How To Go Visual With Your Ideas On The Microsoft Research Mood Board

Saikat Basu 27-12-2013

One wouldn’t expect a tool as basic as a mood board to come out of Redmond’s multi-million dollar research labs. The Microsoft Research Mood Board (v1.3) probably grew from the potential that rests in visual communication. If you are not a designer or a visual communicator in any sense, then the concept of a ‘mood board’ is probably alien. But the joyful art of pasting together images and colorful text into collages shouldn’t be.


A mood board is a collage of images, color samples, sketches, pasted items or text meant to communicate an idea visually. They are used across disciplines like web design, visual design, rapid prototyping, fashion, storyboarding, interior decoration, to name a few. You can also use them for personal growth – for instance, as a vision board to support your bucket list 100 Things to Do Before I Die: 6 Sites To Create Your Own List Read More .

The Benefits of Using a Mood Board

A mood board is a useful tool to convey an idea visually. If you are big on using brainstorming 5 Different Ways to Generate Ideas Using Brainstorming Apps Read More , then a mood board could serve as a starting off point by displaying the elements that are part of your idea. Here are four of its more explicit benefits:

  • If done right, it is the perfect catalyst for a successful pitch.
  • It allows others to feel the creative mind-mashing that’s going on inside your head.
  • It helps you iron out mistakes and interpretations early in the decision process; thus also saving time.
  • Unlike other prototyping tools, a mood board is quicker to create, and easily disposable.

But a good mood board is a creative exercise in its own right. The first step, as they say, is always the hardest. The Microsoft Research Mood Board could help make it easier as it combines image search, image collection, and sketching to support your ideas.

The Simplicity of the Microsoft Research Mood Board


Mood boards are generally very simple devices and Microsoft’s own tool sticks to that principle. It is a 5.29 MB free download from the research lab for Windows 7 (32 & 64 bit) and Windows 8 (32 & 64 bit).  Once you have gone through the license agreement (non-commercial use only) and the install, here’s how the simple interface appears:


Microsoft Research Mood Board
The vanilla-plain interface carries a search bar at the top. Microsoft Research Mood Board helps you tap into Bing Search, Flickr, Deviant Art, and Getty Images for image resources. You can use a single keyword or type in multiple keywords in one go for your searches.

Microsoft Research Mood Board

Image thumbnails can be brought on to the main canvas with a click after they are displayed in the search results. You can easily drag and drop images from the desktop to include in your mood board. Collapse the mood board to access any other document on your desktop.

Microsoft Research Mood Board


Click the arrow at the bottom of the window to open the canvas. The canvas presents a few basic tools to help you work on your collage. The use of the tools is self-explanatory.

  •  Text it up neatly with the Textbox tool. You can change the color, but there’s no option to change the font.
  • You can use the pen tool in combination with the color palette to sketch your ideas on the canvas or annotate the images.
  • You can create multiple pages for your mood board and scroll through them with the arrows. Using the arrow keys on your keyboard is not supported.
  • Export your mood boards as images. The page on display is saved as a JPEG file.

Mood Boards Are Quick, Simple, and Fun

There are many easily accessible tools to create mood boards. In fact, you can also put it down as a creative use of PowerPoint 5 Creative Uses Of PowerPoint Presentations You Haven't Explored Yet Microsoft PowerPoint can do much more than boring presentations. It’s PowerPoint 2013’s time now and the search for creative and uncommon uses of PowerPoint continues. Here are five. Read More . Online alternatives like Olioboard, Moodshare, and Murally (freemium) give you a few more online options. Microsoft Research Mood Board is the simplest solution I have come across and, being a software, it gives you more control on your side of the creative process.

This is a Microsoft Research project, so there’s a chance of not seeing many iterations beyond this one. For now, it fulfills its function well enough. Are you a creative? Do you use mood boards to sketch your ideas? Try out Microsoft Research Mood Board and tell us if it ticks most of the boxes for you.

Image Credit: Pixabay


Related topics: Presentations, Visualizations.

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  1. Kevin
    December 30, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Great article. Disappointing product. The lack of font selection seems like a fundamental flaw for a "design" tool such as this. Also, "download & install" is oldschool. This could easily have been a cloud-hosted app, and would have been much more conducive to collaborative work and distributed access. I wish I had time to roll my own. I wouldn't expect it to be too hard, and I think it is a VERY promising niche, with wide-ranging applications (beyond just graphic design): storyboarding, collaborative research, architectural design (including interior and landscape), etc etc. The name of the product is unfortunate: "Mood Board" is catchy but not accurately descriptive. It brought something very different to mind when I read the headline to this article. (I assumed it had something to do with sentiment/affective data mining research).

  2. anon
    December 30, 2013 at 8:31 am

    even installs and runs on an old xp machine !

  3. Jamil A
    December 28, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Nice article. Thanks for uploading

  4. Lysanser Peirce
    December 28, 2013 at 3:58 am

    This has to go down as one of the most useful articles to come out of MakeUseOf. More like this please!!

    Downloaded the software and gave it a spin. Pretty easy and intuitive to use. Great UI (User Interface). Simple compact, clean and fast. Not a lot of features but it does the job it says it will do. Easy export to JPEG and generally fun to use and you sure can't complain about the price.

    Like anything else like this I am always a bit skeptical because, as we all know, there's no such thing as a free lunch. I have to wonder what Microsoft's motive is here and what info they collect through the software use.

    • Saikat B
      December 28, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      Thanks. It really is simple and useful, and that's what appealed to me.