Categories / Inspiration

15 Creative Ways to Present Your Mood Boards

Marc Schenker April 16, 2024 · 15 min read

Mood boards are a designer’s secret weapon that can empower them to land new projects or simply communicate a highly conceptualized idea in a palpable and concrete way. Think of a mood board as a layout of pictures, materials, text, clippings, and anything in between for the sole purpose of evoking a specific concept, idea, or style. A reference or starting point for a project, a mood board is extremely helpful when you’re having a hard time articulating a particular design idea or course of action. Since your design concepts can be nebulous and therefore get stuck in your head, verbally communicating them to clients isn’t always going to be successful. That’s why a mood board can be your saving grace and the difference between creatively expressing your concept and just letting it get lost in the clutter of your mind. Winning a design pitch, snagging a contract, or getting a lead to give you a follow-up meeting often comes down to how effectively you can get your prospect’s attention. The more you make your mood board stand out from the rest of the presentations (which your prospect has potentially seen many times over), the more you have a better chance of landing the project. Here are 15 creative ways to show potential clients your mood boards.

1. Going Old-School

Depending on what concept you’re trying to convey, sometimes there just aren’t any great contemporary sources from which to draw for your mood board. In this case, you’ve got to go straight to the source, such as when your mood board involves vintage or retro elements. Case in point: Over on Tumblr, the “happyhalloweenwishes†feed posted a mood board of vintage, Halloween-related imagery-but it’s naturally challenging to create a mood board of a retro nature out of new-looking pictures. So, instead, the feed chose to include only old illustrations, advertisements and cartoons related to Halloween. Its ensuing grainy and dated vibe perfectly fit the mood board’s theme of vintage and retro, much better than any contemporary pictures of Halloween ever could. When your idea is from days gone by, present your mood board by using source material that’s years and even decades old. Your client will appreciate this extra authenticity. Here’s an example of a CM mood-board template that incorporates an old-school feel:

2. Real-World Objects

Mood boards are powerful, creative tools, but the key is not to think that they’re only good for showcasing the abstract. Naturally, when you want to show your prospect the emotions you want to convey in an ad campaign, a mood board is ideal. However, a mood board is also ideal if you need to show your prospect something palpable and ordinary. For instance, if you were just inspired by your recent vacation to the coast, and you spent a lot of time on the beach, use physical objects like sand, shells and suntan lotion. Paste those items to your mood board and present them to your prospect in their raw, natural form. Your prospect will appreciate your attempt to bridge the abstract with the real world because he’ll certainly get an unexpected and delightful emotional response out of seeing, touching and interacting with physical elements on the mood board. Check out this CM mood-board template that uses real-world items:

3. Going Larger Than Life

Many of us expect that mood boards will be, at most, the size of your standard foam board-that is to say, not gigantic, by any means. If you really want to stun your audience and give them something they’re not expecting, then change the entire backdrop of your mood board. Suffice it to say, your audience will forever remember your proposal if you present your mood board to them as an entire wall. Talk about larger than life! Not only will you provide the thorough range of sensations that a physical mood board offers, but you’ll also impress your audience with the sheer scale and unexpected size of your presentation. This approach has been done before. Check out this artist’s small studio space/home, where an entire wall is set aside as an inspiration board for her work. Not only is it inspiring, but she can also bring home prospects and clients to show off her projects.

4. Reference Known Works of Entertainment

Here’s a twist to your mood board that not everyone’s done yet: Include references to well-known books, movies or TV shows in your collage. Better yet, base your whole mood board on the design theme of the work of entertainment that you’re referencing. Case in point: The old novel A Scanner Darkly and the movie of the same name, starring Keanu Reeves. Visual artist Ashley Williams created a mood board incorporating the psychedelic and surreal imagery and themes of this work, calling it, obviously enough, “Mood Board Scanner Darkly.†Since drug culture is a huge theme in this work, it makes sense that her mood board is almost like looking at the world through the eyes of a drug user. It also embraces the animation used in the movie, interpolated rotoscope, to capture the essence of this work.

5. Pick Just One Theme and Stick With It

Too much clutter in a mood board or any visual work can create friction that prevents your audience from seeing your presentation for what it is. That’s why it’s smart not to over-complicate things and just focus on one, solid theme for your mood board. Check out this magenta-themed mood board called, appropriately, “Magenta Madness,†from Bloglovin’s board. What the board’s about is apparent from the instant you gaze upon it, making it and one-theme-only mood boards like it so effective at conveying the concept. Here, you won’t get confused by other elements or conflicting ideas; you only see what the designer wants you to focus on, which is this shade of color. The next time you have a presentation to make for a client, strive to make your mood board communicate only one concept in a very noticeable way. Here’s a CM mood-board template that runs with just one theme:

6. Minimalistic Mood Boards

Continuing on the advice of simplicity, a minimalistic mood board is just the strategy you need when you want a client to sign off or a prospect to express further interest. With mood boards, the rule you really should be following is less is more. Since mood boards are collages by nature, it can get all too tempting to overload it with excess that you don’t need, and that subtracts from the concept you want to present. From Megkenziecourtney’s blogpost, this ultra-minimalistic board isn’t just easy on the eyes, but it’s also a study in how effective minimalism is in further a mood-board idea. It’s clear-cut that the concept here is a vacation; each frame within the board has only one vacation-related element and oh-so-cool color tones (blues and pinks). All told, this board conveys the relaxing vibe of a beach-themed vacation, thanks to its minimalistic approach. Minimalism rules the day on this CM mood-board template:

7. Choose a LARGE Focal Point

Your mood board needs a focal point. This won’t just jump out at your audience, but it’ll also infuse your presentation with a key point of discussion that immediately draws the eye and creates interest. A larger focal point will definitely be a unique approach to your mood board since it’s not frequently included. Present your board in a way that grabs your audience’s attention from the get to. For a great example of a big focal point, we go to Mariana Alvarez Sierra’s mood boards collection that features a large image of a smoking woman, lying on her back in a bikini, on a beach towel, on one side of one of her mood boards. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the image because it’s something it can instantly make sense of, compared to the other side of the mood board, which is more of an unclear pastiche from different sources. Here’s a CM template with a huge focal point:

8. Consciously Choose a Specific Style

For a mood-board presentation that’s tight and whose elements all seamlessly work together, choose a specific design style to tie the entire thing together. This approach can really impress prospects and clients because there’s a noticeable, professional organization to such a presentation. Look no farther than Shaikha Alshamsi’s Art Deco Mood Board. Right on first glance, you notice the unifying look of all the elements that epitomize the saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.†The various art-deco posters and illustrations communicate a classic and timeless concept that pays tribute to the design styles popular in the 20s and 30s. It’s this kind of synergy that can really take your mood board from just any board your prospects and clients see to a polished and sophisticated board that demands their attention. This CM template perfectly epitomizes what going with one style is all about:

9. Explanations Go a Long Way

Mood boards are dominated by the visual medium, which gives you a magnificent opportunity to throw a curveball and present something completely unexpected. Instead of only relying on visuals, include some written explanations amid all of the eye candy. It won’t just break up the monotony of the images, but also provide practical help in the way of clarifications. Let’s look at Camilo Vazquez Wlasiuk’s “Moodboard inspirational. Fashion brand Ay Not Dead.†His mood board helpfully gives all sorts of information as you go through it, everything from the various color palettes used to the different fonts employed in the board. Further, different parts of his mood board are set apart from each other by named categories like “music,†“films†and “models.†On this CM template: note the use of text to break up the imagery:

10. Use More Geometric Shapes

Using something as basic as recognizable shapes in your mood boards can give them more character, besides also creating an extra, aesthetic effect that’s appealing to the eye. Sometimes, it’s nice to give the audience something familiar on which to concentrate-and shapes accomplish this masterfully. When you use shapes, you’re incorporating more order and structure into your boards, too, moving away from the more freeform approach that’s usually expected of the classic collage mood board, with its overlapping elements and whatnot. This makes your presentation stand out and gives it a more polished look. Check out Putri Saromah’s “Fashion Mood Board and Designing.†Note the strong use of rectangles that’s replete all throughout the board. You can see them horizontally, vertically and even within each other. As a result, this board enjoys an aesthetic sense of order that helps guide the audience’s eyes. This CM template uses geometric shapes, too:

11. Tactile Elements Are a Win

Spruce up your board by utilizing actual objects that your client, prospect or partner can actually touch. This brings their experience with mood boards up to another level because they’re normally used to simply viewing mood boards, whether they’re digital or in-person. For instance, if you feel that your concept can be better expressed by including real hair-if it’s related to hair-care products-don’t think twice about gluing some onto the board. Mood boards are supposed to be physical since they are collages, which involve cutting, pasting and gluing items and elements on to the physical board. Likewise, if including real buttons on a board about fashion and sweaters helps your idea come alive, use it.

12. Use the News

If you’re presenting an idea to a client that’s perhaps based on current events or otherwise involves some newsworthy concept, you may be best served by incorporating actual news-based elements into your mood board. Consider this mood board created by Scott Coleman to explore the differences between Swiss and contemporary design as far as newspapers were concerned. Essentially, it’s a straightforward collage using newspaper images, clippings and stories to try to copy the layout of a well-known paper. Not only does this mood board have a pleasing, old-school look and feel to it, but it also conveys the concept of information and media right upon first glance. So if you ever have a project coming up that necessitates a news-based theme, try this approach for a killer first impression.

13. Thoroughness Wanted

Depending on what your mood board’s aim is, it pays to have an extremely organized and well-ordered approach. When you’re showing your board to a boss, important client or partner, thoroughness is something that’s going to help you be all the more persuasive. If you’re presenting a mood board that’s about branding, for example, covering all the basics of branding will take your mood board from a mere concept to something your boss, client or partner can see through as an entire project. For instance, Ramotion’s “Selected Logo Design Work†is a branding mood board that covers all the important branding considerations from logo design and font choices to colors and illustrations. When a mood board rises to this level of thoroughness, it almost functions as a full-fledged brand style guide! Check out this very well-thought out CM template:

14. Think Outside the Box

Getting mood boards just right can be perilous in that you have to strike the right balance between cohesion and still not limiting yourself to where your board becomes too rigid. It definitely takes some practice (and time and patience) to assemble a collage that’s on-point, but still takes certain liberties with regard to abstraction. Albert Barroso’s “The science behind exception vodka†is an alcohol-based mood board, but it takes inspiration from other visual representations besides just presenting vodka bottles. To wit, this board utilizes vivid colors and misty, smoke-like graphic design to symbolize the molecular and scientific principles at work behind the scenes in creating a fine vodka.

15. Align Brand Personality With Mood Board Content

This is another mood-board strategy that’s more on the abstract side, but can be highly effective in nailing down the right theme for your board. Pro tip: What appears on your board doesn’t always have to be an actual or literal part of the project. Case in point: Let’s say your board is a concept on branding for a type of soft drink. Elements that you can include can relate to the feelings that people get when drinking sugary drinks, like elation, happiness, etc. Other elements include scenes of physical places where ordinary people may enjoy such drinks, like the beach, at a picnic, or inside of a mall, etc. The more you include elements that are consistent with the brand’s personality, the more you can make your board way more interesting, thus going from a literal interpretation to more abstract, but still keeping consistent with the brand image.

It’s All in the Presentation

Mood boards are a dime a dozen. Many designers use these creative collages to impress clients, land leads, and get a sign-off or approval for various projects. Chances are, therefore, that your audience has been on the receiving end of various mood boards throughout the years. Instead of saturating them with another same old-same old board they’ve seen a dozen times before, treat them to something truly unique and stellar when you use these winning, creative ways to present your mood board in a very memorable way. Mood boards should be a sight to behold, and they shouldn’t be too abstract, nor too limited in the literal sense of the idea you’re trying to present. They can use text, just as they can utilize physical objects for a tactile experience. Overall, they need to communicate your idea or concept seamlessly and creatively.

Products Seen In This Post:

Design Style Challenge
Find your design style in 30 days
Free Challenge Calendar

Having a hard time finding your unique design style? This creativity challenge will get you on the right track.

Download it here
About the Author
Marc Schenker

Marc is a copywriter and marketer who runs The Glorious Company, a marketing agency. An expert in business and marketing, he helps businesses and companies of all sizes get the most bang for their ad bucks.

View More Posts
Go to My Shop
Related Articles