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Mood Boarding: Make Your Ideas Visible

A really easy but rewarding technique I use with clients when exploring their approach to either generating or communicating an idea, service or product (I/S/P), is Mood Boarding. This should be familiar to many of my connections from the Design world, but it remains an untapped technique in most fields and has particular benefit to entrepreneurship and innovation. The tactile, visual and physical nature of Mood Boarding ticks so many boxes and helps to generate and refine ideas, facilitating both divergent and convergent thinking. It has been incredibly beneficial to a number of entrepreneurs and students I’ve worked with in the past, and it is a technique I use on projects at every opportunity.

Mood boards are a great way to engage a client with the visual, written and spoken vocabulary associated with their I/S/P. Results can be achieved very quickly. I facilitate ideation sessions using a range of critical thinking and creative brainstorming techniques to generate key words, these become the foundation of the research activity. If the client has already engaged in a process of customer discovery, the vocabulary gathered from their prospective customers should also be included as part of the research process. Mood boards can be quite abstract in thought and presentation, and I always encourage clients to be extremely broad in their thinking initially. Even the most embryonic of ideas can benefit from this process.


Chaos is fun but focus is functional!

Starting with the range of generated key words and phrases related to the I/S/P, the client will carry out an internet image search. In the past I would have mainly used magazines and other print media, but the internet now provides a much more varied resource, so a combination of the two has become my standard approach. From here, through a process of selection, I absolutely encourage clients to choose the images that they feel corresponds with their word search, and most importantly, have them print the images and stick them onto a board. I personally believe the bigger the board and images, the better, A2 is a manageable size, A0 is a fun size. The reason I emphasis printing is because there are online tools that facilitate a similar process, and they are extremely useful, however, the interactive nature of the activity, the searching, printing, reflection, refinement and scale help further encourage the creative and critical process. Having printed the images, you also have the opportunity to present the board as a point of further ideation and stimulus within a group.



On the board I also suggest including prints of the key words and sections of text, and if applicable, examples of relevant typographic examples. Due to the occasionally abstract nature of this process, it can also be useful to attach objects that have tactile elements. Clients have used rough textiles and other objects to represent features such as the resistance they feel they may meet when trying to implement the idea, or smooth silk to represent the kind of luxurious feeling they want their own clients to experience when using their service. I have had students paste oily nuts and bolts to their board to represent their perception of manual labour and masculinity, which were features of their targeted segment.

This kind of abstract thinking is something I am often required to facilitate and prompt. If you are not used to thinking abstractly, it can be difficult to make the kind of broad and unusual connections that make mood boarding the deeply beneficial problem solving tool it can be.



Once you have created your initial mood board, which can of course be refined and reproduced at various stages of your project, you will be able to see a visual language associate with your I/S/P. At this point you are engaging with the semiotics, connotations and denotations of your I/S/P. You will have seen how people producing comparable I/S/P are representing their work. This helps you to identify the kind of language that have been used in communicating I/S/P similar to yours, it also helps you recognise a vocabulary specific to your I/S/P paradigm, all of which will help you to develop a means to driving an idea further, or branding your already existent service or product.

I often find this tool most useful as a means to have clients consider their I/S/P holistically, as being more than just something they understand. It helps to draw them into the world of communication. I am all too conscious of the grim statistic, that 90% of startups fail. Apart from failure due to poor, mistimed or badly executed ideas, an inability to communicate with a potential client is a major fault. I’ve met some incredible entrepreneurs with wonderful I/S/P, who have succumbed to this all too common pitfall. They know their product so well, but fail to release that the solution they are providing is presented in a language that their client does not understand or recognise as being part of the community of solutions with which they are familiar.

Never expect the client to make the leap

My mantra is ‘do whatever it takes to make it easier for a client to say yes.’ People want to say yes, they want their problems solved, their pains eased. If you have the capacity to do that, whether it’s an idea, service or product, communicate in a way that can be understood by people who haven’t experienced your journey.

If You would like to discuss a Mood Boarding Workshop or facilitation of a Mood Boarding Session,

don't hesitate to contact me.

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