknown. All in all, whether the intention is personal, professional and/or informal, it is a process that gives us an outlet to well constructed projects.


  • Do not be immoderately detailed with your board. Having a structure is by all means important, but having too much of it will defeat the whole purpose of the mood board. As the name states it, a board’s solely purposes are to simply embody a mood, not to construct the entire imagine altogether.
  • Do not put imagines that are too literal. This one is one that I have always struggled with, as it is easy to get lost in the process of the whole ‘mood’ impetus. If you are creating a mood board for a hotel lobby, the worst thing you can do is put pictures of an actual lobby with the exact style of furniture your client wants, and a perfect depiction of the type of floors and walls that will be used in the making. This will take away the inspiration of the project and will direct your client to a strict and closed idea of what the same will result in.
  • Do not be inconsistent. Even though it is important to have diversity in a mood board so as to collectively set a tone, it is also essential to stay within a parameter of uniformity with the images, textures and colors that you are incorporating. Why? Because consistency equals balance, and balance not only looks clean and professional, but also gives the green light for creativity and vision to come together and expand smoothly.


  • Do go out of your comfort zone. Try out those colors you are unsure of mixing together. Put controversial pictures that might not seem like the perfect match but that exhibit your objective beautifully. Make that drastic change you are scared it might ruin the whole board (do also take a picture of the board before just in case it does indeed ruin it).
  • Do ask for help, opinions or assistance on anything that is making you dubious, or even if you just want a second hand to boost the project. Two minds work better than one, and sometimes it takes a lot more than two to come up with amazing ideas, or to correct work that is already good, but will become great once it is reviewed and reconsidered by outsiders.
  • Do have fun. Despite the fact that Mood-Boarding is essentially just work for some, it is also a way to exploit one’s brain for creative and imaginative activity. If we are dreading the process, it either means that we have chosen the wrong career path, or that the work is so awful that your brain is rejecting the whole thing. When we have fun, we think more openly, our minds are susceptible to innovation and progress, and we generally tend to like the results a lot more.

On the whole, the art and custom of creating Mood Boards is not only fun and enhancing, but also matter-of-factly valuable, constructive and crucial for any creative company and/or freelance artist to utilize.

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