Okay, so you’re ready to design your brand identity, or do a rebrand or refresh of what you’ve already got. What’s your first step? Designing a logo? Choosing colours? Scrolling font options. While these things can super fun and exciting, you’re missing a vital step.
Today I’m going to walk you through exactly how to curate a kickass moodboard for your own brand so you can design an intentional, unforgettable brand identity super efficiently and make sure it works for you and your brand strategy.
It can be super tempting to just start creating logos and perfecting a colour palette and all that fun stuff, but before you jump into designing, you need to take the time to create a moodboard. Doing this now will save you time, energy, and money down the line when you don’t have to go round and round in circles to decide on the direction of your brand and spending hour after hour scrolling fonts and creating dud logos, after realising you’re putting your brand design together with no idea where it should be going.
Want to avoid those mistakes when designing your brand identity? Start with a moodboard.
A moodboard is a succinct collection of visual assets that represents a brand’s visual identity. It can contain inspirational examples of photos, colours, typography, quotes, patterns, shapes and more that make up a cohesive direction for a brand that can be displayed and understood on one page.
Moodboards can provide inspiration for specific parts of your brand, but also for the entire brand. You should be able to look at each piece individually as its own inspiration for certain elements of your brand, and then the moodboard as a whole for the overall direction. For example, your moodboard will represent the overall vibe of your visual identity, but within the moodboard you will have inspiration for fonts you might look for, your brand photography, or a colour palette you might use.
A moodboard is no use if it only shows one thing over and over again. Instead of filling your moodboard with logo designs for example, think about the other parts of your brand and try to represent as many of them as needed at least once. The more variety the better, as you’ll be able to see the direction of the whole brand and how it could be applied to a range of touchpoints in the future.
A moodboard isn’t a rule book for what you make going forward. For example, just because you include some typographic inspiration that happens to be a piece of branded signage, doesn’t mean that you have to have a sign or that it has to be done exactly like that. All that it means is that you’re inspired by that typography and that it feeds into the overall visual direction. The same goes for anything else you might include. Be wary of plagiarism, and of feeling trapped by the moodboard. It’s just an indication of ideas and a way to define your vibe, not an exact representation of what you will create.
If you’re anything like me, you might be tempted to start a new Pinterest board and fill it with everything and everything that you love, ending up with hundreds of unorganised pins that make you feel good, but aren’t actually useful. Definitely fun, but not so fruitful unfortunately! Less is more when it comes to a moodboard and it will only be as strong as the weakest piece. Moodboards that I’ve created have included between 5–15 images and that’s it. Any more than that and you’ll be confused, overwhelmed, and your direction will lack focus. Keep it simple and you’ll have a strong moodboard with a clear visual direction.
Okay, so to the practical stuff – what can you actually include in your moodboard? Well it might seem counter-intuitive but a moodboard doesn’t just need to show actual brand elements like logos, fonts, etc. In fact, it’s often best to NOT include just those things, because you don’t want to just gather things you’re going to copy. You’re creating an overall vibe that will inspire the direction, not the exact things you want to duplicate.
There are a lot of inspiration tools for building your brand moodboard, like Pinterest, Unsplash, and Designspiration, but you can find inspiration anywhere!
Here are some ideas to get you started (PS. I’ve linked to a Pinterest board for each of these so that you can find some material for your moodboard in the process!):
You don’t need to include each of these, it’s just a list to get you started. Don’t feel like you have to be literal either – you don’t need to have a book or a magazine to include editorial design, or be an artist to include sculptures or paintings. Whatever inspires you and helps to convey the overall vibe of your brand is good to go!
When you’re putting your moodboard together, be thinking about what you’re going to need for your brand identity and how this moodboard can inspire them. Whatever inspiration you include in your moodboard can cover ideas for these things, whether on their own or within other images:
If you have some ideas for these covered in your moodboard, you’ll have a great place to start with when it comes to creating your brand.
In the brand strategy process, you should have uncovered some keywords about your personality, information about what your audience is attracted to, and things about what you do and don't want your identity to feel like. You can use this information to guide your search.
The key words that you uncovered about your brand in the strategy process are perfect things to search for when you’re looking for inspiration. For example, if you've decided that your brand needs to be dazzling, wow-worthy, sparkly and feel really fun and lively, then you can use those keywords to search for dazzling art, lively interiors, or playful sculptures.
When you start creating a moodboard for your brand, it’s important to start with a wide range of inspiration. Take your key words, gather a bunch of inspiring ideas that call to you or feel exciting, and put those into a moodboard tool of your choice.
Tools that I recommend include:
Now that you have a page full of inspiration, it’s time to narrow it down.
Firstly, start by picking out the ideas that stand out to you and really resonate with your brand. Trust your gut and follow the inspiration that excites you the most.
Then go back to your key words and the rest of your brand strategy. Put this information and your inspiration side-by-side to see what’s aligned with your strategy and what’s not. Look at each piece of inspiration and ask yourself:
Note: Don’t delete any inspiration as you’re editing things down. This is an iterative process so move them to the side or hide them in case you realise you need to bring them back to balance out your moodboard or bring back a particular feeling or idea.
You should aim to have around 8–10 images in your moodboard at this point.
You’ve got a draft of your moodboard, but it needs one last run-through to make sure it aligns with your brand strategy and feels good to you! Take a look at the 8–10 image in front of you, individually and as a whole, and ask yourself:
If these questions prompt anything, make any swaps or changes until you’re confident that it’s in line with your brand strategy, there’s a clearly defined direction, and it makes you excited to move forward.
Want to see more moodboard examples? Check out this Instagram post!
Now you can use your moodboard to guide your design decision making. With this clear visual direction, creating your brand elements is much easier, faster, more efficient and intentional. You know exactly where you’re going and what you need to get there, and feel good about the direction of your brand. You know that not only will it look great, but it will work when it comes to saying the right thing about you, attracting the right people, and helping you stand out in the right way. It's powerful stuff!
Now you’re ready to create your own moodboard. The thing to remember is that you’re not looking to find the exact things to replicate, but elements that contribute to an overall vibe and direction.
There’s a science to the process in terms of what to include and how many elements you should have, but it’s also a bit of an art. Use your intuition, your gut, and your creative instinct. You’ll know what feels right and what doesn’t, so follow those feelings.
Happy moodboarding! You’re ready to curate a super effective moodboard that will guide your brand identity and define your vibe, and help you to build a amazing, effective, efficient, powerful brand identity going forward.
June 13, 2023