One of the most crucial parts of my process as a freelance designer has always been creating moodboards for my clients. It serves as an important visual communication tool between us and is often what I use as my final stamp of approval before designing even begins. The goal? To make sure everyone is on the same page. Now, moodboards aren’t just about putting images together in a pretty way. It’s actually a larger process that I’ve shaped over time to the needs of myself + my clients. It goes a little something like this :

First things first, I always like to open communication right away with my clients. We talk pretty generally about a project in the beginning. A brief dialogue about design aesthetics and project guidelines are covered in this part so everyone knows what’s expected of each other. Once I have a firm grasp on the project, I take time to develop a questionnaire for my clients to answer via google docs. If you haven’t heard about this, it’s basically an online version of microsoft office. I like to create a document that my client and I can share and fill out as time goes on. It’s a great way to collect important information and archive it for later. Plus, you don’t have to send files back and forth. It’s all automatically saved for everyone! You’re probably thinking to yourself … what’s up with all this google doc talk and why aren’t we talking about moodboards?? Well, I actually use all collected information from clients to develop moodboards, so it’s definitely relavent + important.

Now that I’ve covered the initial questionnaire, it’s time to get visual! While it’s great to have questions answered from the get go, there’s nothing like sharing imagery to really get things off the ground. Sure, a client can tell me they like the color yellow, but being able to see different hues, for example, is key. At this point, however, I’m still not ready to put together a moodboard. I know, I know! We’ll get there, I promise.

The next step, for me, heavily involves pinterest and serves as a place where clients can put imagery together to help further explain what they’re looking for. If pinterest isn’t your thing, you can have them do this in a variety of other ways … anything will work, really. They just need to gather inspirational images. The reason I have my clients do this is simply to unload their mind and get it all out there. There’s only so much you can explain in words, so this really is the icing on the cake.

At this point, we now have a filled out questionnaire and an entire pinterest board of inspiration, all from the point of view of the client. As a designer, it’s now my turn to sift through everything, connect the dots, and make sense of it all. If I’m being honest, I find this part of the process to be extremely therapeutic. There’s just something about figuring out the core concept + design aesthetics of a project that I really love figuring out … especially the big ”AHA” moment when everything starts coming together smoothly!

After researching everything and taking notes, I begin to not only pull images from my client’s pinterest board, but anything else that I see fit. This way, I’m fusing a client’s needs with my own design thoughts of how things should move forward. Color palettes and typography are also heavily explored, because I love to get to the point as quickly as possible so that my clients can see a clear path of how things will go.

Like I said earlier, once a moodboard is finished and sent off, I wait for the final approval before the design process even begins. If a designer and their client aren’t on the same page from the get go, problems will most definitely arise at some point! You don’t want to find yourself halfway through a project only to have someone tell you you’ve gone in a completely wrong direction. Seriously, that’s a huge blow to the face. Do anything to avoid it at all cost.

Moodboards can be extremely fun to do, yes, but oftentimes, I think people don’t realize just how important they are! It’s your time to get everything out in the open and create a solid communication between yourself and your client. I can’t stress how important that is! My moodboard process has taken some time to develop, as I haven’t always done it this way. But overtime, I’ve discovered it to be the most effective process to set the standards for a project. Feel free to adapt it as you see fit. Have fun with it!

  1. Aubri D says:

    I LOVE reading your Be Free Lance every week… thank you!

    If you don’t mind answering I have a few specific question about your process:
    How long does this whole process typically take? From the time a client contacts you to the moodboard.
    Are your clients typically media savvy with google docs and pinterest?
    If not, are they ever reluctant to start an account with each and work this way?
    Do you use this process with EVERY client or just the “big” ones?

    The last question leads me to whole topic I think you could tackle someday with Be Free Lance… how do you choose your clients? Do you ever turn any down? Or do you even have the opportunity to turn any clients down? Do you ever a do a “little” project for a friend or a friend of friend just as a favor and not doing the whole moodboard process just to get the project out of the way? How do you balance making a living with friends and family members that need design favors?

    WOAH… that was a lot of questions. Thank you for reading/ answering all this!

    • bre says:

      Hey Aubri, thank you SO much!

      My process from initial inquiry to moodboard is actually quite fast. I would say it all happens within a week or so of receiving a signed contract. I’ve never had a client that didn’t have pinterest, so I haven’t faced that yet. If they didn’t, I would simply have them pull images and send me a zipped folder. Google docs doesn’t require any sign in, so again, I’ve never had a problem there! I simply invite my client, via email, to join my document. And yes, I use this process with everyone! I didn’t always do it this way, but for a good three months I’ve been using this process and have loved it.

      As for your other Qs, I definitely think they’d be good topics for Be Free, Lance! I wrote them down already on my growing list. :) To give you a little insight for now : I choose my clients based on what will help me grow as a designer. I tend to go with my gut on who a great client would be. And yes, I do have to turn away a lot of people so I can have a life. Ha! I promise I’ll cover all these things more in depth in the future … so stick around. :)

      Thanks again lady!

    • Aubri D says:

      @Aubri D,
      Thanks Bre for answering all that!
      I will stay tuned till next time. Can’t wait to hear what’s next!

  2. Jasmine says:

    interesting.. I like the idea of using google docs. I use it to share some things already, but hadn’t thought of using it as a way of interacting with clients. I’m heading over to Be Free, Lance to read your post now.

    • bre says:

      @Jasmine, i have loved using google docs so far. It saves me a lottt of time instead of having to search back in email conversations!

  3. obsesssed with this mood board. i swear i could use this exact one:)

  4. morgan says:

    I’ve just started using moodboards and find them incredibly helpful. As you said – they are a great way to solidify a true understanding of the project. What I’d love to know is more about your client approval process and how you handle that. Do you have a structured approval process with signed comps or is it more casual/informal email type approvals? Maybe another good Be Free, Lance topic :)

  5. Kelty says:

    Hi! Thank you for this, I’m being reintroduced to the value of the moodboard exercise. So beneficial!!

    What program do you use to lay these out? Illustrator? InDesign? Photoshop?

    Thanks!!

    • breanna says:

      I’m a strictly Illustrator girl. I only use photoshop for photo alterations / touch ups and InDesign for page layout / editorial design. :)

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