If you’ve experimented in design of any kind, you probably know about mood boards. They’re a collection or collage of photos, words, colors and other objects that express your ideas during a project. In the agency setting, they can give clients a preview of your vision and bring the creative into focus. But there’s a secret about mood boards: you can also use them to enhance your writing.

Similar to their use in design, mood boards clarify your vision for any form of writing. They can serve as inspiration for pitches, copywriting, editorial pieces and more. When you’re stuck or think you’re moving in the wrong direction, they act as a creative guide to ensure you’re remaining on track. This visual idea map forces you to zero-in on what you’re trying to communicate and produce something cohesive and meaningful.

There’s no one-size-fits-all guide for mood boards, but there are a few important things to consider as you begin the process of putting yours together.

  • Physical or digital?

When it comes to making mood boards, you can create a physical or digital version. Thanks to apps and sites like Pinterest, Moodboard and Sampleboard, it’s easy to build an inspiring mood board solely from online content. If you’re a visual or experiential learner, making a physical version could be more effective. If you don’t have time to collect physical objects or you’re sharing this with a team, making a digital version could be more efficient.

  • Who are you talking to?

Whether you are writing for a person or a brand, illustrate your target audience through your mood board. Understanding your audience is crucial for any piece of writing to be effective, so include photos of your target demographic as well as anything that would express their mindset. Use this as an opportunity to show that you know how your audience should connect to your piece.

  • What is your style?

Knowing your target audience is a good way to gauge your style for any form of writing. Continue to draw from their interests and attitudes to complete your mood board, and don’t limit yourself. Think about what language you want to use, and go beyond using pictures and visual elements to convey it. Include words, sample language, headlines and quotes to express the language you will use.

  • Are you staying consistent?

Although it’s important to gather anything that could be helpful to you during the writing process, it’s even more important to edit your collection. You must remain consistent with your story to ensure your mood board is effective. As you add visuals and words, constantly ask yourself, “Does this communicate my idea?” and “Would my target audience connect with this?”

The more you turn the process of creating your mood board into an authentic experience, the more effective it will be. Dig through old magazines at a secondhand bookstore, or sift through publications your target audience enjoys. Don’t limit yourself. Once you’re done visually mapping out this representation of your ideas, show your mood board to others and see if it sparks the same thoughts for them. If it passes this test, hang it in your writing space to guarantee you’re regularly inspired throughout your project.