When undertaking a project for a client, do you prepare moodboards and if so, do you have a system for presenting/arranging the elements you’ve collected?

No, I’ve never needed them to organize my own thoughts, and the two or three times I’ve made them for clients to think about, they’ve gotten confused by them.

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Tried it once with a client I thought would dig it.

Client: I paid for the time you took to make that?

Me: Uuhm… … … … … … … … … … … …no?


Expanding a little more I what I wrote, the clients I usually work with don’t typically seem to think in terms of moods, emotions, or harmonious colors and textures.

I consider all those things, but my clients are more matter-of-fact and results-oriented. The touchy-feely subject of setting the right tone and emotional flavor for a project leaves them baffled and a bit uncomfortable.

If I were an interior designer, where one of the main goals in a client’s mind was creating the right atmosphere, I could see mood boards being more helpful.

Over the years, I’ve learned to engage clients in whatever way I think will resonate with their particular personalities, concerns, and way of viewing the world. Even though I think setting the right emotional tone to evoke desired target audience responses is critical to almost any project, my clients don’t often think in those terms, so I tend not to base my engagement with them around that approach. I might mention that sort of thing in passing, and if they respond to it, I’ll go down that road, but if I get a puzzled, deer-in-the-headlights look, I move on.

In addition, I’d need to spend time with them explaining the purpose of a mood board. Even then, with the three or four times I’ve tried it, I get puzzle responses, such as, “Do you want me to pick the thing I think is prettiest? How much time did you spend on this?” or “I like this picture. Could I get something just like that little picture, only a lot bigger?” In other words, they miss the point.

I suspect some clients would immediately get it and respond constructively. Still, the middle-aged men, government agencies, and geeky software engineers I typically work with don’t think in those terms.


No one wants to know how the sausage is made.

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It depends on the project for me. I sometimes use them when gathering inspiration, especially for larger branding projects but I’ve never, and wouldn’t ever, present them to the client. They are solely for my own brainstorming purposes.

I’ve never had to do one, but I’ve seen plenty, though I’m not sure they are called mood boards. More like sample boards showing the look and feel and finish of stuff going into a large exhibit. I’ve seen them done at the proposal stage where several studios may be vying for the work, and the designers do get paid to make them. It gives the client an overall perspective of how the designer intends all of the objects will work together. Not sure that’s a mood, but it does have to represent the tone and content of whatever the exhibit is about. ie for an exhibit about slavery the ‘mood’ is all about the matte, earthy colors and textures they always seem to have, where an exhibit of calliope horses is going to be far more colorful and shiny.
But that isn’t what we are talking about here, is it… (wandering off to the next non sequitur.)

That’s precisely what I think of when I think of mood boards.

I’ve only made them for internal review and strategy sessions. I wouldn’t put one in front of a client either but, they’re certainly useful for collaborating with other designers!


Yes, they can be very useful for creative directors to help convey to a team of designers and writers the look and personality of a proposed solution to a problem that has multiple pieces that need to work together as a unified whole. I’ve done that myself over the years when working with a team, but until now, I’ve never associated doing that with the trendy and relatively new term “mood board.”

Do I use mood boards? Yes

Do I use mood boards for every project? No.

They can be helpful if I’m trying to get a handle visual vernacular of a segment.

I do not show them to clients.

Since most of the research is internet-based, I’ll just drag the images from my browser onto a PSD where each image is put on its own layer.


My company hired an agency for a website design/development project recently and they showed us three mood boards before presenting us with a design direction doc that showed actual examples of elements and layouts that would be used on the site. The mood boards weren’t beautifully laid out on a grid like so many of the mood boards that you see on social media are. It was more practical than that. Each mood board had a description of the general theme on one side. For a project as large as a website, it makes sense to me to show mood boards. You want to make sure that the client agrees with the visual direction before you start getting into the meat of the work. And it’s also an opportunity to give them options without having to put in a ton of work upfront. But I suppose it depends what type of work you’re doing and I do see how they could be confusing to someone who isn’t familiar with them already.

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Interesting the comments about negative client reactions to them.

This is the aspect I like about them: low commitment and easy to pull together to put ideas in front of the client to take the temperature before investing serious time. It can also help ease the transition when introducing a foreign idea.

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