Mood boards as a design catalyst and resource: Researching an under-researched area

Deana C McDonagh, Ian Storer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mood boards are one method that can improve inspiration and communication during a design process. These mood boards are typically a collection of abstract media which the designer uses for personal inspiration and also to discuss and communicate with the client and possibly other stakeholders including users. The authors' experience as both designers and educators indicates that mood boards are a ‘love it or hate it’ issue. Some claim mood boards can inspire creativity and aid communication. Others dismiss them as of no value. The literature is curiously limited on the subject, possibly due to the subjective nature of the issue. This paper starts to explore the potential of mood boards as design research and support tools by looking at both practising and student industrial designers' attitudes to and use of mood boards. The authors conducted a scoping study that is discussed in this paper. The findings revealed that design practitioners valued mood boards as a tool for communication with non-designers and as an instrument to inspire lateral thinking. However, mood boards were undervalued and misunderstood by the sample group of industrial design undergraduate students.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-31
JournalThe Design Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005


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