One of the first steps to take when you start the branding process is to begin defining your brand. It’s also probably one of the more difficult tasks and involves a lot of time spent thinking about your business and target audience. What appeals to them? What do they like? What magazines do they read? Where do they shop? You get the picture. As a visual person, obviously the easiest way for me to do this is…you guessed it, VISUALLY.
So over the past few months I’ve started collaborating with clients on a mood board to kick off their branding package and it has blown my mind! It has turned out to be such a valuable part of the branding process and (I think) super fun for both the client and me. So, today I'm sharing why a mood board can be so important and how to go about creating one to start defining your brand.
So...what exactly is a mood board and why is it valuable for my brand?
A mood board is a collection of photos and images that visually represent your brand and evokes the emotional response that you are trying to get from your target audience. Things to keep in mind when creating your mood board include colors, textures, patterns and lifestyle images that give you that tingly feeling when you look at them because they are exactly what you want your brand to communicate.
The reason this is so useful to have on-hand is that a mood board can be used as a visual reference to quickly define the tone + feeling of your brand. I keep a client's mood board open while designing their materials to be sure that I’m aligning with their business’s ideal client. You can also use it to share with employees, vendors or anyone else that works with your business to give them an introduction to your brand.
I want to make a mood board, where do I start?
You can gather images just about anywhere, but I’ve found that Pinterest is an amazing resource for finding beautifully curated photos and visually interesting patterns / textures / fonts / everything. Plus, you can easily collaborate and share your Pinterest board with others. Think of your ideal client and what they would be doing, looking at, thinking about, etc. - start by searching Pinterest for that! After you start pinning a few images you'll start identifying patterns and trends that begin to emerge and make note of them. Once you've pinned your little heart out, I recommend going back through your board and refining it. You can do this by removing any images that don't totally jive with the overall look and feel of the board. Or maybe you now see something trend emerge that is really connecting with you and you want to find more examples of that to add to your board.
Once you’ve gathered your inspiration and refined your Pinterest board, you can use any image editing program to put your favorites together into a collage to have on-hand as your official mood board. I use Photoshop or InDesign, but you could easily use a free option like Microsoft Paint or Canva.
HERE'S AN EXAMPLE:
Eagle’s Rise Ranch is a horse ranch and Dressage training facility located in Snowmass, Colorado. During our consultation some of the adjectives that the client used to describe her business were quality, classic, hope, strength, and rustic. The client also told me a touching story about her family involving a plane crash and finding hope in the sun rising over the mountains, which is where the business name came from. So when we began searching for images on Pinterest we started by looking for a beautiful picture of the sunrise and mountains that had a very dramatic and hopeful feeling. I also looked for supporting detail images by searching
for the words like horse, stirrup, training arena and looked for images that felt very sophisticated and classic. In our board for Eagle’s Rise Ranch we started to see lots of dark, dramatic colors and pops of copper. So, I searched for more dramatic copper and black images. I also noticed lots of nature themed images, so we searched for more textured photos of leaves and patterns to reflect that and also matched the color + feeling that we had started to establish. After pinning loads of images and then touching base with the client, we decided to refine the board by deleting a few images that didn’t quite fit. Here is a shot of what our refined Pinterest board looked like in the end:
And from that we pulled the strongest images and put together our formal mood board + color palette to define the brand moving forward.
HERE'S ANOTHER EXAMPLE:
Good Trip Coffee Co. is a specialty, cold-brew coffee company starting up in Denver that was created to celebrate the origins behind the coffees people love and to transport coffee-drinkers to their own happy place. The owners plan to work exclusively with women farmers for their beans and they recently lived in Nicaragua for 5 months, so they definitely wanted to bring that experience into their brand. Some of the words they used to describe their company were celebration, global, travel, welcoming, vibrant and happy. From our consultation, I also knew that they were drawn to deep jewel tones, art deco style paintings and visually
interesting patterns, so we wanted to incorporate those feelings into their mood board as well. We began by finding whimsical pictures of hot air balloons (which was the theme we decided on for their logo) and other travel related imagery. From there we explored photos of the Nicaraguan tree tops and cloud forest, hands sorting through coffee beans, exotic colors and art-deco feeling patterns. I noticed a slightly tropical feeling emerging, so I searched for more detailed photos of leaves and leaf patterns, and even looked for interior design images with the right whimsical feeing and colors. Here is a glimpse at our Pinterest board:
And from that we curated our favorites to create this beautiful and inspiring formal mood board + color palette to drive the brand direction forward:
While it might seem like just an excuse to play around on Pinterest, creating a mood board using images that connect with your target audience is an amazing exercise to start developing that hard-to-define brand voice for your business. And from there it makes things even easier to continue developing your brand, because you have a great starting point.
Do you have a mood board created to define your brand? Do you plan to start one for a new brand in the future? Tell me in the comments!