What's your favorite Inspiration source?

Hey gang,
Thought I’d pose a question to the boards. I’ve been getting pretty tired of using the pinterests, behances and lemanooshes of the world to build out moodboards. Between the three, it sometimes feels like I’m stuck in an echo chamber… To add to that, the conversations generated by moodboards can go off the rails sometimes. Often I’m using moodboards to get a baseline idea of what a client wants, but I also find that they can be SUPER distracting.

So I was curious- what’s everyone’s go to mood/ inspiration image fountain? Do you even use moodboards as a tool? If not what tools/ practices are you replacing moodboards with? Do you ever feel like the big sources of images aren’t a good representation of “real” product trends?

I almost never do moodboards. They put you an an aesthetic cut-de-sac at best, like you said, at worst they can be very distracting. When doing this kind of phase 0 work typically I do more word association and brand association. Most clients are word people, not picture people. From there I can build out some visuals that go with the words to connect the dots. When I do make moodboards (or the visuals associated with the words) I almost never ever use other products. Basically it is like saying “hey, here is a bunch of design I didn’t do, you should have hired those guys!”… :slight_smile:

That’s a great point! Some ux designer friends of mine did some branding exercises awhile back with this really cool deck of cards full of word associations. I need to see if I can find their website. It seemed like a really helpful tool.

When are you deciding you do need to do a moodboard? Is it just a matter the client needing some visuals to accompany the brand intent?

Edit: found em https://branding.cards/

I really only do that if we are doing a bigger design language type project with lots of up front research and it is completely surrounded with interview quotes from users, stakeholder interview quotes, and other words to create a bigger world for the solutions to sit inside of. If we are doing a pure ID project I might show some trends and have some language around why these trends are relevant to their industry/category…

I insist on moodboards as well as visual positioning matrixes whenever possible.

I believe that every is visual and words are too subjectives. We might both agree that “aggressive” is what we want, but the client could be thinking Lamborghini and I might be thinking Predator. Everyone can look at images and say it’s a fit or not. I’ve had it backfire too many times to just use only words. Is an iPhone hard? soft? minimal? technical? clean? futuristic? sterile? All those words could be used but could also mean something totally different.

In general (not giving away my process for free), what’s important I think is diversity of images and grouping them so you don’t just look a single thing and get stuck trying to copy that for your design direction. Also picking images that are cross category you don’t have the issue of sticking trying to compete with a direct competitor (that was likely designed years ago - you want to be designing for the market to come!).

I source images from all over and just routinely save things I see that are interesting and have amassed over 50,000 images of various things over almost 20 years.

I agree boards like lamanoosh and such are too trendy and edited they can box you in…

I also ensure I’m in control of writing a full design brief that is reviewed and edited over several revisions that then acts as the contract so we have words to represent the images we’ve agreed to. I rarely just accept a brief as is from a client.


Well, to add to the mix of dissenting opinions, I tend to stick to one word and one image. That way, there’s no debate around the word and what it visually communicates. If you have ten images on a mood board, the vision becomes unclear. I also tend to shy away from product images and lean more towards photographs of other things.

I generally do not involve non-designer clients in this process because it’s too nebulous and vague. I do like to involve designers from other disciplines into it, however.

In a recent project we paired the images of high net worth individuals with film and arts/culture icons for inspiration. James Earl Jones/Darth Vader, Larry Ellison/Samurai Warrior, Michael Baryshnikov/Arts Benefactor, Lauren Powell Jobs/Charity Philanthropist, Marques Brownlee/Tech Reviewer.

This helped us with form, feature sets and aesthetic direction establishment.