Have you ever tried visual brainstorming?
Visual brainstorming is a mindful design technique used to develop a higher quality and quantity of ideas, as opposed to leaving them in our mind; untested, unopposed, and undeveloped.
- Untested: ideas that haven’t received user feedback
- Unopposed: ideas that haven’t been debated among stakeholders
- Undeveloped: ideas that haven’t reached maturity
When ideas are not tested by real users, we may find out later (i.e. after spending a lot of time, money, and resources) that the idea is not as awesome as we originally thought, and may fail without any explanation as to why; when ideas aren’t debated among stakeholders, we may find that even if the idea is suited for recipients, it may not be viable for some other (business?) reason; and when ideas are not developed through iteration or visual brainstorming, they may wind up rejected despite being only couple of iterations away from being drastically improved.
Brainstorming helps us ideate in an environment where it is acceptable (if not recommended) to make mistakes, learn from them, iterate over new versions of them and hopefully wind up with a user-centric solution that also makes business sense.
How to Brainstorm Visually
A terrific way of brainstorming visually is to use what are called mood boards, a timeless concept favored by visual designers of all specialties; architects, branding experts, animators, filmmakers, character designers, interior designers, user interface designers, and of course, graphic designers.
What Is a Mood Board?
A mood board is a sized canvas used to explore colors, imagery, fonts, and even words in an effort to explore various visual ideas and concepts that will eventually become a design.In this article we’ll focus on graphic design and the way (digital) mood boards like Ledavio, which has an unlimited canvas, can be used to explore and showcase ideas.
Graphic Design Inspiration
A decent way to kick off a mood board is to look for design inspiration; meaning, visual examples of other designs that communicate a similar message to ours, or at the very least, display visual traits that we might want to incorporate into our own design.
Sometimes, we might find that the best inspiration comes from unexpected places. For example, if we were designing a corporate annual report, the opportunity to make it more engaging without coming across as immature could arise from, say, a children’s book or surfer magazine. To truly innovate creative solutions, we must go beyond near-carbon copies of what we are trying to design.
Here are some of the best sources that designers often refer to when looking for graphic design inspiration:
- From Up North
- Creative Boom
- Designspiration (includes color search)
To copy an image from the web into a Ledavio mood board, simply right-click on the image and choose “Copy Image”, then switch to Ledavio and hit cmd+V or Ctrl+V depending on your OS.
Alternatively, you can use the Ledavio Image Importer for Chrome or Ledavio Image Importer for Safari.
Despite there being a massive abundance of curated design collections on the web, the best designers also find inspiration from unlikely sources by looking outside of their comfort zone. Consider looking beyond the screen more often, and observing what you like (or don’t like) in the world around you; for example, the interior design of the coffee shop you sit in every day, the architecture you see when you’re walking down the street, or maybe even the wall graffiti in your neighbourhood.
Inspiration for a graphic design project doesn’t necessarily have to come from graphic design — it can come from anywhere. As you begin to adopt the habit of observing, you may find yourself taking different walking routes, visiting new cafés and coffee shops, and generally, becoming more and more inspired by the things around you, which’ll boost your creativity massively.
To upload a local image into Ledavio, simply click the image upload icon at the very top of the left-hand-side toolbar.
Regardless of whether the examples come from a real-life or digital source, it’s very important to showcase only the aspects of the inspiration we’re actually inspired by, otherwise we run the risk of our mood boards looking a tad convoluted. For this reason, we might want to crop out the aspects of the examples that don’t align with the message we’re trying to communicate.
To crop an image in Ledavio, hold the alt key while dragging the corners of the image. Easy!
Should you happen to know exactly what you are looking for, Ledavio also integrates with a huge variety of free stock photo sites, including Google Images, Flickr, Pixabay, Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Depositphotos, the critically-acclaimed Pexels, and even Adobe Stock, making it easy to compile visuals and convey emotions in an effort to effortlessly capture a certain mood. Just click the image upload icon again (at the top of the left-hand-side toolbar), but this time type what ever you are looking for into the search bar. The “Mix search results” will jumble the results (as opposed to showing results from one source at a time), and “Filter images by color” will restrict results to only those images which near-enough resemble the chosen color.
Once you have found what you are looking for, click on the image to add it to the mood board to further reinforce the mood.
Holistically, colors are often what we notice first, as facial-expressions, words, and even imagery requires more cognitive thinking in order to understand their intended meaning. We know that red colors can mean luck or passion (among many other meanings) depending on the context or culture, but we also know that red can induce feelings of anger — what we know about color theory can heavily determine what customers and users think when they interact with our designs.
Experimenting with color is important if we want our audience to think and feel a certain way, which may be a necessary step in the customer journey if they’re to convert to using our product.
Color Scheme Inspiration
Luckily, as with design inspiration, there’s no shortage of color scheme inspiration available on the web. These are the top five web apps (in our opinion) for mixing colors and finding color inspiration:
- Adobe Color CC
- Colorsafe (for accessible colors)
Coolors is especially useful for extracting colors from an image and using them in a mood board. Here’s a quick coolors tutorial on how to do that:
- Click “Pick colors from image” (i.e. the camera icon)
- Upload the image you’d like to extract colors from (or otherwise link to the image if the image is online)
- Follow the on-screen options to confirm the colors
- Click “Export” and choose “PNG” as the file format
- Finally, copy the export from browser to mood board!
And of course, a visual aesthetic would not be complete without typography! Ledavio integrates Google fonts and soon Fonts.com/Monotype as well, so adding and removing fonts to the moodboard is super easy.
Bringing It All Together
What’s just as important as the mood board elements themselves, is how well they complement each other. What happens if we overlay our favorite font choice on top of the main brand color? What if the main brand color were blended into some photography?
Creating a mood board offers a chance to get creative while there are no boundaries stopping us from doing so. Mood boards also ensure that when we’re finally ready to begin designing our corporate design, advertisement, leaflet, flyer, or any other kind of graphic design, we have many different directions that we can take it!