Inspiration Boards and Sample Boards

Students often ask me about the difference between an inspiration board and a sample board. This is understandable given that, as a beginner, the terms are unfamiliar and quite similar. However, the difference is quite key as they each play a role at different stages of the design cycle. Both boards are essential in communicating design information to the client.


Inspiration boards

Inspiration boards - sometimes called mood boards – are used in the initial “inspiration” part of the design cycle. They are a tool for visualising your ideas for a space. You can manifest your ideas as images and use them as a means of narrowing down the final design proposal. An inspiration board would convey the feel of the design as opposed to specific elements.

After brainstorming, sketching the space and coming up with a basic idea, you can begin to compile an inspiration board. In your assignments, you will be asked to create an inspiration board once you’ve done a site survey and received your client’s brief. The inspiration board allows you to take these two things into account and begin to come up with your design ideas.

Elements of an inspiration board could include: colour palette, interesting textures or some other elements that captured your attention, anything from photographs to famous designers’ work, accessories, etc.


A interior design ketching a bench and chair, with colour pallete next to them to choose the perfect colour.


Sample boards

Sample boards are a tool used to show the client actual “samples” i.e. which specific items will go into the space. This board comes in the later “presentation” stage of the design cycle.

At this point, you should have a clear idea of what your design consists of – specific furniture items, a determined colour palette and actual samples of your wall/floor coverings. This last part is quite essential. Having actual samples on your sample board is standard practice, as it allows your client to see and feel the material in relation to the rest of the design. 

Sample boards are vital in the presentation stage as they are the method by which you communicate your final design proposal to your client. As such, a well presented sample board can make or break your design. It shows the client your commitment to a project.


The differences in brief

  • The inspiration board is used to capture different design ideas
  • The sample board is a way to present your final design, especially the key elements.

Both boards are equally important and understanding the distinction between them is vital to both your coursework and professional career.


Why not trying using inspiration boards and sample boards in your design cycle and let us know how you get on.

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Written by: Kceniya Manaeva

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