A mind map is a graphical organization of ideas and concepts that can be used to facilitate the generation of ideas and the learning process. The reason why this has been argued to be more effective than the traditional method of learning (e.g. rote learning, linear text reading, etc) is because such structuring of ideas and concepts resembles the way our brain works – i.e. via links or associations.
Mind mapping is done by connecting one idea to another with the aid of colors and images to tap both sides of our brains. When that happens, creativity gets a boost without compromising our sense of logic.
If you’re thinking of how you can start adopting mind mapping in your learning or brainstorming needs, check out these 43 great examples of how mind maps can be made. The variety of these examples only goes to show that there’s no one right way to create a mind map. It all depends onyour preferences and the topic of choice.
How to create a mind map
Step one: Starting out
Creative mind mapping should be fun – so you’ll need a large sheet of plain paper and some coloured pens. You’ll also need some quiet space, so turn off the iPhone, MSN and email as well.
Turn the page so it’s in landscape orientation, and then in the centre of the paper draw an image that represents your creative problem. This could be anything related to a client brief, for example, such as a product or target audience, or a good question or idea.
Think about what you want to achieve, and precisely define it. Next, clearly label the image, such as ‘Christmas’ to sum up creating a seasonal project for a client. While this is the goal, it’s OK for your brain to wander as you work on the mind map, as long as you capture your thoughts.
The point of placing the image and label in the centre of the paper is so that you have freedom to spread your thoughts out in all directions – which is more aligned to how your brain processes thoughts.
Step two: Spread your wings
Now get busy with the coloured pens, and create thick branches that stem out from the central picture and label. Each branch will become a main stream for certain types of thoughts.
There are no limits here, but mind maps traditionally comprise five to seven branches. On each branch, clearly label in capitals your main thoughts with a single word. These thoughts should come from key questions. In the case of a creative project these could be: ‘Who is this aimed at?’, ‘What visuals will be needed?’ and so on.
You may decide the label these coloured branches ‘Audience’ and ‘Elements’, for example. Make your mind map as visual as possible: make sure you use different colours, as these excite the brain and create more stimulating thinking.
You can also doodle or add reference images to the mind map as you need to – often these are more evocative than just writing the words. This will also help you develop the project’s overall feel.
Step three: Associative thinking
The next stage is to begin to expand your mind map. Start by exploring the main keyword branches, and then start to clearly write more key words that spin off from the main branch. Each becomes a sub-branch, and you can create as many sub-branches (and sub-sub-branches) that you need.
So your main branch labelled ‘Elements’ could produce sub-branches labelled ‘Festive’, ‘Red’, ‘Santa’ and so on. Keep following each sub-branch, producing new ideas that are related to the Festive branch, for example. So this branch could give rise to ‘Gifts’, ‘Holly’, and so on.
Step four: Putting it together
The final stage is to begin to link elements together, and to continue branching out ideas. When you’ve exhausted your idea bank, use coloured pens to start joining ideas together. These are used to form associations that wouldn’t have been possible if you’d relied on linear notes. Use this stage to spot new ideas or novel concepts that can kickstart your creative project.
Step five: Sharing ideas
Mind maps are great for solo brainstorming – many writers use them to develop stories and characters – but they are especially good in team environments or for groups of designers working long-distance. If a design team is working on a project from several different locations, each can create a mind map and share it when they’re finished done. This allows you to rapidly spot common ideas and themes, as well as quickly identify new thoughts rapidly, and then agree to develop them further. Always file your mind maps – they can provide a quick jump-off point for new thinking and a quick visual aid to recall your initial thoughts for a brief.
More examples of mind maps: