A brand mood board is a design tool that tells a visual story about your brand. It will help you create and maintain a consistent, beautiful look for your brand. Mood boards are key to designing the visual aesthetic of your brand’s identity.
They include everything from type inspiration to colour palette, texture and patterns – all things that contribute to the overall vibe of your brand.
Creating a mood board for your brand is an essential part of your brand design; it forms the foundation of your visual brand identity, simplifies your design decisions, and leads you towards that cohesive, consistent brand identity you’re craving.
What is a mood board?
A mood board is the design inspiration for your brand, a collection of imagery that expresses how you want your brand to look and feel; it includes colours, fonts, textures and even words associated with the company’s personality.
Mood boards have been used by creatives and designers to guide their creative process they were developed for communicating emotional qualities between designers and clients.
It has been found that looking at images can simultaneously produce a sense of both detachment and engagement (Grimshaw and Ravetz, 2005, Taussig, 1993) and combine rationality with emotionality (Belova, 2006), fostering a cognitive as well as emotional engagement.
In other words, mood boards bridge the gap between logical business aims and emotional and intangible design psychology. They give us a holistic, big-picture view of what we’re trying to achieve through the design.
Mood board vs brand board
A brand mood board is different from a traditional style guide or brand board because it’s not meant as a strict guideline for designing your brand but rather an inspirational jumping-off point for creativity!
Your mood board is the starting point in designing your brand identity. A brand board is the finished article that contains your brand logos, sub-marks and icons, final brand colour palette, brand patterns and illustrations, brand typography or fonts and images for visual direction.
See this example of the mood board I created for Forest tails. As you can see the Brand style guide includes elements of the mood board but includes the logo suite, sub mark and icons, the full colour palette and typography.
When should I build a mood board?
Although most people make the mistake of starting their brand exploration with a mood board, it’s not the first step in your branding journey. Before you start to gather inspiration and create your mood board you need to sit down and do the brand strategy work that underpins ‘why’ your brand should and feel a certain way.
Once you’ve created your brand strategy you can expand on your brand essence and start to pull together visual inspiration that fits with how you want your brand to look and feel.
Once you have created your brand you can use mood boards to inspire and guide different creative projects in your business including:
- new product launches
- seasonal sales campaigns
- new courses or programs
- brand photoshoots
- podcast graphics
- online memberships
- books, ebooks and PDFs
- office or studio design
You can create different branding mood boards for new campaigns, programmes or products, you can create mood boards for sales pages, website design and micro sites or apps.
Read More: Build a brand strategy in 10 steps
Mood board for brand consistency
Your mood board is the first step in creating a consistent brand identity design. It provides the overarching vision for a visual identity that communicates the deeper goals of your business.
You might have heard of colour psychology and know that colours have the ability to evoke universal thoughts and feelings. But did you know that there’s such a thing as a happy font? Fonts have subtle (and not so subtle) personalities and traits that can affect not only how we feel but even how we perceive what we’re reading.
Chosen in isolation, colours that you like might not go with fonts that you like the look of. You might fall in love with a pattern that carries a different visual energy than the photography style you’ve chosen.
When you bring everything together in a mood board it’s easier to see if everything flows and complements the other areas of the brand.
In research published in the Journal of Business Research, Mood boards were found to support brand coordination by
- setting the scene
- directing and aligning activities
- establishing a point of reference.
Rather than limiting creativity, they offer creative freedom by
- leaving room for interpretation,
- providing a source of inspiration,
- allowing self-expression and signature style
When your entire company is working from the same design inspiration you’ll have a consistent approach across your brand identity, website design, packaging and other marketing materials. It helps the branding process flow more smoothly.
For small business owners who might be outsourcing to several different freelancers or external suppliers, a mood board helps to clearly communicate design ideas.
Keeping a consistent approach across your team
A mood board can also help keep your team on the same page – whether you have in-house designers, new members of staff or you outsource to freelancers or agencies, I’ve sent brand mood boards to photographers I’ve briefed as well as copywriters to quickly communicate the brand look and feel. Sometimes it helps to have both visual and verbal cues.
What to include on a brand mood board
There are no set rules but there are some useful frameworks to follow when thinking about what to include on a brand mood board.
Typically a brand mood board includes
- brand vibe words
- type inspiration
- logo inspiration
- colour palette / colour scheme
It’s best to choose a collection of inspiration from different sources you don’t want to end up with all photos or all textures, remember this should provide an overarching sense of how your brand should be communicated
Choosing a colour palette for your mood board
Choosing a colour palette for your mood board is one of the most crucial steps in creating a brand identity.
It’s not only important to come up with colours that represent your brand identity, but it’s also vital to make sure you’re choosing colours that will inspire and motivate your ideal clients.
Colour psychology plays a role in our every day lives. Customers use colour in the world around them every day to make decisions. They use colour in their homes, offices and cars – some even say they choose items of clothing by what colours are on sale at a store.
When creating your brand mood board, take your colour inspiration from the colours within the board, making sure that you have enough contrast between the colours as you’ll want colours that you can use for backgrounds as well as text.
How many colours to choose
The number of colours you choose will depend on the depth and complexity your brand. Preferably, there should be a limited amount in order to maintain consistency throughout all branding materials like logo design or website theme colouring but five is generally a good number to aim for.
If you’re aiming for a high-end or luxury brand, you’ll want to limit the color palette to 2-4 main colours at most.
Accents, neutrals and complementary colours
When choosing a colour palette you’ll want to start with your ‘body’ colours or the main colours. You can then choose an accent colour to add interest and another neutral tone for balance (in a logo this is usually black).
Consider the tones of the colours and try to use colours that have similar or complimentary tones.
Mood board for brand identity
If you’re creating a mood board for your brand identity you’ll want to consult your brand strategy first and get a sense for how your brand needs to look and feel.
It’s good to have a sense of your competitor’s brands for this but if you want to build a brand that stands out from the crowd it’s best that it is built based on your unique energy, skills and vision.
Start with 2-3 words for how you want the brand to look and 3 for how you want it to feel.
It’s important to remember that your brand mood board is just the starting point of your brand identity.
The fonts on your mood board might not be the ones you ultimately choose – I find that small snippets of text often look beautiful but when you start to apply them in a practical sense they don’t always work. This is why your moodboard is merely a jumping-off point.
You might need to tweak colour choices to fit your imagery or to improve text readability. Remember that you can try using shades and tints of the colours on your mood board.
Brand mood board examples
The mood board below is for Ayurvedic Mentor, an online health and wellness membership created by Dr Sam Watts at Mind Body Medical. I wanted to create a brand that had nods to the origins of Ayurveda but that would also feel familiar and safe to its audience. It needed to feel bright and welcoming but also natural and warm.
The colours are bright, the fonts are simple and minimalist, the imagery is intentionally focussed away from the faces of the people to create a more inclusive feeling.
Mood board for personal brand
When I started my career in brand and marketing I unwittingly created a strong personal brand for myself and quickly stood out to the directors of the massive FTSE 100 I was working for.
My secret – leopard print, high heels, unbridled ideas and unshakeable confidence.
I was young and naive but incredibly enthusiastic. By day I was working on point of sale for our 400+ stores but by night I was also a singer. My stage confidence and wardrobe spilt over to my day job.
Yes, it raised some eyebrows but it brightened up the grey boardroom, and despite 6-inch glitter heels being highly impractical for the millions of steps I had to climb each day, they put me firmly front and centre when anyone mentioned the 300-strong marketing department. It helped that I got the job done too!
The key to creating a personal brand is to be distinct and consistent but also think about your unique strengths and value that you offer. Think Steve Jobs with his minimalist style, polo necks, jeans and an absolute insistence on perfection.
A mood board is a great way to get an idea of what you want your brand identity or personal style to be. If I had to create a personal brand moodboard for my 22-year-old self it would look something like this
If you want to create a mood board for your personal brand start with your style inspiration, what’s your vibe?
Ask yourself, what you want to be known for? How do you want people to feel around you? What impact do you want to create?
Creating a personal brand moodboard could help you communicate a consistent message for lasting impact.
So, do I need a brand mood board?
Whether you’re creating a brand for your business or a personal brand, a brand mood board is an essential tool for creating an impactful and aligned brand.
Need help? Check out my brand services page to see how we could work together.