Some initial thoughts about Mood Boards
I've struggled with using the mood board method when designing logos and brand identities. I believe in the exercise and its potential, but it often felt like I was missing something in the process. So I decided to watch Courtney Eliseo's very timely Skillshare class on creating a compelling mood board.
Mood boards are very subjective given the different ways people interpret the adjectives used to create them. And Courtney's class made me realize that that’s the point; a mood board assures my logo design client, Lisa Galper in this case, and me are on the same page when we reference character traits for the brand identity. It’s why a mood board should be drafted and edited until we both can agree on how it interprets those characteristics captured in our creative brief.
This began to make the mood board method make a bit making sense to me, but I still had my struggles with it. Along the way, I made a few discoveries that helped. I'll share those at the end of this project story.
With a better understanding of the point and purpose of mood boards I started working through Courtney's three stages of the process.
1. Research and Gather Images
Dr Lisa Galper is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, public speaker, and workshop facilitator in Scottsdale, Arizona. She aimed to build on the success of her practice and broaden its scope beyond helping people with unhealthy, emotionally charged eating habits. She wanted to reach more people who feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges regardless of the unhealthy habit it led to.
After a few great initial conversations and several emails giving me a deep understanding for Lisa's work, we co-authored a creative brief. It's stated objective was to design a distinct and visually enduring wordmark that authentically projects Lisa's character and vibe, helping her win the trust of clients, supporters, and partners.
We agreed on three character traits for her brand identity: Peaceful, Warm, and Confident.
I decided to confine my search to just Unsplash's library (see why in the "Some Observations" section below). I created a collection named for each of the three character traits. I conducted searches for each trait one at a time starting with "Peaceful" adding what I found into its collection.
Here's a preview of that collection:
View the entire "Peaceful" Collection on Unsplash here
It was helpful to start with one keyword, but then use associations to fuel and further the search process. For example, a misty forest, pastel colors, a still open space all came to mind when I thought about "Peaceful." I did the same for each of the other character traits.
Here's a preview for the "Warm" Unsplash collection:
View the entire "Warm" Collection on Unsplash here
And Here's a preview for the "Confident" Unsplash collection:
View the entire "Confident" Collection on Unsplash here
2. Layout and Refinement
To filter my findings and begin to create a single mood board, I created another collection in Unsplash and called it Dr Lisa Galper - MOOD. I then visited each of the three character trait collections I made. I scanned each collection in its entirety first before adding the images that felt like the best fit to the new MOOD collection.
Here's a preview of that collection:
View the entire "MOOD" Collection on Unsplash here
3. Prepare for Client Presentation
When I finished assembling the MOOD collection in Unsplash it felt really right, but it also felt like it was way too much to share with my client, Lisa. There were 23 images total. I decided to filter this collection further, taking only the images I felt strongest about to create the mood board for the brand identity.
Honestly, I wasn't sure what to leave out and what to keep. I wasn't sure how many images would be enough to sufficiently capture the mood or how to configure them in a collage.
Then God showed me the start of a perfect configuration in just what was visible of the MOOD collection in Unsplash on my desktop screen. It was pretty perfect for capturing the feel of each of the three character traits. I took a screenshot of that portion of the collection and rebuilt it in Illustrator.
Why Illustrator? It's the tool I feel most at home in when working on brand identities. I knew I wanted to be able to move images around and tweak sizes. A simple artboard in Illustrator and a few vector masks did the trick.
Here's the mood board that was sent to my client Lisa:
The mood board ended up consisting of just eight items instead of the 23 images in the MOOD collection on Unsplash. It truly felt like enough to start the conversation and set the tone for our work.
And it was!
I shared the mood board with Lisa using InVision boards so that we could manage critiques and work through revisions. I refreshed her understanding of the benefit of the mood board method to our logo design work and gave her some pointers for evaluating it. I also asked her a couple of questions inspired by Courtney's class to keep us more objective than subjective as we refined the mood board together.
But, as is rare in design projects, there were no revisions requested. Lisa felt the mood board did well to capture the feeling we were aiming for in the three character traits. We agreed we had what we needed and proceeded to the next step in my logo design process, generating sketches. Yay!
How Did the Logo Turn Out?
Besides initial trust-building conversations and setting direction with the creative brief, creating this mood board was just the beginning of the logo design project with Lisa. To see how the wordmark turned out and judge for yourself whether it fits the world we created for it in the mood board, view the Dr Lisa Galper logo design project story on my portfolio here.
Courtney's class and guidance helped me get a better understanding of the mood board method. Along the way, I made some additional observations and discoveries that helped me refine the process of assembling a mood board. In hopes they're a help to anyone, here they are:
MOOD, NOT MEANING
I’m noticed that it was difficult for me to make the distinction between mood and meaning. As I searched for images, I wanted to think about their meaning for the brand. I realized that I should instead be focused on how the image makes me feel. I should be focused on how each of them will help shape the mood of the collage. That took quite a bit of effort for me.
KEEP IT REAL WORLD
It helped to interpret mood through things I could actually relate to. Like thinking about the character trait “peaceful” and grabbing a black and white photo of the top of a nice old lamppost against a clear afternoon sky. I can see coming across that in the real world, like on King Street in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia or something. It isn't a highly conceptual image I have to imagine being real. This is more relatable to me – and probably my client – than an image of a great big rock with a mossy surface and a perched seagull in the middle of the ocean. When would I see that? Real world images would help me connect with and convey a mood more effectively.
NOT THE WHOLE INTERNET
The image search process is usually really exhausting for me. There are just too many ideas, images, concepts to consider across the span of the Internet. For this project, I had the idea to confine my search to one library, Unsplash. Its content is freely accessible (for now) and has gotten fairly deep. It made for a more manageable search and discovery process and kept me moving forward fueled by the feeling that I was actually making progress.
ABOUT 20 IS ENOUGH
While preparing to filter the selections I made for each character trait, I realize that I had inadvertently gathered nearly the same number of photos in each collection: 20. That’s interesting because I was beginning to feel a little process fatigue which led me to stop collecting. I felt like I wasn’t finding content new or interesting enough to continue adding. Maybe 20 objects per keyword is enough?
Thanks for reading! I'm happy to get any feedback or questions you might have. And again, if you want to find out how this logo design project turned out, you read the Dr Lisa Galper logo design project story on my portfolio here.