Image boards

A powerful way of understanding some of the 'soft' elements of the design mix and of specifying the stylistic and usage elements of a product. Good for team building and encouraging creativity. An especially powerful way of generating and communicating understanding about who the product is targeted at and a helps when briefing external designers.

Product styling is primarily a visual quality and it is thus useful to use visual media to represent these aspects. Collections of images can be used in a number of different ways, to represent types of user, visual values, technologies, product usage and usage scenarios. Together, these different representations can provide strong clues as to the way in which a product could be styled. A typical board should contain between 10 and 20 carefully chosen images.


Four types of image board


1. Lifestyle board

Images representing the target customers or the lifestyles of the target customers. The images should indicate the target customer's personal and social values and cultural trends. The lifestyle board will be 'idealistic' in its portrayal of customers and helps to explore the full range of target customers.


2. Mood board

Often derived from the lifestyle board, the mood board aims to capture the 'values' of the product which will appeal to the previously identified customer types and helps to build a common view of the styling objectives. The mood of a product is the sentiment, feeling or emotion which the product engenders when first seen - for example, soft and comforting, hard and rugged, business like or frivolous. Images of products which are similar in either form or function to the proposed new product should be avoided.


3. Styling board (or theme board

Having established the visual values, the styling board presents images of products or product features which convey the intended mood. These products should be from a diverse range of markets and have different functions.


4. Usage board

A usage board represents products which are used in a similar way or which utilise similar technology to the product proposal. This could enable the place or means of use to be explored and a good way of removing preconceived ideas about the product form.



  • Requires preparation to collect magazines and images which could be used in the boards
  • Requires some facilitation to prevent irrelevant, inappropriate and unnecessary images from being used
  • The aim is not to fill the page at all costs, but to find appropriate and useful images
  • A good team building exercise at the start of a project

For more information, please contact:

James Moultrie


T:  +44 1223 764830

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