Updated: Jun 28, 2020
Now we all know that emotions rule the world, which might explain the trouble we get ourselves into, even if many would prefer to think they are above such base animal instincts. When they control us they get us into drama trauma and when we learn to manage them we get to direct our lives. Emotions are the #1 thing my male clients say they wish they had more control over. Well let’s start by deciding what mood you want to project for your brand. What do you want your clients to feel when they encounter and interact with your brand? So let’s create a mood board to create that feeling so you can begin to practice embodying it. When you’re ready to learn to manage them check this out.
Now, I know for some of you it might seem like mood boards are a trivial thing when you could be getting straight into building brand assets but hear me out here. From building hundreds of brand I’ve learned they’re an integral part of the branding process or any creative project, really. They inspire, motivate, create a discussion point, set a direction at the beginning and later inspire again when you need to check in on alignment, course correct and make strategic decisions. Remember we process and decide most rapidly visually. And, I’m all for shorthand instead of shortcuts that you wish you hadn’t taken later.
So, if you spend the time building your mood board, intentionally choosing specific images and what they represent in relation to your brand, you’ll continue to draw inspiration from them, like a gift that keeps giving or good system that rewards the hard set up. A well crafted mood board can ignite the visual exploration of your brand with deeper structure and provide an amazing reference point to look back on. Done this way it’s a really worthwhile exercise and besides it’s one of my favourite parts of the branding process. And let’s be honest any excuse to play on Pinterest and gather pictures? it’s like gardening without getting your hands dirty. You don’t need to ask me twice. I’m there already! So let’s get into it shall we
01: Pin with abandon
First things first, open Pinterest, and start a new secret board called my brand inspiration or my brand mood board.
Now like with your colour palette so you don’t find yourself still there with no dinner and children unwashed at midnight; set a timer. Give yourself 3 hours or less all up and break that into. 1 hour for gathering. 30 minutes for first edit. 30 minutes for final edit which will give you 10-15 elements all up. (I know that only adds up to 2 hours). You can do this meditation to get you beyond your rational mind.
Start exploring. Pin anything that calls to you, whether it’s colours you are drawn to, an image that awakens a feeling or a styling detail that thrills you and aligns with your brand. What we are after here are visual references, colour samples, textures, patterns, rhythms, or anything else that feels like it could help you translate the inner essence of your brand.
For now you’re not looking for the ‘perfect’ images. You want to gather and fill the board abundantly with as many photos as possible, paying attention to anything that just feels right or that pulls you, always using the filter of your brand mission and vision ie if you’re a mountain guide go easy on coastal images and hard on forest, trees, skies, wood, leaves, birds, etc. At editing time you’ll be fine-tuning, so allow yourself freedom to go a little wild here and let yourself skip down those visual worm holes. Your intentionally capturing imagery that feels like what you want your brand to feel like. Drop onto your body and feel what that means for you, notice the emotions that certain photos or textures, details, colours evoke.
Use your value words to help with search terms and keep in mind that pins don’t have to be a direct relation to the end result of your project. The subconscious speaks in symbols. By dropping into your boy you are intentionally trying to look for direct inspiration. Just using your strategic mind can mean you edit before you ever create and your results can look much like everyone else. Remember the whole purpose of branding is differentiation. So look at different sources than you might normally do for your inspiration. Try pulling typography samples from magazine layouts, others logos, or a web site screenshot. Find your texture in fabrics, paintings, nature – flowers, fields. Patterns in shadows, interiors, landscapes. Time’s up. Take a break and review what you have gathered.
02: Edit and ask why
Now it’s time to see become curious about what you gathered and why. But before you do that. Run quickly through and delete anything that just jars or feels like it doesn’t belong at all – always through your brand filter. By doing that you’ve likely lost about 10% Now, it’s questions time
Ask yourself why you chose each specific image and what it means about your brand.
Does it capture the feeling of your brand?
Is there a specific styling detail that speaks directly to what you’d like to show in your imagery?
Does it feel like a visual representation of the tone of your brand, how you want it to sound?
Edit a little more. You love it or it’s gone. Absolute 100% or out.
You can begin now begin to transfer what you are keeping them to a new board though I prefer to be ruthless and just say sayonara. If they aren’t right, then they are not for you. When you’re done editing, it’s time for the next phase.
Working with what’s left, start making notes why these images speak to you and what they represent for your brand. It’s esy to think this is overkill but there’s something that happens when we have to order our thoughts and actually write them. It pushes you to articulate your intentions and you get to see, hear and feel the words you use which you can later use in your word bank.
Once you’ve narrowed down the images, taken the notes, you’ll likely begin to notice you’re missing ‘something’. It might be typography, colour, or …. So do one more pass at finding images that will fill those gaps in your board until you feel like you’ve created a visual representation of your brand that captures the essence of your brand. Remember a vision is not someplace to be now. It should inspire you and motivate you to step towards it. your mood board should speak and feel good in your mind, your heart and your soul.
03: Complete your mood board
Now that you’ve refined your board and feel 100% satisfied that each image is a clear representation of an aspect of the direction for your brand, you get to build your final board. You could just leave it as a Pinterest board but it’s way more fun to overlay the image onto each other and arrange the images on the board in the exact arrangement you want. Use Canva to do this and later print it out so you can see it daily.
As you begin to lay the images out — choose each image size is in relation to the rest. You may choose to group some together. Notice how you read the board, how your eyes move across it. And notice the overall look and feel of it. This impacts the message of your collection of images. Of course they create a complete story but there are also elements within that story. Think of it like different aspects of your brand’s personality.
Remember the intention is to serve as a visual reference and discussion point as you move forward with developing your brand. you may create the mood board alone or consult with teammates, collaborators, friends, family as you create it. And keep it where you can easily retrieve it or look at it to check in that you’re moving in the right direction.
04: Notice the themes
While moving through the process of creating a mood board, you get completely immersed in the images and that is exactly the intention but now you have completed it. Stand back and look at it and see what themes have emerged. You can make more notes to capture the feel and tone. You can do this on the physical board if you have printed it or on a notebook if not.
I’ve designed a Mood Board Exploration Workbook for you, which you can download here. This will walk you through the next section and give you a place to jot down those recurring themes and observations that have started to come to light as you’ve built your mood board.
Make your notes keeping in the mind the following: colours, textures, tone words, styling details, patterns, mood, composition, subject matter, content themes (all ocean, all gothic). What we’re looking for here is for your brand language and also a visual direction to emerge, which is part of your Brand Style Guide. Each of these are reference points as you continue to build your brand style and story. Now take this mood board and begin to put together your brand palette and you’ll have another element for your Brand Style Guide.
I’ll post next week on developing your brand story and we’ll bring it together in one place. I’ll see you in the next post!