What is an advertising mood board and how to create one for yourself

What is an advertising mood board featured image

Advertising might as well be a competitive sport. With the sheer number of ad platforms, advertisements, and businesses advertising their products or services, it can be challenging to break through the clutter and grab your audience’s attention.

That’s why you need well-designed, impactful ads; it’s the only way to show your audience that you’re the company they want to be working with.

But amazing ads don’t just fall out of thin air; they take a lot of careful strategizing and planning. And the first step of that process? Advertising mood boards.

Let’s take a deep dive into advertising mood boards (and, more importantly, how to create one for yourself):

What is an advertising mood board?

Image via Lori on Flickr

Before we talk about how to create an advertising mood board (and why it can be so effective), let’s talk about what, exactly, an advertising mood board is.

An advertising mood board is a collage of visual elements (like images, typography, and colors) that leads the design process for a single advertisement—or, if you’re rolling out a series of ads or ads across multiple platforms, the mood board can drive design for a more comprehensive ad campaign.

Advertising mood boards can be used for any kind of ad or campaign, from social media to banner ads, magazine ads to billboards. If you have an idea for an ad, campaign, or platform, you can use an advertising mood board to inspire ideas and drive the design process.

When it comes to actually creating your advertising mood board, you have two options.

  1. You can go the old-fashioned route and make a physical board, where you physically cut and paste imagery onto a posterboard (like an old-school collage).
  2. You can pull together a digital mood board using tools like Pinterest (where you can search images and pull inspiration) and Canva (where you can take those images and inspiration and assemble them into a digital mood board to drive your ad design).

The point of an advertising mood board? When you present it to an audience (whether that’s your team, a focus group, or an outside client), they should understand exactly what kind of look, feel, vibe, and direction you’re going for with your ad or advertising campaign.

A visually impactful advertising mood board is the key to a visually impactful ad campaign. Unlock their potential with Canva’s mood board templates, like the Simple Pastel Grid Photo Mood Board or the Gold Peach Brown Mood Board Photo Collage.

What’s the importance of an advertising mood board?

Photo by June Liu on Unsplash

Alright, so now that we’ve covered what an advertising mood board is, let’s talk about why, exactly, it’s such an important tool.

Advertising mood boards are important because they can:

  • Save time and energy. Ads take a long time to design and develop. Creating an advertising mood board allows you to assemble the look/feel/idea of an ad and share with your client or team before you go through the lengthy design process. That way, you can make sure you’re on the right track—and not waste a ton of time and energy designing an ad that’s not on point.
  • Get the entire team on the same page. If you’re working with a large team (which, for an ad, you will be—think copywriters, graphic designers, and marketing strategists.), you need everyone to understand the direction your ad is headed. Advertising mood boards are a way to get everyone on the same page—and make sure everyone understands where you’re going with your ad or campaign.
  • Act as a source of inspiration. Successful advertising is all about coming up with new concepts and ideas. The process of assembling a mood board and searching for imagery can inspire your team and get their creative juices flowing—which, in turn, can help them come up with new, innovative ideas.

Advertising mood boards are a must-have component of any successful advertising strategy. Get started with Canva’s mood board templates, like the Pastel Fashion Photo Grid Mood Board Photo Collage or the Yellow and Black Rock Band Mood Board Photo Collage.

How to create an advertising mood board

Image via foam on Flickr

You know what an advertising mood board is. You know the purpose behind them. Now, let’s get talk about how to create your own advertising mood board.

Define your audience

Photo by Curate Labs & Magazine on Unsplash

The success of your ad hinges on how well it speaks to your audience, which is why it’s so important to define your audience before you start creating the mood board.

Think about who you’re targeting with your ads, and then think about what that audience might want from their advertisements. For example, is your target audience edgy and looking for something cool and sophisticated, or are they traditional and looking for something trustworthy and stable? Those audiences would require two completely different ad strategies—and, as a result, two completely different advertising mood boards.

The point is, your ad’s success is completely dependent on how it connects with your audience. So before you start designing your mood board, make sure you’ve wrapped your head around who, exactly, you’re designing it for.

What to include in your advertising mood board

Once you’re crystal clear on the audience you’re targeting with your ads (and what kinds of ads are going to speak to them), it’s time to start designing your advertising mood board.

When it comes to choosing which elements to include on your advertising mood board, there are no right or wrong answers; you can include anything you find that visually inspiring for your ads. That being said, here are a few key design elements you should consider including on your mood board:


Image via garageband on Pixabay

The colors you choose for your ad campaign will go a long way in strengthening your messaging (and, ultimately, selling your product or service).

When choosing colors for your advertising mood board, think of the look and feel you’re trying to create with your ads. So, for example, are you rolling out an ad campaign for a new eco-friendly line of cleaning products? Then nature colors (like green and brown) would be a great addition to your mood board. Designing ads for a kid-centric toy brand? Then bright, cheerful colors are a solid bet.

Neutrals, brights, muted tones, or unexpected color combinations—whatever palette you choose for your ad campaign, make sure to include swatches in your advertising mood board.

Wording and typography

Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash

The visual elements of your ad are (obviously) important, but one of the most impactful parts of any ad campaign? Words.

All ads tell a story. And you want your advertising mood board to get a head start on that story. When choosing word-centric elements to include on your advertising mood board, make sure to cover all your bases and include both copy (like quotes and impactful words) and typography (like inspiring fonts).


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Words are important. But, as the saying goes, sometimes a photo is worth a thousand words, which is why it’s so important to include photos and images on your advertising mood board.

Look for imagery—whether that’s photos, illustrations, or other abstract designs—that capture the vision of your ad (and will speak to your ad’s target audience). So, for example, if you’re rolling out an ad campaign for a new line of running shoes, you might want to include photos from a major marathon. If you’re designing an ad for a new children’s cartoon program, you might include an illustration of the show’s main characters.


They might not be the focal point of your ad design, but the right textures can help to inspire the design process, which is why you should include them on your advertising mood board. Look for textures that speak to your audience (like a macrame-inspired texture for a boho crowd), the product/service you’re advertising (like sandpaper for a home improvement company), or the look and feel you’re going for in your ad (like velvet to communicate luxury).


Similar to texture, patterns can help inspire your ad design. If there’s a pattern that speaks to the product or service you’re advertising (like a nautical print for a new line of swimsuits), make sure to include it on your mood board.

Inspiration from other campaigns

Photo by mauRÍCIO santos on Unsplash

Is there another ad campaign you find inspiring? If so, include it on your advertising mood board. While you (obviously) don’t want to steal ideas from another brand or campaign, you can definitely use it as a benchmark for the kind of ad you want to create.

Anything else you find visually inspirational!

There are no rules when it comes to designing an advertising mood board—so if you find something that visually inspires you, put it on there! Coins, flowers, newspaper articles, wallpaper—whatever you find that captures the look of your ideal ad, feel free to include it on your advertising mood board.

The most effective advertising mood boards are the boards the feature multiple design elements, like photos, colors, and typography. Assemble all the visual elements you need to inspire your ad campaign with Canva’s mood board templates, like the Turquoise and White Mood Board Photo Collage, the Green Plants and Trees Mood Board Photo Collage, or the Minimalist Mood Board Photo Collage.

Advertising mood board examples

Want to see what an advertising mood board looks like in action? Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Edgy, extreme sports advertising mood board

Image via Valhalla

This advertising mood board pulls in a number of edgy elements, including psychedelic-inspired visuals and strong colors, which perfectly showcased the edgier look and feel the agency was going for in their final campaign.

Color is clearly the main inspiration of this advertising mood board. Get the same look with one of Canva’s colorful mood board templates, like the Pink and White Colorful Pop Photography Mood Board Photo Collage.

Gallery advertising mood board

Image via @Kinfolk Magazine

Sometimes, a single focal point can make for an impactful advertising mood board—like this board, which is clearly focused on all-things-red.

Recreate the all-things-red look of this advertising mood board with one of Canva’s color-centric mood board templates, like the Red Scalloped Pattern Japanese Collage Mood Board.


Whiskey brand advertising mood board

Image via Creative Bloq

Glenfiddich’s ad campaigns need to speak to a very specific whisky drinker—and this in-depth advertising mood board (which includes colors, imagery, typography, and copy) helps to ensure their final ads connect with their ideal consumers.

Like the brown tones of this advertising mood board? Capture the same look with one of Canva’s mood board templates, like the Rustic Mood Board Photo Collage.

Knock your next ad campaign out of the park with an advertising mood board

An advertising mood board can mean the difference between an ad campaign that falls flat—and an ad campaign that sells like crazy. So what are you waiting for? Get out there, design your advertising mood board, and knock your next ad campaign out of the park!

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