Last edited 20 Apr 2021

Mood board

A mood board is a 'collage' of design ideas, products, colours or other inspirations that can be prepared during the design stage to create an impression or 'mood' representing current design thinking.

This can be a fast and effective way of giving a sense of what a completed project might be like before the design has been fully developed, even during very early stages when little actual design work has been carried out. It allows people to imagine the completed project.

Mood boards are commonly used in interior design to create an impression of an idea or a range of ideas. This can be an effective way of conveying those ideas to clients, who may find mood boards easier to digest than drawings or specifications. They are also used in broader 'architectural' and other forms of design such as website design, landscape design and so on.

They can be created by clients as a way of developing their brief for designers, or as part of the design process for the benefit of the designers themselves, helping crystallise their thinking, or they can be prepared specifically for presentations to clients.

In the very early stages a mood board might simply be a series or photos cut out of magazines, or collected from the internet that reflect design thinking. They might also include text or inspirational images that in some way convey the client's ambitions for the design. This can be a useful communication tool for designers, verifying that the client's ideas have been properly understood and that they are happy with the direction that is being taken.

Later a mood might be used to show actual samples or images of products and other solutions that have been selected. They can become almost a 3-dimensional specification, including samples of flooring, doors, curtains, tiles, colour swatches, door handles and so on. This can help verify that items work together as a coherent design and can be used to obtain final approval from a client about the selections.

As mood boards are essentially images or objects stuck to a board, they are relatively easy to change, removing an item if it is not working within the context of the overall composition and replacing it, subtly changing the overall mood. This can be helpful in the selection additional items, making it easier to assess whether they fit in with the overall mood.

However, there can be a danger with the creation of mood boards in that they focus on pre-existing solutions, rather than assessing required functions and then considering which solutions might best provide those functions, that is, they focus on 'what we want to buy' rather than 'what we want to do'. They can also focus too much attention on stylistic considerations rather than more fundamental aspects of design. In addition, mood boards can fix ideas in the minds of the designers or clients prematurely, shutting down other possible design routes and limiting innovation.

The objective can become the creation of a nice mood board rather than the creation of a good design.

To a certain extent, mood boards are being replaced by computer generated images, which can now be created very quickly and can show selected items, colours and textures in-situ.

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