designer process / by breanna rose

Last week, I started my mini series on the process of a designer, so today we’ll move right along on to the visual checkpoint stage – also known as moodboards. Once I’ve taken notes and presented a brand strategy to the client ( verbally ), it’s important to make sure that we’re both on the same page as well, visually. I know I’ve spoken about my moodboard process before ( here & here ), but not necessarily how it fits into the overall design process, which is key.

While completed questionnaires and exercises are good for defining and discovering the direction of a brand, I’m a firm believer of checks + balances. This simply means that I like to make sure I’m keeping the client involved in every step of the process, which establishes trust. You may already have their final approval of the brand strategy, sure, but showing them that you understand what this all means visually reinforces the overall aesthetic and becomes a natural checkpoint.

After all, descriptive words can mean different things to different people. Modern may be more in line with “minimal” to one person, while it’s clean lines + bold color to another. So, the moodboard is a chance to give yourself peace of mind before moving forward with the initial designs. That way, if a client ever becomes wishy washy or changes their mind, you have this piece of visual representation to look back on and reiterate the original brand strategy and why it’s important.

Moodboards are fun ( and I still wish they could be a full-time job sometimes ), I’ll give ya that. But they can also really save your behind in the long run. Take the appropriate time to really nail things down early in the process so everything is smooth sailing from here on out!

  1. Kerry Rose says:

    I think you make a good point about words meaning different things to different people–and while I knew the moodboard to be an essential root in the design process, it never really occurred to me that it can be used as a way to begin that “trust,” like you say. Thanks for this post & series, Breanna!

  2. Nesha says:

    I love that you mention that words have different meanings to people! I’ve never really enjoyed the moodboard part of the design process because I saw it as a time waster, especially when being used in conjunction with my Pinterest process. But I made a moodboard for my current client, and I’ll definitely be making them from now on. The clarity they provide is immense.

    • breanna says:

      Yeah! I’ve found that pinterest doesn’t always nail it, either. There is a natural border around images there which keeps things a little bit more separate. As soon as you start shuffling images around, some may not seem “right” anymore, which I’ve definitely discovered with a few clients. They may like a pin on pinterest, but not in their final moodboard. It provides clarity, just as you said!

    • Noor says:

      This was also kind of my thing with the mood boards. I made one not long ago for client to see how it went versus pinterest and she seemed to think I meant I wanted to use the EXACT things on the moodboard and then I was having to explain that it was for a MOOD lol.

  3. Angel Y. says:

    I definitely agree with you on word definitions. It’s almost a disadvantage to use broad adjectives when chatting with clients which is why visual checkpoints are so important. I’m very open in communication with my clients because it’s easier to trust a designer who is willing to discuss the project with you. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kaylie says:

    Boy, you hit the nail on the head when you said adjectives can mean different things to different people! Amen to mood boards.

  5. Kiriko says:

    Great post! I started using private Pinterest boards shared with clients as a way for us to participate in the mood board process together and so far, since I’ve been working with art and design-savvy clients, it’s worked really well.

  6. Kory says:

    I definitely agree with what you and everyone else are saying. It’s funny how to designers we think ‘modern’ means one thing while our client could think it means something completely different.

  7. Tanea says:

    You are so right.

    I didn’t “get” moodboards when I first started working with them, but now I make one for all of my projects, even if it’s for a project of my own. It’s also great for people like me whose brains tend to get scattered with all the ideas and info floating around.

  8. Celestine says:

    I love the idea of a Visual Checkpoint and agree with you completely that both the designer and client need to be on the same page when it comes to the vision. I learned this the hard way and I’m glad that this is something I picked up on early. It really takes a lot of the guessing game out and negates unnecessary steps that could have been avoided in the early stages of planning the design. Thanks for the awesome post (as always), Breanna!

  9. Adriana M. says:

    Have never made a moodboard before, but they look so fun! :)

  10. Noor says:

    I try to do all of these as well and sometimes and as you know some clients are just more involved why others not so much so I never want to make any client feel like they are having to help me do my job. What are your thoughts on that and have you ever thought that. Maybe I am silly and over stress about things. Btw loving your new series :)

  11. I have been behind on my favorite blogs for a few weeks now and I have a lot to catch up on here at your blog, Breanna. But oh man — I am literally anxious as all get out! I am so excited about this series of yours.

    I’m telling you — I always learn something new from you. And I never leave your blog not inspired. Thank you for all you do!

  12. Pati Mo says:

    for me moodboards work as checks & balances between me and the client. great post!

  13. juliet says:

    hi! i love how every line of text in your posts match up exactly to the width of your photos. how do you do that? it makes a ton of difference in the clean look of your blog! thanks!

  14. Fenne says:

    Interesting post!
    I’m still struggling with moodboards. I tried making them for myself when I want to create something, but I often can’t choose between different things that I like, or I don’t find images that fits.
    But I keep trying :-)

  15. Amie says:

    Love this! I’m still trying to really nail down incorporating more inspiration that’s not flat out graphic design into a moodboard. I think it really takes talent to put together a cohesive look of many different mediums!

  16. [...] far in my mini series on the Designer Process, we’ve talked about strategy + visual checkpoints, which is sort of like tailgating. They are important and fun – but not the main show. Once [...]

  17. [...] illustration, fashion and colour that inspire me. I loved what designers  Promise Tangeman and Breanna Rose, have to say about branding inspiration boards or moodboards and the important role they play in [...]

  18. Ilana says:

    Another awesome post.
    I’d love to hear more about “brand strategy” and what that process involves for you.
    I have clients fill out a questionnaire so I can help understand their goals, vision, etc etc. but find that’s not exactly a “plan of attack”.

    So nice to hear we’re not alone in the issues we face as designers!

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