In today’s article, we share the insights into the benefits of mood boards from Eugene Demchenko, Art Director of Digital Projects for the media company 1+1 Media. Here he tells how they use mood boards to develop concepts of digital products.

What Is a Mood Board?

Every year, we develop or improve the design of around 70-80 digital products, mostly for entertainment and news projects. It means an intense flow of work, a lot of stakeholders, parallel processes and sub-tasks. To avoid misunderstanding and consider preferences of all sides, we started to use mood boards. In the course of work, we came to a fundamental truth: the more supporting tools a designer has, the more flexible and less pricey is the creative process of digital product design.

moodboard design process

Moodboard is a tool for validation of abstractions

In the 80s-90s, there was a trend to create the vision boards which were often called Dream&Do. It could be a pinboard or just a drawing paper on which a person placed the objects of his or her dreams, objectified ideas, or attached attributes of desired situations. The map was a kind of collage comprised of images, text or other objects. As time has shown, the maps of this kind worked well.

With a fixed physical image of something desired, a person saw the goal more clearly. The specification of the images shaped the psychological background that influenced the model of human behavior. This context allowed for acting this or that way in particular situations. The background and the result of his actions were leading to a clearly defined purpose.

A simple wish to be happy, to own what you want or to be in a place where you see yourself truly happy, created a tool that can be incorporated in a design process.

Considering the specific features of human thinking, we made a decision to apply the Moodboard technique in the development of 1+1 Media’s digital products.

Our development phases of a design product:

1. Getting from 15 to 25 images from each approver. The criteria of image selection by the client should be determined by evocative similarity. In other words, the images must activate a client’s steady reflection of the personal and mental image of the project.

2. Assuming what attributes are applied in these pictures to transmit a mood required by the client. It can be a color, an image, a composition, an atmosphere, a plot, or other specific option. The set of client’s pictures is supplemented with your pictures that have similar mood transmission tools.

3. Optionally, offering the client other boards. For instance, a board of effective solutions or color selection board, or a board dedicated to the required research area.

4. Producing the Moodboard. The bigger effect is achieved by boards that were handmade assembled and glued. It’s quite simple to make it. Just buy design cardboard paper, print all images using a color printer and get scissors, a craft knife, a ruler and a glue stick. Of course, you can make a digital board for yourself or in case the client had worked with mood boards before. The major disadvantage of digital mood boards is that you cannot see all the images at once, so you’ll not be able to follow the sequence of images selection clearly during the presentation.

5. Delivering a presentation, recording results, and sequence of the selection.

It’s advised to prepare the following for the presentation:

  • a Moodboard covering research areas important for us in the project;
  • multicolor markers or stickers with numbers;
  • a document for recording time and selection;
  • a smartphone or any other video recording device;
  • a notebook and pen;
  • an assistant (optional).

Provide each approver with personal tools for marking the images to be selected. For this purpose, you can use pins, stickers, or multicolor markers, so that each client could mark images with his or her color.

It is important to limit the time for the selection process, for example, set out three minutes to select. After that, you should limit the number of images to be selected, for instance, make it up to nine.

6. Describing the tools that transmit a certain mood via the selected image.

7. Approving these tools with the client.

moodboard for design

When to Use a Mood Board

It is a tool for representing and supporting imagination

It can be applied if either you or the client doesn’t have a clearly shaped or fixed image of a new product. In this case, as a designer or marketing specialist, you don’t have a clue. So, you continue communication in general phrases and abstract definitions.

The Contractor:
— Our creative solution is not what you want?
The Client:
— We looked through them and it feels that your solution is not that straightforward as we would like them to be. It doesn’t reflect the values of our business: sense of purpose, speed, and success.

Here is the confrontation of individual images that are constantly changing.

It’s helpful to collect data when there is a lack of input information required for work on the stylistics of the project.

A mood board helps if there is a lack of a brief or a part of the information required to form the stylistic concept.

The Contractor:
—We need additional information to create the design.
The Client:
— Really? We’ve filled in your life-long brief and answered all the questions. It’s your document, isn’t it? So, work with it. What else do we owe you? We didn’t plan to spend more time on that.

Here is unwilling to meet halfway and lack of time needed to prepare a detailed specification.

moodboard design

A mood board will help you to create a unique combination of elements

While presenting the Moodboard, you cannot control the selection of elements by the client. It’s like a lottery draw. It is impossible to predict which images will work. Moreover, all these images will work synergistically for one goal.

The Client:
— Wow! Creativity is up to par! We like it! Our boss approved it immediately. Your creativity will give us prominence on the golden shelf.
P.S. Pour out if something left.
The Contractor:
—Thank you for a fast response. We collected and systematized messages transmitted via your images. I see we’re on the right track. Let’s keep on moving.

mood board in design

It helps to hit a new level of communication with the client

After the presentation, as my practice shows, the client often changes the relationship pattern from “Client-Performer” to “Misunderstood-Understanding”. This relationship model can be compared with the “Patient – Psychologist” model. The relations get intimate aspect. This format of relationships will highlight you favorably among other performers.

moodboarding in design

How to Work with Mood Boards

Every mood board is created to solve only one specific task

If you dilute the board of references with images that relate to the field of colors or mood, you risk blowing your client’s mind. This way you complicate a task that is already not trivial for him or her. As most people do, he does not understand what he should pay attention to and what is not that important.

The goal to specify abstract things gets blurred and abstraction begins a new circle of rotation in his imagination. The designer’s task is to fix the abstract and constantly changing client’s ideas on specific images. It’s about snapping an abstraction to real, existing images. Anchoring the abstract to the subject.

Be sure to formalize the messages transmitted by the result of the selection

If you don’t agree upon the ways in which the images impact the mood of the client, thereby you make a foundation to raise abstraction changing dynamics, which is better to avoid in your case. At this phase, your main task is to transform the abstract thing into the specific one.

On the one hand, the description of mood transmission ways of the selected images will give the client the explanation of his reflection; on the other hand, for both you and the approving side, it will fix the list of attributes which should be inherent in the new image of the product. These attributes in a complex can synergistically evoke a spectrum of certain emotions for both the client and an ordinary user.

In this aspect, Moodboard works as a powerful tool for emotional design. Moreover, these attributes can be your reference tool for creating an emotionally active concept of a new product image.

Don’t take shortcuts for analyzing the images

Something that lies on the surface and can be picked by anyone is of no value. This is an axiom.

It is important to dig deep into the semantic level and after that even deeper. And keep doing that until you get to the true reasons for reflection.

The presentation of the board can be compared with the Rorschach test, used for personality research. A person is offered to give an interpretation of ink blots. Each figure serves as a stimulus for the free association: a tested person must tell any word, image or idea that crossed his mind.

The reason for reflection hardly ever lies on the surface. It should be raised from under the layer of information noise and false semantics. But when you do that, a series of insights come into play.

The puzzle will be pieced together, everything will fall into place, the whole chain of cause-and-effect relations will be clear. The motive for selecting each particular image will become apparent. All this information should be described in detail, regardless of the client’s reaction.

The description of the images chosen by the client must contain:

  • A brief message of an image
  • Mechanics and reason for an emotional impact stimulated by the image
  • List of mood transmission tools of the image
  • Recommendations for its use.

One in two will tell you that Moodboard is a pipe dream

But it is not. You may hear something like that from a person that doesn’t understand how this tool works. Back in the day, Alan Cooper faced such a problem when he proposed to use “Personas” as a reference tool for interface development.

The processes of semantic analysis and fixation of interaction tools are quite complex. Not everyone can see it as a reference tool for development. It should be born in mind that the image can affect through a very wide range of attributes:

  • composition
  • plot
  • color
  • the atmosphere of a particular place or situation
  • combination of images
  • typography
  • historical background
  • social background
  • regional background
  • your option.

Considering and describing all that is an overwhelming mental threshold for lots of people that have not been used before in their development processes.

moodboarding in digital design

Why Would You Use Mood Boards?

1. It helps you to create a unique combination of elements

A dream of a creative agency. The process of making a presentation can be compared to a lottery draw. Being a creative person, you can build-in images and emphasize them through a composition. Nevertheless, you’ll never guess what will be chosen eventually. Almost always the combinations will be random.

But an essential aspect here is that any set of these combinations will be synergistically transmitting a certain range of moods.

2. It helps to make a key-image that matches the selected image to the maximum extent

Your key-image (a concept) will become an evocation of abstractions of, perhaps, many clients. Then if you can explain what criteria should be used to evaluate it, in most cases you can get quick approval.

3. A project created with it transmits a specific mood

4. It enables to see a range of possibilities together

It works in the case of a material Moodboard, not the digital one. All the problems related to the resolution and width of the screen are phased out immediately. Respondents at the presentation will be able to see the whole list of proposals at once. They see and evaluate all the offered possibilities simultaneously.

Let me give you an analogy of my behavior in the market. When I buy, for example, fruit, I begin to look for the best ones among those displayed on the shelf. I see everything at once and get excited. I ask to show fruit from the lower boxes, dig, and collect. Then I make my choice and come back home feeling satisfied with it. Noticeably, I am just psychologically not able to reject fruit gathered in the package.

5. It helps prioritize information

During the Moodboard presentation, we fix the sequence of images being selected. Let’s suppose that we give a minute to select nine pictures only. Practice shows that their choice is not always rational from the client’s side. For example, the first three selected images are an impulsive decision. These are the images whose mood transmission has satisfied all clients. The next three images are transmitting a lower priority of emotions. These are the moods considered not obligatory but preferred. At this point, the third priority is turned on. The priority of the user’s needs. The client implements it relying on the major KPI of the business profitability, and can choose not the final three remaining images, but will try to adapt all the remaining images of the board for the needs of a business. As soon as you see such a thing happening, you should stop the testing for this person.

About Author: Eugene Demchenko, Art Director of Digital Projects for the media company 1+1 Media. You can get in touch via Facebook or LinkedIn.

The original article was published on Telegraf Design

Check Ouch, the collection of free vector illustrations, read about basic principles of visual storytelling and learn how interface illustrations enhance user experience.


Subscribe to
Icons8 Newsletter!