why inspiration boards are awesome

pastel and neon color story

So I’ve been writing this event design and styling column for a few weeks now and it suddenly occurred to me that I should write about inspiration boards (where was I on that? Seriously, it should have been the first post I wrote!). As you might have read last week, I put together some course material all about wedding inspiration boards for WEI. But something you might not know (unless you’re taking the course) is that I spent the first ten minutes of the video I created for them blabbing on about why you need inspiration boards in your life and why they are so important for creatives.

If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking that they are just another time sink, post-filler, ‘pretty picture woo-woo fru-fru hippy hocus pocus’ (yes, I’ve actually heard that before) then I challenge you to stay with me here and see how you feel about them after reading this.

Inspiration boards are not just collections of images and things – they are curated with a specific purpose in mind and they come in every imaginable shape, size, and medium. The terms you’ll most commonly hear in reference to them are inspiration board and mood board. And yep – there is a difference between the two.

A mood board does what it sounds like it does. It sets the mood. Clean and modern, soft and romantic, summertime fun… dark or light. Blogger and graphic designer Shauna Haider (aka Nubby Twiglet & whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting) creates some of my favorite ‘real life’ mood boards. They are physical, graphic, and the ones I love most always seem to include a pair of her shoes.

orange mood board Citrus & Sunshine mood board by Shauna Hiader // see more of her mood boards here

A mood board will influence what goes into an inspiration board. The big difference is that inspiration boards have more specific elements that will show up in the resulting product or event. That’s what I do a lot of here on this blog – wedding inspiration boards. While they all have a definite mood, they also have specific event-related details, colors, and elements that are easily translatable to your wedding.

Here’s a handy way to think about the difference between mood boards and inspiration boards:

Mood Boards = feeling, conceptualized, psychological.

Inspiration Boards = details, colors, textures, specifics.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! These neat little collages also come as storyboards, idea boards, branding boards, and color stories…I probably shouldn’t have said ‘little’ because there is no defined shape or size for mood and inspiration boards. You can have them anywhere you feel like you need a little jolt of creativity: right above your desk, or bigger like the picture below of the eternally cool NYC stylist Linda Rodin next to her door-sized inspiration board.

inspiration baordsworkspace inspiration board from Paper Crowns // Linda Rodin photographed by Dan McMahon for Refinery 29

 A color story is a collection of images that share the same color or combinations of colors. They can but don’t have to relate to each other in any way other than that, while storyboards differ in that they have some sort of chronological and sensical order to the image placement. Branding boards are used to come up with colors, textures, and graphic elements for businesses and brands, and idea boards are a collection of things that spark your imagination and give you ideas.

pink, blue, and charcoal color story

Obviously I think that inspiration and mood boards are fabulous in and of themselves, but they also serve an important purpose in the creative process. I often find myself thinking of this quote by Len Kenall, the founder and CEO of Centup:

“Often the biggest favor you can provide your ‘creative’ colleagues is constraints. Asking someone to interpret a vision in your mind is impossibly difficult and can lead to disappointment from one side, and guilt on the other. Share as many specifications as you can upfront. Some may be unrealistic, some may be wrong, but sharing the constraints you believe to be important will help reduce the time and frustration that often goes into turning an idea into tangible output.”

mood boards in design grey and yellow inspiration wall by Lisanne // April idea board by Sarah Tolzmann

Well said, don’t you think? If you’re a bride one of the first steps in your wedding planning process is deciding what color palette you’re going to go with and looking through mood and inspiration boards is a great way to go about doing this. Once you’ve found or made an inspiration board that is totally “you”, you can share it with your wedding vendors. It will serve as a keystone and reference point that you and your wedding team can keep coming back to as you plan all the details of your wedding.

Why can’t you just tell them what you want? Well, different words mean different things to different people. For instance: If I’m styling your wedding and you tell me that you want a romantic, intimate wedding – my idea of romantic and intimate will look like the inspiration board that I posted earlier today. But would that be what you had in mind? Sharing inspiration boards throughout the creative process will keep unwanted surprises from happening further along the line. That’s why wedding industry pros use inspiration boards all the time. They show them to clients, they use them to showcase their own work, and they create them to give potential brides an idea of their style and aesthetics.

In fact, creatives the world over use them for this very reason. I’m personally drawn to graphic design so I stalk a lot of graphic designers online and I adore their inspiration boards for branding projects. I’m always fascinated to see a collage turn into a neat logo and branding elements and it ALWAYS reminds me of the inspiration board that they came up with first. But it’s not just graphic designers who use and create them – it’s also interior designers, architects, fashion designers and everyone in-between!

branding-boardsfirst branding inspiration board called ‘modern geometrics’ by Breanna Rose  // second branding board by Jordan Brantley of Create Like Crazy (side note: see the multi-talented Jordan model in this shoot we’ve featured!)

So…. what do you think of these neatly packaged visions now? Useful, right?!


photo credits for color stories: neon + pastels: interior from Moody’s Home // bride and groom from Ruffled, photographed by Sun and Sparrow Photography // pink, blue, and charcoal: cake by Amelia House // Lily Collins for LA Times Magazine //

About Sara Burnett

Editor of Burnett's Boards, which she founded to showcase global creativity in the wedding industry. Sara currently lives out of a suitcase while island hopping the Caribbean and beyond. Learn More // Follow on Instagram.


  1. Great post, Sara! Your explanation of the subtle differences between inspiration boards and mood boards is spot on. I’m majorly guilty of mislabeling my inspiration boards! Anyway, you’re totally not overstating how helpful they are. It’s true: Pictures are just so much more concrete than words, which can be open to a million different interpretations. Real-life mood boards and inspiration boards are my favorite. I totally want Linda Rodin’s door/office/life…and her silver poodle, Winky!

  2. Sara, I agree that inspiration boards are important and HATE it when wedding bloggers treat them like the a stepchild at the family reunion. Like creating one is “beneath” them. Inspiration boards are wonderful and yours, in particular, are stunning.

  3. It’s actually a geographic thing, too! Apparently in England, it’s only really “mood boards.” I didn’t even know the term until I had helped a designer plan an event over there (Melissa Love creates beautiful mood boards for her design clients!)! 🙂 Love the visuals and explanations you gave!

  4. Thanks Sara- I’m learning a serious amount every time I stop by here!

  5. Very interesting post indeed – love the different mood and inspiration board examples.

  6. Yes we definitely hear you! Great post and great inspiration along with it!

  7. Hi Sara! Catching up on my blogs and I had this one earmarked mentally to read. I am so glad that you explained this so well. It’s often hard to explain this to a client and I’m thanking you for doing such a great job explaining it…even to the pros we work with all day…it helps! Thank you so much!

  8. Thank you for explaining the difference between a mood and inspiration board! I’m working on a collage of images for a lookbook I hope to design for and publish within the next few months.



  1. […] ♥ Have you ever wondered what the purpose of a mood board is? This post on Burnetts Boards is full of reasons why inspiration boards are awesome! […]