How to Create an effective Moodboard

Want to create an effective moodboard? Then feed your eyes.

By Cat HowPosted in Ideas

Want to create an effective moodboard? The most important thing you should do as a creative, is to feed your eyes. Go to art galleries, flick through your old design books, trawl blogs, read newspaper magazines, go to a flea market or ditch the telly for a couple of hours losing yourself on Pinterest.

Any visual stimulation feeds your eyes, and consequently feeds your brain. You’re working on a self-initiated life-long project  -  actively amassing a library of imagery in your mind that, with any luck, will pop up in your consciousness one day, and manifest itself in your work.

I find this ‘behind-the-scenes’ self-imposed homework to be the backbone of any concept work I do in the studio. I make myself browse my Pinterest feed for at least 15 minutes a day (no hard task to be fair) to keep the new ways people are working with imagery and colour, fresh in my mind.

As a creative director I am constantly needing to reference styling, photography, type, layout styles, colour schemes etc in ways that best reflect the client we are working for. Every project is a synthesis of references generated from a diversity of sources. In fact, the more diverse the better.

However, all the most beautiful imagery in the world will not be of any use if you have nothing to pin it to. This is where brand strategy comes in. At Polleni, we put an immense amount of importance on developing brand strategy that will go onto inform the moodboard and visual identity of the brand. The better the strategy, the more logical the next steps will be. Which means that getting the richest amount of imagery in front of you, can only then lead to a richer brand.

For example, when creating the brand strategy and brand identity for the Bristol-based workspaces and event space, Pollen Place, we gathered visual cues, cultural references and feelings from lots of different spaces. After conducting our research, we found that the brand was a “creative caregiver” and felt that a soft, dusty colour palette rooted in comfort but with an appreciation of style and design was key.

We looked at Italian terrazzo -  liking the concept of the whole being more than the sum of its individual parts  -  which we felt worked well for a coworking space. We liked how the cement could represent the physical space, while the parts within it (all unique) could represent the coworkers. We thought of its use as a potential construction material in the space, and liked the overall retro feel about it too.

We explored the work of Charles and Ray Eames as well as mid-century modern furniture. We looked at the colour palettes of Wes Anderson films and the branding work of London-based graphic design studio, Studio McGill (they experiment with gold and metallics in their work which we liked for the warmth). We also looked at Portuguese tiles as a way of writing signage on walls of the coworking spaces in a different way. One of the co-founders is half Portuguese, so this was a nice reference too. We also studied fonts from a range of sources  -  from the RCA graduate show of 2012 to the script logotype of an old Italian sports car.

We looked at the heavily geometric work of Russian avant-garde, Suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich alongside art installations made from thousands of balloons. We looked at Australian ceramics; still-life stylings of envelopes; wooden Ercol chairs; the work of French muralist Camille Walala, British furniture company Established & Sons and Hungarian illustrator Anna Kövecses. Find our board for the Pollen Place brand here.

Slowly but surely we pulled together a picture  -  a mood  - that was the first heartbeat of the visual identity of the brand. As we refined the images, culling anything that didn’t have the right feel  -  it’s important to not think too much about it at this stage, just go with gut instinct  -  an even clearer image started to emerge.

We narrowed it down further until core colours started to come through, which we pulled into an Illustrator file to play with some more. We amalgamated the fonts we had found, to try to distill what it was that we liked about them; what they had in common and which ones spoke more to the Pollen Place brand archetype and character. Were these serif? Or san serif? Or a combination of both?

It is at this point - when you are distilling colours and fonts  -  that you have to be more discerning about what you are after. I try to visualise myself ‘above’ all the images  -  squinting my mind’s eye to create a face for the brand where all these choices will create features, and an expression.

It is at this point that we would make sure the finished moodboard ticks off all the appropriate points in our brand strategy for the company. Does it have the right attributes, values and personality that we have uncovered in the brand? Does it convey the right feeling about the brand archetype?

Because the secret to an effective moodboard is not that it looks pretty. This is a bonus. But that it is able to visually convey a feeling about the emerging brand. A moodboard is the first time imagery will be used to start to form the visual identity of a brand, so it is important to get the tone right. Not pretty or cool. Just on-brand.

So my advice would be this. In order to create a good moodboard, don’t be afraid of throwing the net out wide. Be adventurous with your sources and inspirations. Be curious. Be interested. But always know what you are looking for from the start. Because when you start to haul in your catch, you never know what wonderful things might be brought up to the surface.

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