Why and How to Create an Inspiration Board

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For every website or branding project we always start with an inspiration board (aka mood board) to kick things off. It’s a way to get our creative juices flowing, and a fun exercise to get our clients excited for the project ahead.

But an inspiration board isn’t just a bunch of pretty images to pour over on the web; it’s actually a very important step that makes the rest of the creative process go by much smoother.

Let’s chat a bit about why and how to create an inspiration board…

Why You Should Start With An Inspiration Board

If only we could read our clients minds. Our job would be so much easier! The saying “a picture is worth 1000 words” has never been more true than when trying to communicate the vision for your brand.   Words can only get you so far, which is why you should start with an inspiration board.

Once we’ve been hired we send our clients a survey to find out more about how they want their brand to be represented, and how they would describe their aesthetic preferences using key words or adjectives. We also ask about colours they love, or despise, to make sure the colour palette is on target. Without an inspiration board this is where things can get murky – and it’s only the beginning of the project!

If a client says to us that they’re looking for a brand that is feminine and soft we would most likely come up with a board similar to the one above, but that might not necessarily be what our client is looking for. What if they hate pink and blush tones, or script lettering? These words can look different for everyone and it’s important to spend some time getting this step right before starting a substantial portion of the project like logos or website mockups.

The inspiration board doesn’t stop once you’ve been given approval for the overall aesthetic and colour. This board will be the reference point for the rest of the project. It is something we constantly go back to whether we’re designing the logo, prints and patterns, brand elements, typography, website design, marketing materials, etc… and it’s a great resource for our client in the future. They’re able to show this board to vendors, or other companies that could benefit from it, such as creating marketing campaigns, editorials, etc.

How To Create An Inspiration Board

  1. We use Pinterest on the regular to bookmark all of our favourite images.  So when it’s time to create an inspiration board for a client that’s the first place we look.  We create a new, secret board using our clients name and start curating images into the new board.  Pinterest is great because you can share your board with other people, who can also add their own images to it.  We love when our clients get involved in this step.
  2. Use a variety of images that make sense for your project, but aren’t necessarily directly related.  For us, we like to include fonts, textures, patterns, art, key words, a colour palette,  anything that will help get our ideas across.
  3. Make a template.  You can use all kinds of free tools on the web, but I like to use Adobe Illustrator for my boards.  I have a few different templates that I’ve created and generally stick to those with a few tweaks along the way.
  4. Once you’ve seen your curated image on your template you should start seeing a similar colour story, which will make creating your colour palette very easy.  If you don’t, then I would suggest editing some of the photos in Photoshop or other editing software to ensure they represent some of the colours in your palette.  If you’re working with a client who isn’t visual, they’ll have a hard time understanding your inspiration board if the colours are all over the place.
  5. Take a step back and look at the board.  Do you have a clear colour story?  Is your board giving off the mood you were going for?  Is it overall visually pleasing?  If the answer to any of these questions is no, then go back and re-analyze the images you’ve used.  You may need to go back and find better representation.

So if you’d like to get your next project started on the right track, don’t skip this fun and important step of creating an inspiration board.


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