I confess: if someone were to tell me I should put together a mood board for my business a couple of years ago, I would have rolled my eyes and ever-so-politely ignored them. Pfffft. I already KNEW what I liked; I had a strong sense of design, I had some colours and fonts sorted for my brand and I figured I was good to go. Well of course, how totally arrogant of me.
A mood board does a whole bunch more than help you choose your colours and fonts – it sets the complete tone of your brand, and will guide you for every piece of content you put out in the world. Think carefully about your current collection of images for social media and web – does everything all look like it comes from one place? Does it all carry your brand ‘voice’? Just using whatever takes your fancy on the day and then stamping your logo over the top of everything certainly doesn’t make it all hang together, and even when you use the same fonts and colours throughout, you can still have an awful lot of variation.
If you’re in a creative business, if you’re running things on your own, YOU are a brand, and you need to project something cohesive.
To help you figure out just what that ‘thing’ is, mood boards are ace.
Mood boards help you create a visual language.
Your visual language includes colours, fonts and image style, as well as projecting the overall vibe of your brand.
And they’re not just for when you’re starting out – they continue to be useful throughout the life of your brand! They’re your starting point for when you’re pulling together your branding elements for sure, but they also double as inspiration and focus every time you go to put out something new for your brand – a new social media graphic, a new blogpost, designing you new business card or packaging – your brand mood board keeps you focused and gives you plenty of clues on how to do that.
Putting a great mood board together is a scavenger hunt, and it’s just about the best fun scavenger hunt there is I reckon! Because it’s all about you, and you can spend lots of extended time on it. You don’t need to put it all together in one hit; there’s always more you can add in. Take your time, do it as you go about your day to day business; add in bits and pieces as they appear – it’s a work in progress.
So where do you start?
1. What’s the purpose of your board?
What’s your mood board for, specifically? Is this board about your business brand and what you want to project? Is it to help you identify your ideal customer/audience and what their expectations are? Is it to share with your designer, so they can interpret it to put your website together? Or to share with others on a collaborative project so they get a sense on where YOUR ideas are headed (which can save a whole lot of angst further down the track when you present a finished ‘thing’ and they say they don’t like it…)?
The more specific you are about your purpose, the easier it will be to choose elements that relate to that.
2. Get some keywords.
Keywords will help you drive the direction of your mood board and keep you focused (and not disappearing down the pinterest rabbit hole). These should be chosen VERY carefully, as each impacts on the other (context is everything). For instance, “sexy” can mean very different things to different people; combining it with “whimsical” or “electric” will point it in different directions, and adding in “cool” or “vibrant” will shift and define its meaning even further.
3. Where can you find the best source material?
If you’re making a mood board for your brand, sure it’s useful to look to your competitors to see what they’re doing, and see what your target audience is responding to. But take what you find as a springboard – you don’t want to copy, because that just means you’ll end up looking like everyone else. Use your personality, especially if you’re a solopreneur – you are what sets you apart from others in your field.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Don’t limit yourself to Pinterest (and I KNOW there’s oodles of fabulousness on there so it’s definitely one important avenue to investigate). But inspiration can come from many other places too – use images from magazines and books, and old photos (just scan ’em in if you’re making a digital mood board; print out your scan if you’re working with scissors and paper).
And PLEASE don’t forget to look around you in the real world. Pick up things that interest you, write down ideas that capture your imagination, keep your fingers ready for gorgeous textures, and always take your phone camera with you.
4. What do you need to include?
Well, inspirational imagery of course. You don’t have to stick to your niche for imagery either. If a sad clown pic expresses what you want even if you’re in the tech industry, go for it. If a cute puppy does it for you even though you’re in the wellness industry, stick it in. Don’t limit yourself, especially when you’re in collecting mode – you can always cull it later.
Collate, then curate.
There’s lots of other things you can include as well that are evocative of the mood you’re after. Examples of fonts you like would be great for your branding mood board; and especially if you include your keywords in some of the fonts you’ve chosen.
Textures are fabulous too – a crinkly leaf, a gorgeous bit of velvet or brocade, a piece of bark from a tree, a scrap of leather, a pretty carved button, a fragment of patterned ceramic, a shell from the beach…
Colour is one of the most important factors in tying a mood board together – you might have to work at getting a cohesive colour scheme, so keep searching and adding in more things that speak to the style you’re after, and culling out things that don’t fit – you’ll get there eventually!
And when you’ve got a harmoniously colourful board happening, then you can start pulling out particular hues – if it’s for your branding, I would recommend including your palette somewhere in your mood board, and don’t forget their hex codes. Also, if particular colour combinations are going to be a key element of your brand, emphasise them.
Inspired? Get onto it! If you’re still a teensy bit unsure about what/how, check out what google brings up.
But wait, I’ve got more!! Next week, I’ll write about the different tools you can use to create your mood board (believe me, a real-life one that you can touch has a different feel to it than a digital one) – including a bunch of tech and styling tips to make yours sing.
Got any questions about mood boards? Pop ’em below.
Do you have one for your brand? Are you happy with it? Share it on my FB page – I’d love to see! If you’re not happy, what specific aspect are you struggling with?
Carrying on from Part 1 here, in which we looked at things to watch out for when choosing a font (like why you would pay for one when there’s so many for free), here we’re digging into the specifics of font shapes, and how/why they convey the feeling they do.
Let’s have a look at a couple of fonts in detail.
You know that serif fonts are the ones with little ‘feet’, and as a group, they generally convey ideas such as “classic” and “conservative”. But what if you have a business personality that is classic, AND dynamic? You want something with a bit more pizazz.
Alegreya is certainly classic. But there’s something a bit more interesting about it, right? Let’s look closer.
All the corners are crisply finished; this gives us ideas of precision and attention to detail. Anything with diagonals is perceived as ‘active’, and nearly all the serifs are not only finished diagonally, but are parallel. Strong uprights such in the “L” and “E” are evenly tapered, slightly thicker at the top, and the tail on the “Q” is generous. Altogether, the strong alignment, the crisp corners and smooth tapers convey ideas of well-organised, strong, and systematic, while the kicks on the serifs and the inclusion of diagonals conveys sharp innovation.
Knorke is also a serif font, and in many ways classic. HOWEVER, it’s a totally different kettle of fish to Alegreya. Knorke is trickier, more lively, and even a teensy bit subversive. Look closely, and you’ll see uneven serifs, wobbly tapers, unaligned strokes, and outlines aren’t smooth. It also has no crisp corners; it looks a bit stocky and a touch overweight, like Mundungus Fletcher. All adding to that feeling of being a little bit less predictable.
Add a bit of fun
Of course, if you want to be totally subversive, go all-out whacky with your font. If you just want to add a bit of humour, you might want to try something like these –
Note that each of these fun fonts includes tightly wound curls – it’s a whimsical and lavish flourish that’s both generous and friendly. The roundness of Boingo, its curves in both serifs and uprights and the fact that it ignores the baseline (the imaginary horizontal line that all the letters sit on), all add to its loud, bouncy, upbeat nature. Great for if you’re selling kids toys.
Eskargot on the other hand, is a bit quieter. It sits well on its baseline, and its uprights are straighter (although not quite…). It’s still very definitely funky and upbeat, with uneven strokes, slightly off angles, and crooked lines making it look fresh and lively. You might want to try something similar if you’re selling unconventional jewellery, or even cute plants.
So, next time you’re agonising over “WHICH FONT?”, stop; zoom in, and take a much closer look. Look for angles/straightness, look for look for tapers/parallels, look for smoothness/unevenness – and think hard about how all that makes you feel.
One last word for today. Don’t use the fonts that came on your computer for any of your graphics (you know the ones I mean – Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, and the like) – they’re about as interesting as a stale biscuit. And don’t EVER use Comic Sans. For anything. Because it’s ugly.
Stay tuned! After a question from Jess on my Facebook page recently, next week we’ll be talking about how to pair fonts – for when you need more than one to say what you have to say. There are definitely techniques to this!
If there’s something YOU’D like to see here, or any questions you’re curious about, drop a comment and ask me here, I’d love to help out.
See you next time, Julie x
There’s decoration and there’s decoration, and seriously, it’s not just a matter of taste. What do I mean? I mean the thoughtless sticking on of stuff, just because “it’s-popular-therefore-it-must-be-good” or even “it needed something, so I stuck a flower/bow/octopus on it”.
However, I will forgive Nick Cave (the performance artist with the wild costumes [above], not the singer/songwriter, whom I also admire deeply). His work lives because of its excess – overload on overload. It’s a wild conglomeration and dazzling to the eye, but what makes it work is all the elements that correspond. See how much yellow and red he uses throughout, and check those fabulous protuberances – they’re recognisable as a bunch of tin toy spinning tops.
And lots of flowers. And all so fabulously tactile.
Design has to be meaningful and appropriate to be good; therefore a decoration needs to be considered properly and be a necessary part of the thing that it’s decorating. That means if you took the decoration away, the thing would seem poorer for it, or less powerful in some way. I’d reckon that’s certainly true of Nick’s work. What would it be without excess?
However, not everyone is good at excess.
Fair enough; that kind of thing takes guts and vision to pull off.
But many folk aren’t good at restraint either. I see so many instances where the decoration is unhelpful at best, and an appalling abomination at worst. Having a trawl through Etsy brings up some rippers.
monogrammed straw slippers – goodsportdesigns.etsy.com
I cannot bring myself to publicly share some of the totally dreadful things I’ve found. So I’ve chosen these because they’re more or less well-executed (despite the fact that the slippers above are actually imported from China, and the shopowner is simply handy with a hot glue gun). The design problem here is that there is little in terms of visual elements that relates the fabric and/or button to the slipper. Perhaps the scale of the gingham is kind of close-ish to the scale of the weave, but that’s drawing a pretty weak link, and that’s about it. There is no correspondence of shapes, colour, texture, or anything much else that I can see.
Take away the bow, and you’ve got a beautiful texture, with very lovely natural variations in the colour of the straw. I think that’s interesting enough on its own.
octopus light switch cover – sookesculptures.etsy.com
How do you fancy fumbling for the light switch in the night and encountering an octopus? This switch cover appears to be cast all from the same material, so it’s the same colour… but how is this in any way enhancing the shape (or even usefulness) of the switch plate? I’m absolutely positive there are an infinite number of other things I could put on my walls to add interest to my room.
sweetheart apron – CarlaGAccessories.etsy.com
A girly chooky apron. OK, I’ll pay the spots, even if they’re not my cup of tea. But ricrac AND broderie anglaise ruffles AND a bow?
Please, please, please, think carefully about adding in stuff just because it’s there. For design to work well, it needs to correspond well with the object it is gracing. It also needs to add something, more than just itself. It needs to add a deeper element of beauty, of interest and/or of meaning.
In the words of the legendary architect Mies Van der Rohe, “Less is more”.
Unless you’re Nick Cave.
What do you think? Do you like the examples I’ve given, or do you disagree with me entirely? I would LOVE you to tell me your thoughts!