For assignments in my design class, not only did I have to turn in the final version of the homework, but sometimes I’d also have to submit a moodboard. This way, the professor could understand my thought and creative processes and understand my project better when grading it.

Moodboards continue to help me gather ideas for design projects and character art – and recently, I started using one to help me map out a scene for a novel I’m working on.

Not everyone who writes has to use a moodboard. However, it is one of the aspects of design I took from my classes that still help me to this day. So, I decided to share with you my process for developing a moodboard to help you with all your story designing ventures!

First off, what is a moodboard?
A moodboard is a space where you can gather ideas like photos, fabric swatches, color palettes, fonts, quotes, and any other little tidbits that give you inspiration for your project. As you research your topic, the moodboard helps you keep track of everything you find. When you feel like you have enough samples, or as you find your samples, you can either leave the pieces spread around randomly, or you can arrange your findings into a collage or composition.

Isn’t this more for art?
It’s true, moodboards are primarily for graphic or textile design projects: storing favorite or frequent fonts, comparing different styles, and collecting images. However, I have used them to help organize my thoughts and ideas for different stories I am working on, developing new designs as I go along. Moodboards don’t have to be just images; they can be a jumble of words relating to the story.

What kind of stories are you talking about?
Any kind. For those of you who follow my Story of the Month series, you know a story can be told through a myriad of forms: videos, books, cards, pictures, comics, etc. A story just needs a message to convey – even something as simple as wishing a happy anniversary – and a means of expression, like a page or piece of film.

That’s cool and all, but how will a moodboard even help me? Creating a moodboard will keep record of all your plans and help you stay focused on what the main story (or message) is and the visual or structural style you’re trying to convey. Let’s say you want to make an RPG fighting game set in the Middle Ages. As you look up fighting strategies and warriors and Middle Ages-architecture and armor, you need a place to hold onto all the good sites and images you find, so you can access the best parts easily without having to search for them all over again. A moodboard can also help direct you on what you have to research, so you spend more time learning about armor and weaponry from the Middle Ages instead of gizmos from the steampunk era.

But what if I’m not making a game or a movie or anything visual? What if my story is a book or a short story?
It’s the same principle: use a moodboard to gather the best and most useful parts of your research, and when you feel you have enough to work with, mix and match the pieces until you have a solid idea in your head. Think of moodboards as a cross between an outline and a collage: a great place to store your ideas and let you rearrange everything however you want it.

Next week, I’ll show you one of my moodboards and how I use them to help me with my stories 🙂

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