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Mood Boards Aren’t Only For Designers Anymore

Ian Blair

I don’t want to generalize, but for the most part, designers and developers are a different breed.

Developers are more tech-savvy, while design teams tend to be more creative. Yes, obviously designers need the technical application as well. There are lots of tools and software for mobile app designers.

But even if you’re not a designer, you may have more in common with them than you think.

Most people are visual thinkers. But they have a tough time imagining what things will look like when they are described by designers and artists.

That’s why historically speaking, designers would use mood boards to convey their concepts to the rest of their team. But now anybody can use these tools.

Let’s say you’re a visual thinker. You’ve got a clear idea of what you want your app or project to look like, but you’re struggling to translate these ideas into useable concepts for your design team.

You can use a mood board to physically show people what your mobile app idea looks like.

Mood boards can help people without a creative background or skill set visualize a project.

So, what exactly is a mood board?

Simply put, it’s a collection of various visual elements. I’m referring to things like pictures and color palettes. When it comes to your mobile app, you’ll want to include elements that relate to UI components as well.

Here’s an example of what you can include in a mood board.

what to include in mood board

Something as simple as a mood board can help bridge the translation gap between people who can’t convey their concept or idea and people who need to visualize things to comprehend information.

If you’ve never used a mood board before, don’t worry, it’s really not that complicated.

I’m a firm believer that these can help simplify your design process and keep your entire team on the same page. That’s why I created this guide.

Here’s everything that you need to know about mood boards.

What are mood boards used for?

So now that you know the basic concept of a mood board, you might be asking yourself how you can apply it to your current project. Is it worth it? Is it necessary?

Believe it or not, I’ve consulted with some companies who were resistant to incorporating mood boards into their process.

Look, I get it. There are so many tasks to complete throughout the mobile app development timeline, it can feel like an inefficient use of time whenever you’re not working directly on the app.

But mood boards can actually help speed up the process.

When it comes to building and designing an app, I’ve narrowed down the top four ways to use a mood board.

  • creating prototypes
  • brainstorming and creativity
  • clarifying your concept and theme
  • conveying abstract feelings to others

I’ll discuss each one of these uses in greater detail so you can see exactly what I’m talking about.


Just to clarify, you’re not going to be using mood boards to replace your existing prototyping tools and procedure. You’ll use the mood board to enhance the process.

As you know, mobile apps are expensive to build. You may need to raise money for your app startup. Depending on the scope of your project, you could be going through several investment rounds.

investment rounds

But investors won’t give you any money if they don’t have a clear understanding of how your app operates and what it’s going to look like.

That’s why having a working prototype can increase your chances of raising capital. But with limited cash in the bank, your prototype will just be a skeleton of your big picture.

You may not have enough money to hire a designer and pay for elaborate visual elements in your prototype. That’s where your mood board can come into play.

It’s not going to cost you anything to build a mood board.

You can incorporate this into your pitch to prospective investors. Between your app prototype and mood board, investors will have a much better understanding of the direction of your app, even in its infant stages.

Furthermore, you can use a mood board to prototype your app in-house as well. When you bring in a new designer, the images on your mood board will help you bring them up to speed with your vision.

Letting designers be creative and brainstorm

Mood boards allow your design team to let their creative juices flow.

There are a few ways to approach this brainstorming phase of development. Here’s a look at the steps associated with designing an app.

design stages

As you can see, it’s not necessarily the fastest process. So anything you can do to speed this up will help you keep costs low and your app to market as fast as possible.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should cut corners or take shortcuts. In fact, I’m saying the opposite.

While mood boards may initially veer off of the path, they quickly focus everyone’s attention in the right direction.

Here are a couple of ways you can guide your designers with mood boards.

For example, let’s say your design team has four people. You’ve told them the basic idea for your app, but you’re leaving the creative components completely in their hands.

Obviously you’ll have the final say and approval, but for now, you want to see what they can come up with.

Tell each artist to come up with their own mood board for their vision of the app’s design elements. They should do this in isolation, so they’re not influenced by one another.

Once everyone has finished, they can share their boards with each other. Now they can see if there is an overlap in themes or ideas from one board to another.

The team can decide if they want to take their favorite components from each one and combine the ideas into one board. Or you can pick your favorite board from the batch.

Another way to approach this task is by having all of your artists working together on one board. You can try one, both, or a combination of these approaches. It all depends on your personal preference.

Even if you’ve only got one designer, you can still have them put their ideas on a mood board.

As I said before, and as I’m sure you know, building an app isn’t cheap. The design stage alone can cost upward of $25k to $50k.

design stage

But you can keep these costs low if you use mood boards to speed up the process and keep everyone on the same page.

Clarifying and understanding a concept or theme

As I was just saying, if you want to have a smooth and seamless development process, everyone needs to have a clear understanding of what they are trying to accomplish.

If your concept and theme are ambiguous, it’s going to slow down your timeline.

Designers may have conflicting ideas with one another. You and your artists may not be on the same page. All of this will just lead to headaches and complications.

As a result, your final product will suffer. Nobody wants that to happen.

But a mood board can focus everyone’s attention on a central theme. Here’s a great example to show you what I’m talking about.

obvious theme

The theme here is very obvious.

So if you walk into a meeting with your design team and show them this as your vision board, it’s clear how you want your app to look.

None of your artists are going to come back to you with design elements that look like hot summer days with bright blue, yellow, green, and pink color palettes.

But if you tried to verbally explain your theme, you may not get what you’re looking for.

Here’s a tip to consider when you’re creating a mood board. It may be fun to use lots of obscure references and images, but that’s not always productive.

If you have a very specific theme or concept in mind, it’s better to all of the items on your board be as relatable as possible. These touchpoints will keep everyone’s efforts focused in the right direction.

Refer back to the example above. If this mood board also included images of a beach, palm trees, and a desert, it would be tough for the designers to know which theme takes priority.

Demonstrating abstract feelings to people without using a lot of direct design resources

It’s not always easy to convey your feelings and emotions to people. If you’re trying to set the mood for the design elements of your app, it can be a challenge to get your points across.

You also don’t want to slow down the process every time a new idea pops into your head.

Your design team is busy working on their assignments, but you’ve got an abstract feeling that you want to add to your app. Maybe you’re not that comfortable using certain design tools and programs.

Rather than pulling an artist away from their current task to help you out, you can simply use a mood board to sort this out on your own.

You don’t even need to use digital resources to accomplish this. I realize that we’re all becoming very dependant on the Internet to help us with our daily tasks. For the most part, it makes things much easier.

But you don’t need to rely on it to create a mood board. Think outside of the box. Flip through magazines or take some photographs on your smartphone.

Use these elements to come up with a vision board that conveys your feelings. That way you won’t have to tie up or slow down any of your design resources.

How to build a mood board

The first step is determining whether or not you’re going to build a digital mood board or physical mood board. There’s no right or wrong answer. It just comes down to what you’re most comfortable with.

While creating a mood board on your computer may be cleaner, you don’t want the technical application to get in the way of your creativity.

So for some entrepreneurs, using a physical board is a little bit easier for them.

For those of you that want to build a mood board digitally, consider looking for existing templates online. This will help you streamline the process.

Canva has lots of great templates for you to choose from and get you started in the right direction.


Their platform makes it really easy for you to plug your own pictures into the existing templates.

If you’re going this route, your best bet is to scour the Internet. Look for images everywhere.

There are tons of great pictures and ideas found on Google. You can even sort them by theme and concept, depending on the direction of your mobile app.

Your mood board should be something that you constantly curate. Start with a lot. Then start to edit these ideas down until you have a manageable amount of images.

Just make sure that your final board is still an accurate representation of the concept, brand, or idea that you’re trying to create.

Take a break.

Being creative isn’t easy. You’ve got to be in the right mindset when you’re working on something like this.

If things aren’t coming to you the way that you thought they would, no problem. There are plenty of other tasks you can work on in the meantime.

Leave it for a bit and come back when you’re ready.

When you’re using lots of different ideas and images, it’s really easy to get tunnel vision. Sometimes a break is just what is needed to see things from a new perspective.

You may even get some ideas for your mood board when you’re doing something completely unrelated. So write those ideas down whenever you find some inspiration.

Sometimes it’s best to create your mood board around one central image that best portrays what you’re trying to accomplish. So put your feature image in the middle of your mood board.

mood board breakdown

Once that’s in place, it makes it a little bit easier for you to branch out and come up with other elements.

While the main idea of your mood board is a visual representation of your idea, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use text.

I’m not saying that you should be writing long paragraphs or anything like that. However, a few isolated words can put emphasis on your idea and convey a powerful message.


Contrary to popular belief, mood boards aren’t just for designers anymore because our Internet age is largely a visual one.

Lots of people out there have very clear aesthetics, ideas, or concepts but simply aren’t talented enough to draw them or describe them.

When it comes to your mobile app, this lack of communication can really slow down the development and design process. This confusion can end up costing you more money.

But mood boards can help people communicate with designers and artists. They act as a bridge for the creative process to turn into something concrete, such as a branding concept or visual style.

You can even use a mood board to help with your prototyping process.

If you’ve never used one before, I urge you to give it a try. It will really help you and your team with the creative process and keep everyone on the same page.

How are you using mood boards to convey the theme of your app to your design team?

Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.