Tips & Stories

Creating a mood board with Evernote — part of Evernote’s Creative Series

Posted by Julie Gomoll on 10 Aug 2010

Posted by Julie Gomoll on 10 Aug 2010

Today we’re kicking off Evernote’s Creative Series, a collection of posts about creative uses for Evernote and the creative people behind them. Recently, we learned that lots of people use Evernote to create mood boards, which got us thinking…what the heck’s a mood board? Luckily, Julie Gomoll was kind enough to explain and show off her process.

Name: Julie Gomoll
Profession: Designer, Entrepreneur, Marketing Strategist
Twitter: @JulieGomoll
Blog: Jules Says

When dealing with a client, how does one elicit the kind of presence they want to convey? Sure, there are plenty of questions you can ask to learn about their company, their products and services, and their culture. You can encourage them to point you to websites and brochures and business cards they find appealing. Even so, it’s really easy to head down the wrong path, and spend hours or days or weeks on some design work that falls flat with the client.

What exactly is a mood board?

Mood boards are a great way to get you and your client on the same page early on. They’re especially great when you’re starting from scratch on a design package for a new company, or reinventing the image of an existing one. The idea of a mood board is to create an emotional scenario that’s congruent with what your client wants — sort of an ambience collage. It’s photographs, illustrations, screenshots, color swatches, words, shapes: whatever conveys the feel of your design plan. There’s no “right” final presentation for a mood board. It can be a big poster, a .pdf or even a video (I’ve never actually seen a video mood board, but why not?).

Evernote and mood boards

For me, Evernote provided the perfect starting point for my most recent mood board. I’m working with Berkeley Bionics on a complete marketing package: everything from a new corporate ID and website to signage to social marketing. They’re a high tech company (they make exoskeletons — how cool is that?) based in Berkeley, and I’m in Austin, so everything I do for them needs to be presentable in digital form.

Basically, I was starting from scratch. I knew they wanted a new, cutting-edge image, but of course that means different things to different people. And it’s very easy to end up with a cliche design. So I started first with a mood board.

Getting started

I started a new notebook in Evernote with the client’s name, and clipped everything I ran across that was relevant. Everything. Logos I liked, promising color schemes (included a few I created), creative website designs, stock photos, words. I immersed myself in their industry, looked at the competition, and examined their audience. And I looked outside their industry to other companies who were making people’s lives better. I didn’t edit myself at all. If something clicked, I put it in the notebook.

After a while, I had a pretty hefty notebook. Time to cull. I started thinking about the words and messaging we would be creating, and removed the clips that didn’t fit. I put all the competitor clips into a separate notebook for reference later. If I were presenting the mood board in person, I’d have printed everything out and made a giant poster. But they’re in California and I’m in Texas, so I made a big collage using Adobe Fireworks. I added the words myself. I then made a .pdf of the whole thing.

Even though you’re trying to create an overall sense of direction with a mood board, you’ll find your client is likely to like some parts of it and dislike others. This is absolutely fine. It’s great, in fact, because it helps you narrow down your direction. For example, your client might particularly like one of the website screenshots. There’s nothing wrong with taking that design and making it your own, providing it can accommodate your functionality plans.

The new Berkeley Bionics corporate ID and website is actually done, but isn’t public yet. Ultimately, I used quite a few elements from this board. I’m really eager to show it off:

For me, doing mood boards for big design/redesign projects isn’t an option. It’s a necessity. It’s part of doing the job right, a job made easier with the help of Evernote.


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31 Comments RSS

  • Jason R.

    That’s awesome! Thanks for the idea!

  • Ileane

    Julie, what a great idea. This reminds me of a site called Spectives that allows you to collect feeds to create collections of images this idea is more focused. Thanks for sharing the concept of Mood Boards.

  • Rudy McComb

    I love this mood board stuff

  • t3amBrian

    Part of the reason I signed up for Evernote was the potential I saw in it’s ability to make the mood board process go a lot faster. great post.

  • Kevin

    You pretty much described to a T my own process. I used it to great effect for the 2010 Steinbeck Festival, and I can’t imagine making some of the stylistic changes that we did to the overall look and feel of the project if I had started with a completed design. (

    We went through 2 rounds of revisions to the moodboard, which is where certain thematic and color issues came up, and having it allowed us to make those corrections quickly and go through several iterations before launching into a time-consuming first finalized design draft.

    Using moodboards has cut down production time and client revisions tremendously.

    • Julie Gomoll

      That’s been my experience too, Kevin – it’s really cut down on production/revision time.

      And clients love it, don’t they? I’ve yet to encounter a client who’s seen one, and it seems to get their attention in a “ok, this person’s got it together” way that is incredibly helpful.

    • Julie Gomoll

      Looked at your moodboard and the final piece – really nice! Your moodboard is definitely further along than mine. They serve similar purposes, but it’s almost like we need a different term for what I did vs what you did.

      Mine was “well, here’s the direction I’m thinking”. Yours was “here’s the palette, image ideas, and typography plan” – much more polished.

      Just so you know, I plan to steal your moodboard format when the right client comes along 🙂

      • Kevin

        Feel free to steal away! Mine was a mash-up of 2 or 3 others. My initial board was closer to yours. We refined once to get the right feel, then formalized one more level to set the tone, typography, final color palette, etc. The finalized design more or less sprang from that third one with very few further modifications.

        And you are right, the clients do love it. It makes them feel like they have more control over the creative process, and it helps them establish a mood for the piece better. “No, I don’t like the way this photography feels, I would prefer something less stark” – or “We love the warm earthtones in this, but last year we used parchment, so can we bring more of the blue forward this year?” – That kind of feedback is invaluable before you actually sit down and start production.

        • Sheryl

          Did you do the entire moodboard only in Evernote (as opposed to Skitch or other app? Would really love to know your process. Fellow photographer and homeschool mom.

    • Evernote User

      Both your and Ms. Gomoll’s boards are very impressive.

  • steve

    once you grab all the references, do you create the mood board with photoshop? what is the next step? thanks!

    • Julie Gomoll

      I used Fireworks, but of course Photoshop is fine, too. And with some clients, printing things out and actually mounting them on a big board might even be better – particularly clients who are still resistant to everything going digital.

  • Burt M. Polson

    How do you create the actual mood board?

  • fotofah

    Is the collage at the bottom of your post something that’d created *in* Evernote*? How did you do that?

    • Julie Gomoll

      I narrowed the images down to the ones I wanted to use in Evernote, but I made the final collage in Fireworks.

  • Tony

    The article says Adobe Fireworks. Although I have never heard of that app. Off to Google it…

    • Evernote User

      I thought I’d misheard the first time, too, last winter. I still catch myself saying “Firefox” sometimes.

  • IleenieWeenie

    I’ve had Evernote for about a year, but I haven’t really used it to its full potential. Thanks for giving me some great ideas for applying it to a mood board. What an excellent way to collect creative data!

  • Jan Triplett

    You really capture the key issue here — getting at the emotions that move people to buy whether they are buying your ideas or your customers products and services. Loved your collage that proves your points. Evernote certainly looks like it serves a very important marketing function.

  • Karma P.

    I am using a similar method for my own creative projects. A screenplay I am in the middle of was feeling flat. So, I mood boarded all my research, images, notes and felt it come alive again. So many applications. Now must look into that Adobe program….

    Thanks for the article!

  • Pumeza

    This is a great idea, thanks Julie! I’d been moving quite unconsciously in a similar direction, and this has given me a new way of looking at what I’m doing.

    One question — which version of Evernote are you using? I’m using it on my Macbook and I can’t replicate your screenshot – in particular the drop-down list you have on top. It looks like a neat way of doing things so I’d like to test-drive it if I can 🙂

  • Andrew Redman

    Hi Julie

    We’re product designers and use mood boards all the time for setting direction or just finding inspiration. They’re great cos it’s such a low risk way to kick a project forward, without worrying whether you’ve got the right idea or not. And it’s so much fun – what’s not to like about looking for cool stuff and sticking it all together on a great big board to share enthusiastically with your client?

    One small caveat is that less ‘design-savvy’ clients sometimes need a bit of help understanding what’s going on. I’ve often seen the thought bubbles with first time clients, saying “ok right, nice, but why are we faffing around when you’re the designer – why don’t you just come up with our new design and we’ll tell you if we like that?”. I sometimes explain that it’s like an asteroid heading towards our Solar System… Early on, with a small prod you can choose which planet to hit. Leave it too late and you’ll need massive rockets just to change which city you want to hit! And working up a design, with all the effort that goes into that, is like entering Earth’s gravitational field! Though to be honest using that analogy I probably just confuse clients!

    Anyway once they’ve been along the whole journey and seen how the process works out, then on the next project, with the mood board part, they recognise what’s going on and get really excited about it.

    For those of you wondering, Fireworks used to be a kind of competitor of Photoshop, owned by Macromedia (remember them?) before Adobe bought them a few years ago. Fireworks is mostly aimed at making web graphics, so has some very nifty button and animation tools. It also had much better mixed use of vector and bitmap long before Photoshop, though photoshop is catching up/ (has caught up?). Really they ought to just take the best of both and merge them now, as Fireworks and Photoshop are so similar. May be could be Fireworks a special Web add-on pack to Photoshop. But anyway that’s another debate – I dont’t want to hijack this cool thread about Mood Boards!

  • Tetia McMichael

    Wow, Julie, you’ve really gotten yourself in deep!! We all appreciate your help with this!! I’ve done a lot of design work myself and have always used mood boards or “vision” boards. BUT, I cannot find an easy way to transfer my images from Evernote to photoshop. It seems I need to save every photo/file to a desktop folder, then upload into photoshop. Is there an easier way… basically copying and pasting from Evernote? It seems redundant to have to save every file again. Make sense?

    • sandra

      i have the same problem with not getting the taken screenshots out of evernote again. there must be an easy way to drag and drop them into a powerpoint for example, right? please give me a hint 🙂

  • Chris H.

    What this client does, exoskeletons, reminds me of a song that uses the word “exoskeletal” a lot during the chorus, so I figured I’d pass along the info to you in case you needed any music to go along with your presentation.
    The group is called “The Mars Volta” and the song is “Roulette Dares”. Its a fast-paced rock song; its excellent!

  • Evernote User

    I’m not a design professional, but I’ve been collecting images for an inspiration file for home sewing projects. I collect images of styles and fabrics. Your idea of using Adobe Fireworks to create a collage is terrific.

    I assume you used Fireworks because you were working on a web project. Can Photoshop and Illustrator be used in the same way, or is Fireworks more convenient in all ways? (I have an older edition of the Adobe Design Suite and have only used Fireworks on a trial basis.).

  • Andrew

    Great post and use of Evernote. Thanks for sharing!


  • Dan

    Hey Julie, thanks for the article! I know this is about Evernote but I was curious do you use Adobe Bridge at all? I’m always a bit torn between using one or the other. Wondering if you had any experiences on that.

  • roblevintennis

    Yeah, still relevant 3 years later 🙂 I’ve been combining both their skitch and web clipper additions to create inspiration notebooks, inventory audits, etc., etc. I like having skitch for when I just want to quickly grab something and/or have a bad connection and the web clipper bookmarklet/chrome extension isn’t jiving. I’m amazed at how nice and searchable all this ends up.

    Thanks for sharing you’re creative process and how you incorporate evernote!

  • Cam

    Awesome 🙂 This is exactly how I work too. If only Skitch wasn’t so damn ugly (logo especially), we could have the perfect setup!

  • Lonnie VanZandt

    I feel a bit like being told that Evernote just invited the Pencil: unless I missed something, you used Evernote to collect references and then separate graphics editors to create a collage image. Honestly, that is not using Evernote capabilities to create a mood board.

    If there is a capability within Evernote to lay out and present poster, white, or “mood” boards of the graphic content of notes in a notebook, then would someone explain _that_ feature to me?