How To Incorporate Moodboarding into Your Next Initiative

Moodboards. You know them as pictorial collages that pop up on design studio walls, but what exactly are we doing with them? A way of quickly visualizing a design opportunity or concept through imagery, color palette, texture, and other reference material, a moodboard helps us “get in the zone” while clarifying design opportunities for our clients that they can own within their competitive space. Stuck on where to begin? We’ve got you covered.

1. FIND MEANING

At ODC, the process usually begins with a written concept. Before we begin the hunt for visual inspiration, we define words that equate to things like design themes, emotions, or personality attributes of a brand. These words serve as a jumping off point on the quest for visuals, textures, typography, found objects and more that reflect concepts central to the project at hand.

2. BUILD A FRAMEWORK

Frameworks help to break down each design element that needs to be addressed in a moodboard, keeping us organized and on track with our research. A typical board includes typography, color palettes, layout inspiration, photography, illustration, and even found objects—all representative of the visual opportunity area we’re beginning to explore.

We often use a platform like Pinterest or Dropmark to keep assets organized and in check while collaborating within a team environment.

3. OUTSIDE INSPIRATION

Here are some of our favorite tools for finding and sourcing moodboarding imagery that resonates with the opportunity area we're trying to illustrate. Social media is a great place to source photography and layout inspiration, whereas sources like Niice are perfect for color, graphic expression, and textural inspiration.

And if all of your gathering is taking place online, don’t forget to look to the visual richness of the world around you for opportunities you may have missed. Put down your phone, take a walk, and explore the environment—you never know what day-to-day ephemera you may accidentally happen upon that could inspire the next great solution.


1. Niice
2. Invision’s blog
3. Design inspiration
4. Medium
5. Instagram & Pinterest
6. Dribbble
7. It's Nice That

Design Director David Sieren uses Instagram and Flickr as a way to catalog real-life inspiration.

4. GET PHYSICAL

If most of your collecting happens on the internet, it’s important that you transfer your board into the physical world. Creating a moodboard that lives in a physical space allows you to interact with content differently than on a computer. Standing, immersing yourself in compiled visuals and found objects allows your mind to drift into the right headspace while making it easier to rearrange, move, and observe your board in different contexts.

Moving moodboards off the cloud and onto the wall is an essential part of the process. Making connections and edits with the team through collaborative conversation can lead to surprising results.

5. COLLABORATE

Not only is a physical board great for perspective, but it allows for better collaboration and iteration in a studio environment. Sometimes, we’ll collectively build moodboards together with our clients as a way to reach a consensus on narrative and to understand where we’re headed together. Bring clients in early to not only establish consensus for design direction, but the mood of a project collaboration as a whole.

Starting on your own moodboard? Tag @onedesignco to share your stuff. Happy moodboarding!

One Design Company is a research-driven design and development studio. For over a decade, we’ve explored the intersection of experience and technology—where powerful brands come to life. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

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