Mood Boards: Why & How to Use Them

How To Use Mood Boards


Client: I want my logo to be light blue.
Me: *Makes logo light blue*
Client: No not that blue.


The Why


This is the simplest way I could think of to show that design language is tricky. I've had many clients come to me and feel embarrassed or nervous about the process of discussing design, but you know what? That's normal. And Mood Boards can make it a lot easier. Design schools actually has classes called "critique" and grades depend on how well you were able to discuss design work. So please, don't be embarrassed or feel bad if this new endeavor is a little bit challenging! Give this post a read and you'll be prepared to talk shop like a designer. 

In the above example with the light blue logo, it would be easy to guess that by light blue we were talking about your favorite shade of light blue, and that’s probably the first blue that came into your mind. But clearly there is a whole spectrum that falls within light blue. Are we looking for a robin egg blue? pale, nearly off white blue? Sky? Turquoise?

Expanding on this blue request, other requests I get are often clean, simple and modern. These sometimes abstract adjectives are where design language can get even trickier.

While it may be easy to decipher what shade of blue = your blue, think about the term “modern.” Does that mean a thin, no-fuss sans serif font? Are you looking for a logo that could work as an icon or is it that you want a wordmark only to act as your logo?


Language is amazing with how fluid it is. Do you remember the old joke, Who is on first base, What’s on second?  If two people can be talking about the same game they’re watching together, and really not understand each other, obviously talking about something like design could get confusing.

Now enter Mood Boards.


The How

Mood Boards are used for many different things: you have your fashion mood boards, mood boards for manifesting, interior design mood boards, etc. Obviously here we will talk about using a mood board to decipher graphic design styles. My process starts before the mood board with questionnaires and exercises I’ve created that help to get the creative juices flowing. It will also help us get acquainted with the target audience. Once I get a good idea of the ideal audience, I begin the journey of looking for images, colors and designs that will appeal to the audience. Taking inspiration from the real world is a great way to stand out and ensure that the branding is designed with a specific audience in mind.


If you're a client that KM Design is working with and you've just received a mood board from me, you can probably expect a phone call from me soon. I usually prefer talking about the images instead of relying on emails to describe the imagery.

Here is a little break down of what to look at when you’re looking at your mood board. I’m going to use as much non-technical language here as possible. But if you have any questions please feel free to shoot me an email.


1.     Take a close look the typography that is included. Do you gravitate towards serifs, or sans serifs (serifs have the cute little tails on most of the letters, sans serifs usually look like they’re straight lines), cursive or other styles? Look closely at the weight of the stroke, or how bold/fat the typography looks.

2.     Pay attention to the color palette. Can you imagine your audience will respond to it? Have you seen others using a similar color palette that are interested in a similar audience? If you’ve ever looked into color theory, now is the time to think back on what you know about that. The theory of color changes as our world changes, but some things remain the same. Occasionally I include two different color combos in one mood board, so that we can compare and contrast.

3.     Would your target audience understand or relate to the content? Not all of the images are going to be highly specifically related visually to your content, but certain pieces definitely should make sense.

4.     Is there a specific image that you believe would stand out to your audience? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, if one image stands out consider why you think your audience would resonate with it.

5.     Patterns and Textures: these play a huge roll in how your business feels. If you think about Apple, I will bet the first texture that comes to mind is a silvery, shiny, sleek metal. That’s the sort of brand recognition designers dream of developing.

Let's review what we've learned: The #1 most important aspect to keep in mind is your audience. How will they feel about your branding? What sort of styles are they drawn to or used to seeing when they shop? Do your best to keep your own preferences at bay when you're looking at designs.