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Let's begin by answering the question, what is a mood board? Sometimes called an inspiration board, a mood board is a print or screen document that is a collage of images, text, textures, patterns, and sometimes even objects. Its purpose is to focus the design process. Before launching into the design of a piece, be it a branding project, book cover, poster, website, or advertising campaign, putting together a mood board allows you to collect your influences and explore different aspects of the project.
Its color palette, its typography, its photo or illustration style, its texture, and its shape. A printed mood board can be mounted on posterboard and presented in person to your design team or clients. A screen mood board can be sent by email as a PDF, or viewed online, either as a website or through one of several online mood board creation tools. A mood board may be a loose collage or a more refined layout, depending on your personal style and the requirements of the project.
Mood boards precede mock ups or prototypes in the design process. They are for capturing and organizing thoughts, impressions, themes, and feelings, rather than for coming up with type concepts. The mood board is about the atmosphere that the design will create. It allows you to explore and play with different styles without limitations. Those will come later, once the general design direction has been agreed. Though they may include text, mood boards are primarily visual.
Words are often inadequate when trying to convey design concepts. Words are subjective. One person's classy and understated may be another's stodgy and boring. Also, your client may not have a design vocabulary or share the same first language. It's common for a client to use phrases like, I'm not sure I know what I want, but I'll know it when I see it. In such cases, a mood board is essential. As it will be next to impossible for you to hit the right tone with your design without having first shared visual concepts with your client.
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