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The Art of Visual Communication: 12 Tips for Creating Powerful Mood Boards

The Art of Visual Communication: 12 Tips for Creating Powerful Mood Boards

Design projects rely heavily on visual tools that illustrate the project's features and overall atmosphere, and whether you are an architect, interior designer, furniture designer, or engineer, the term 'mood board' has definitely come up at some point during the early stages of the design process. Generally speaking, images have immense powers of influencing and inspiring their viewers, so putting together a powerful mood board can be a game changer for the architect, the visual artist, and the clients, and can amplify the project's story telling process. So what is a mood board and how can you create one?

Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0+ 10

By definition, a mood board is an assemblage of colors, textures, prints, materials, or other design elements that make up a project's identity. These elements are often gathered during the design process and ideation stage, and serve as inspiration for what the project will look like. However, architects have found that mood boards tend to be very helpful during the visualization and rendering phase as well, since they can give the 3D artist a glimpse of how users will feel inside the project, and so, facilitating the rendering process. Although mood boards are commonly used in interior design practices, but they have become powerful visual communication tools in architecture, fashion design, product design, and industrial design as well.

Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0
Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0

How to Create a Mood Board?

  • First rule of creating a mood board: there are no rules. Mood boards are put together to communicate design concepts easily with people who were not involved in the design process. There is no right or wrong way of putting together one either, because it all comes down to the architect and what you are trying to convey, so make sure to be as explorative as possible. 

  •  There are many types of mood boards: material swatches, color palettes, finishes, experience and mood, overall appearance, etc. and each one is designed differently. So make sure you define what you are presenting to avoid any confusion.

  • Understand your project: Ask yourself questions like 'how do I want the user to feel inside the space? Who is occupying my space and what will they do inside it? If my project was a color, what would it be? What should my project remind people of'? Although these questions are often defined early on, it is very important to understand your project and what it will offer its users so you can put together a board that represents your project accurately.

Dobx Luxury Interiors. Image Courtesy of Mai Abdelhafez
Dobx Luxury Interiors. Image Courtesy of Mai Abdelhafez

  • List Keywords that represent the user's emotion while being in the project, such as extravagant, confined, festive, liberated, etc., and find images and materials that represent those keywords. For instance, if one of the project's keywords is 'liberated', do not limit yourself to images that represent this term literally. Include free-flowing materials, transparency, and/or perforated textures and prints to characterize the definition of this term. You can even add photographs of events or locations that make people feel liberated. Make sure to note that having these materials on the board does not indicate that they will be present in the actual project, they just represent that project's mood. If you felt that the images are not explicit enough, support them by writing down the keywords on the board.

  • Think outside the digital box. While there are millions of sources online, inspiration comes from anything and anywhere, so don’t limit yourself to spending hours collecting images online. Integrate examples from magazines, books, garments, films, music videos, food, or your own photography and hand-drawn sketches, and create a dynamic collage. 

  • Consistency is key (unless the project dictates otherwise). Having inconsistent images can give out the notion that you are not yet confident with your project's final design, which can be problematic for clients or professors. Make sure you have a clear universal theme.

Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0
Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0

  • Many architects and designers prefer to go for a grid-like template for their mood boards, however, grids are not the only way to go. Unless the client, 3D visual artist, or professor is asking for a specific template, feel free to organize your inspirational images in a way that compliments your project and translates its identity.

  • Trigger your audience's emotional response by letting the mood board be a part of the project. For instance, if the project is nestled in a dark forest surrounded by large trees, make sure to translate that experience onto the mood board by assembling the inspirational images on a dark-colored board, and covering bits of the drawings with leaves (or sketches of leaves) to translate the feeling of being overwhelmed with the surrounding nature. If the project's theme is transparency, assemble the pictures and diagrams on transparent sheets instead of an actual board so the viewers can understand how open and light the project will be. If the structure is very rigid and geometric, frame the drawings with thick-stroked lines to portray the feeling of bulkiness. 

Courtesy of Mai Abdelhafez
Courtesy of Mai Abdelhafez

  • Don't rush the process. Take your time in curating your mood board and make sure you have included the most influential visuals to your project.

  • If you are presenting the mood board in person instead of online, support your presentation with 3D elements such as textured materials, plants, and accessories that people can touch and experiment with to illustrate the project's mood. If you want to take it a step further, integrate music in your presentation. Music is one of the most emotionally-triggering media, so put together a powerful playlist that can captivate your audience. 

  • Test your mood board with your non-design friends. Designers have the ability to image a space with minimal visual support so presenting a mood board to someone who is not a designer helps establish whether it is descriptive enough and conveys the project's environment. 

  • Have fun. 

Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0
Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Rendering, proudly presented by Enscape, the most intuitive real-time rendering and virtual reality plugin for Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, Archicad, and Vectorworks. Enscape plugs directly into your modeling software, giving you an integrated visualization and design workflow.’ Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

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Cite: Dima Stouhi. "The Art of Visual Communication: 12 Tips for Creating Powerful Mood Boards" 01 May 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/960594/the-art-of-visual-communication-12-tips-for-creating-powerful-mood-boards> ISSN 0719-8884
Created and portrayed by Materia 2.0, architectural materials library based in Como - Italy. Image © Materia 2.0

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