If you’ve ever tried to walk a client through a creative concept, you’ve probably realized that it’s easier said than done.
Clients don’t always think like designers do. Because of this, concept pitches can often be misinterpreted if they’re not effectively delivered. These misinterpretations can lead clients to lose faith in your creative abilities, or lead them to believe there’s a misalignment in terms of the project’s vision — two things that can significantly impact your client’s trust.
While the repercussions of miscommunicating a concept can be severe, they are easily avoided if you use the right tools to round out your pitch. That’s where mood boards come in.
If you’ve never created a mood board before, I’m going to walk you through the basics of mood boarding and why you should start using them in every web design project you take on.
You might also like: 6 Tools to Create Beautifully Designed Mood Boards.
What is a mood board?
In its simplest form, a mood board is a collection of elements — think photography, UI components, color palettes, etc. — that are all related to a central design theme. As the designer, you’ll collect these individual components and compile them together into a single document (your mood board) in an attempt to convey the overall atmosphere, tone, and positioning of a creative concept as it relates to your client’s brand.
While mood boarding is most commonly seen in the worlds of interior design and advertising, it is also a valuable process for web designers. These tools aren’t intended to replace your standard prototypes or web page templates, but they are the perfect medium for exploring and testing out ideas before investing too much time and effort into actual design work.
You can present a mood board in many different ways — from physical collages to digital pins to printed media. If you’re pitching a web design project, I recommend using a digital mood board since it more directly reflects the medium you’ll be working with.
When creating a mood board, you should try to include a diversity of samples that reflect the various elements needed to guide your design work. Here are a few components I’d recommend including in your mood boards:
- Color palette(s)
- One to three fonts
- Navigation samples
- UI component samples
One of the best things about a mood board, however, is that you aren’t limited to elements from web design alone. A mood board is an opportunity to showcase your creative vision for the project, so feel free to include anything that inspired your work! Don’t shy away from including snippets from other creative disciplines and industries — you’d be surprised by the impact that fashion, print media, and architecture can have on your digital design concepts.
The most important thing to remember is that the assets you collect for your mood board don’t have to be entirely replicated within your final design. You should rely on them to inspire your work, pulling individual attributes from each to result in a web design that is original and exciting.
Using mood boards as a client communication tool
Now that you know what goes into creating a mood board, you should also learn how to use them to communicate your creative vision with clients.
Given the exploratory nature of mood boards, I recommend presenting your client with two to three variations of your creative vision, each exploring a unique theme for the design. Not only will you be able to showcase your creative abilities as a designer, but you should also be able to quickly identify your client’s preference based on their initial reaction.
You should rely on your mood boards as points of reference to help illustrate the directions you’ve envisioned for the overall style of the website. But here’s the catch: I’m not saying you should just lay your mood boards in front of your clients and let them pick their favorite. Instead, you should provide them with some explanation as to why you selected certain elements and how they relate to their brand. This combination of verbal and visual communication will help ensure you and your client are on the same page in regards to your creative vision.
By using your mood boards as visual cues, you’ll make it easier for them to share meaningful input about your ideas for their website. This open dialogue will help you identify issues with your creative direction early on, helping you streamline your workflow so you don’t waste your time or your client’s money with conceptual changes during the design or development phases.
Encourage your client to review your ideas and kill the ones that don’t align with their positioning and goals. This review and feedback process is where the value of mood boards really come to life. It will allow you to pinpoint a direction that everyone is on board with, before going too far into the creative process.
Take note of their feedback during this stage as it will influence how your team progresses in the design phase. For example, you may discover your client loves the overall tone of one mood board but is really keen on some specific elements from another. This would let you know that you needed to polish up the creative concept by amalgamating these elements into a single, definitive board.
Just be sure to remind clients that the ideas presented within your mood boards do not reflect final design work and are not set in stone. Let them know that they are simply tools used to inspire and focus your team’s progress during the design process, and can be altered as needed before work begins.
Get in the mood for mood boards
Effectively communicating a design concept to a client can be one of the most challenging aspects of a web design project. Mood boarding is a process that can help you overcome this challenge by giving your clients the visual cues they need to fully understand your creative vision. Try integrating it into your project workflow — your projects will run much more smoothly, and your clients will be more satisfied with the end results.