Tech in branding

Evolving the mood board – Midjourney vs Pinterest.

In our new series, Tech in Branding, we’ll be taking a look at how technology is transforming the way brands are built and rolled out. From AI at the creation stage and reviewing the latest collaboration tools, to the assets we equip clients with and the new ways in which brand must flex, we’ll cover it all. In this first piece, our Lead Creative Matt Smith takes us on a journey through AI and mood boards, or should that be a Midjourney. Enjoy.

What is a mood board?

Also known as an inspiration board, a mood board is a collage of existing (or not, I’ll come to that) photography, inspiration, illustrations, colour palettes, textures or descriptive concepts and other objects.

As a designer, they’re a way to communicate ideas you have for a client’s brand and define the direction of a project. Using the client’s Brand Blueprint as a guide, I’ll search online (typically Pinterest) for inspiration and construct a presentation that allows the client to decide which assets align with their brand.

What is Midjourney?

It’s an AI program that can create works of art. You enter keywords around what you’d like it to create, hit return and within seconds it presents you with an image. Midjourney is in its infancy, having been launched on an open beta in July 2022 and with a team of only 8 staff at the time of writing, but what it can do is already very impressive…

…create an android female gaming character with headphones, AI headset, wearing an orange LCD bodysuit.

I’d been playing with Midjourney to create AI art for some time, which got me thinking: if Mj can create imagery quickly and effectively based on my search terms, instead of looking for mood board assets, why don’t me and Fraud Monet (Mj’s AI) just create them! 

So we did.

Adding Midjourney in the mix.

The aim here was to see if Midjourney could help me better represent the ideas I had for a client. This in turn would help us as an agency deliver what we felt was their best brand. One that would light them and power their plans. Essentially, helping us get our idea across, get buy-in right from the mood board, and get cracking.

Pressure’s a privilege, Midjourney! (🙌 Billie Jean King) AI’s don’t feel pressure I suppose.

Picking a random topic, I chose the Olympics.

The concept:

Take the colours from the olympic rings and apply them in a neon effect to the olympic branding, stadium environments and athletes.

First up, Pinterest.

Using my usual go-to source I was only able to find a handful of images that reflected this idea, and it took a long time to find them. This lack of reference material would have the potential to completely void what might be the right direction. Or alternatively, when I presented the mood board to the client, I would have to explain further how the idea would work inside stadiums or create assets myself to illustrate the concept.

Time is a huge cost here, plus you’re relying on the client to understand the concept and visualise it themselves. Not ideal, as you lose control of the concept.

Over to Midjourney.

Contrastingly, Midjourney really came into its own in the stadium environments. And what was really cool was the unexpected and interesting results it produced on the treatment of the Olympic rings. 

Whether it misinterpreted my input, or it just was being uber-creative, it created some unique imagery that would be a great talking point with the client (see the half-buried rings over the walkway).

Getting exactly the type of athlete I wanted was a breeze, and in total each image took between 5-30 minutes to create. Where Mj fell down was the treatment of type, but this can be added manually if required for a more accurate and cohesive look.


And the gold medal goes to…

For concepts and the starting of rough ideas, Mj really excels. It’s developing at a rapid rate and I’m sure before long it will surpass sites like Pinterest and stock image libraries.

That said, Pinterest is still a front-runner if you’re looking for inspiration, and currently leads the way in showcasing typography.

For our client work, I’ll be using both for the time-being. And on the question of whether Mj will make MS obsolete? No time soon. Mj is an exciting way to bring your ideas to life and help create that beautiful moment of buy-in from the client. But it requires those human ideas in the first place, as well as the development of concepts into brand elements, tools and assets that are fit for purpose, brand-aligned and future-proof.

If anything, I’m feeling empowered by AI, not threatened by it.

By Matt Smith



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