The humble moodboard.

Seen outwardly as a collage of pretty images, but for us insiders, they’re known as being the ultimate tool for the commencement of any project.

I’ve known them be called many different things; stylescapes, propositions - I personally call it ‘Visual Planning,’ (but often defer to moodboard as an explanation too.)



The reason I call it Visual Planning though, is because for me, it is just that. It forms a plan of the visual language moving forwards. For me, the term moodboard doesn’t give them the importance that they deserve. It sounds a bit wishy washy; its just a mood or a passing feeling.

But its not though; its a plan. 

A plan that, up to this point, has been deeply considered, questioned and refined.

A plan that takes into consideration your business goals, your tone, your audience.

It can take me longer to put together a Visual Plan than actually design the output (I mean, not quite, but what I’m saying is, I don’t chuck them together. It takes me some good time, and I weight my project timings at this end.)

My goal with any Visual Plan is to create an easy-to-follow roadmap, so that the design literally designs itself. Much of the thought has already happened before I come to designing, so that the concept stage is a breeze.

You should be able to give this Visual Plan to any designer or alien and they would be able to get going with clarity.



I know they look super pretty, I love the collage approach as much as the next person. But for me, when it comes to a strategic Visual Plan, the collage becomes a distraction. (Beautiful, examples below no?)

What happens is, you end up spending more time making the collage look beautiful, as piece in its own right, then truly considering why each and every image should be there. Am I right?

I use a grid-like structure for my Visual Plans. They’re not always the same shape, but something as pictured in the example below. They are more difficult to do, I won’t lie. There’s less freedom, and you certainly can’t throw something together.

What I find is that this structure really pushes me to consider each and every image. There’s no room for ‘oh just one more.’

You get the space you’re given, and each image has to work hard to win its seat at the table.  I make sure that there’s a reason for each and every reference, that I can justify in design terms and business terms too. It has to make sense in the space it has been given.

I always ask: ‘what is this particular reference going to mean for us, what can we learn from it?

I also create a key, either on the page or within the presentation that explains the gist of the images too. Visuals are great, but when combined with language, I find it really helps clients to understand and get onboard. There’s less room for mis-interpretation.

It doesn’t mean to say that I reference each-and-every image in the design concepts. Far from it. They spark ideas, give me places to explore. But there’s never any question about where and why the design is how it is.


This is really important to me, and something I stand by.

If I’m working on a packaging project, I refrain from showing packaging on the VP (unless I’m trying to highlight a very specific detail). It stands to reason that your new outcome is going to look extremely similar. If I feel that I do need to show anything packaging related (maybe it nails a pattern, or colour-way for example) I will make sure that its from another market category; so they we don’t end up crafting just another ‘me too.’ 

I aim to pull illustration, typography, pattern and colour reference as a big picture, with assets in isolation to create a feeling of the vibe we’re going for.

My VP Tips:

  • When designing always have the moodboard to hand - I pin mine right by my screen.

  • Study every detail, if you think something looks good then ask why? What particular design element makes it so?

  • Use a selection of imagery that sums up the ‘feel’ of a place. This is hard to explain, maybe it’s designer ‘eye’ but try to find an image that represents the emotion of the brand or place.

  • Be selective. Only use images that truly represent the story - remember this is your toolkit. If you aren’t going to use that kind of typeface or colour then why is it there?

  • Avoid duplication. If two images are doing the same thing, streamline it. Moodboards can be busy places! There’s no need to repeat a reference for a script font if there’s one doing a really good job already.

  •  Play with scale. If everything is the same scale it can be difficult to focus. By pulling out the important reference you are drawing attention to areas that need it.

  • Think about the colour zones. Create a co-hesive colour world - if you squint your eyes what 3 key colours pop out? If I find a reference that’s the wrong colour I just change it in photoshop.