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Mood Boards (Neither Bored Nor Moody)

By Tyler Sticka

Published on February 25th, 2016


Our team had a set of defining characteristics and was almost ready to start redesigning But before we dived into element collages (more on that in a future post), we wanted to draw from a shared well of design inspiration. So we decided to make a mood board.

A mood board is a collage of reference imagery from the outside world with some relevance to the project in question. It can include examples of typography, colors, illustrations, photography or other stylistic elements. Traditionally, you’d assemble one from magazine clippings or whatever else you didn’t mind cutting up and gluing to foam core.

Photo of traditional mood board exercise in progress circa 2009

We decided against the cut-and-paste method for a couple of reasons:

  • Most of the team’s favorite sources of inspiration are easier to assemble digitally than in physical form. One could argue that the value of a mood board exercise is in exploring sources outside one’s typical frame of reference, but for this project it felt like a poor fit.
  • By this point, our team was engaged in parallel projects that made scheduling a day-long, in-person exercise difficult to coordinate.

Digital mood boards are nothing new, and there are plenty of tools to choose from (InVision’s being particularly impressive). We decided to use Pinterest, simply because most of our team was already using it.

Update (October 25, 2019): The Pinterest account we used was suspended without warning, explanation or appeal. In light of this, we recommend using a self-hosted solution, InVision Boards or some other service.

Over the next few days, we assembled 79 pins into the mood board:

Screenshot of our Pinterest mood board

Although our team members contributed independently, the overall tone of the board is fairly cohesive (possibly owing to our earlier characteristics exercise). This gave us the inspirational mind-meld we needed for the next design phase.


Andy Orsow said:

I am so excited to be following along with your process / progress on the redesign. Also greatly appreciate the InVision nod 🙂 — let me know if you all ever want some InVision training time! I just moved back to PDX, happy to come visit.