The first thing to do after learning about what mind maps are is to start building one yourself. It won’t be effective if you just jam in information, and you should know how to properly create a mind map so you can get the best results possible.
In this article, we will run through how to create a mind map and break down each step so you can easily build one yourself.
If you’re new to mind mapping, here’s a brief definition from our comprehensive guide: A mind map is a simple visual tool that helps organize ideas in an easily understandable, sequential structure. It can be used to capture different ideas and display their relationship while organizing them in a way that doesn’t clutter and disorient the brain.
Mind maps are most commonly used when taking notes, problem-solving, or breaking down a complicated concept. They’re helpful in these scenarios because they create a structure that diagrams complex relationships in a way that makes the information very accessible.
Now that we have an idea of what mind maps are and why they’re used, here is our overview of how to create a mind map.
The mind map begins by ideating a central element that the rest of the map will follow. This central element is critical to the rest of the mind map and should be a large umbrella to accommodate as many detailed branches as possible.
Mind maps are documents that expand outward so the central element will be the core idea that you base the rest of your map on.
You can make a mindmap from almost any piece of information, but if you need somewhere to begin try thinking about a problem that you’re hoping to solve, a complex subject that you want to break down, or a long list of notes that you want to organize.
Thinking about these topics can be helpful if you’re not sure where to start and can provide a foundation for a great mind map.
Another great place to use a mind map is a brainstorming session with your team, and in this case, you’ll place the macro-level project at the center and your team will begin making contributions that branch outward. These will eventually branch into specific tasks or solutions that they can accomplish to move the project forward.
For example, if you’re creating a mind map trying to determine what Halloween costume to wear, the central element will be Halloween costumes. This is what the whole map revolves around and it leaves plenty of room to interpret other types of costumes later on.
First Level Associations
The next step when you create a mind map is building the first level of associations. These associations will be the most basic subtopics that relate to the main concept and will begin to organize the information within the mind map.
The first level associations are critical to the integrity of the mind map and will demonstrate the direction that you want to take it. While these associations should provide direction for your map, they should also be large buckets to establish the differences between each path.
Having large buckets of ideas provides ample room for interpretation which lets you take your mind map in many different directions.
In our example of Halloween costumes, the first level associations could be funny costumes, scary costumes, and character costumes. These are all buckets that help narrow the focus of which costume to wear and allow for further expansion of different specific costumes.
After you develop multiple first-level associations, you can begin going down the branches to create more associations down the line. These will be second, third, and fourth level associations and will continue as you keep developing your map.
The new associations that you create will increasingly narrow the focus of the map, so as you create them think about how they relate back to the central element you began the map with. These further associations will go until you run out of valuable connections to make between ideas.
Additionally, you don’t want to go into detail too quickly because then you don’t have anywhere else to go and the tiers of your map might not correlate with each other. To avoid this, make sure you’re creating levels of equal importance and relevance as you move down the map instead of scattering information as you go.
Going back to our Halloween example, we made sure to keep the types of costume in the same tier rather than putting scary costumes and a PB & J costume in the same tier, because they have completely different scopes. As the example proceeds, you can begin placing individual costume ideas under their related buckets.
Integrate Unique Design Elements
The last thing that you need to do to create a mind map is to integrate unique design elements. This is not necessarily the last step in the process and it can be done throughout, but it might be helpful to have all of your information mapped out before you begin creating design differences between different branches.
These design differences could look like different colors of each line, different highlights around the elements, different text weights, or even images to represent items.
When using images it can be good to think about how you could integrate design thinking into your map and boost people’s ability to comprehend information even further.
Unique design elements don’t only serve a visual purpose, but they also help denote the different paths that your mind map takes and how the information is different. By creating visual distinctions you build another layer of information into the mind map and create another level of organization for your thoughts.
Rearrange Your Map Easily
The last point to remember when you create a mind map is the fact that you can easily rearrange the elements on the map at any time.
Mind maps are incredibly flexible templates that can be manipulated easily to reflect changes in the information structure.
Rearranging the map is important to do when questioning how relevant your associations are, and possibly even moving them to different buckets.
This shows that mind maps are a very flexible structure that can be manipulated with great efficacy to reflect the accurate state of relationships within your information set.
Whether you’re using them for organization or analysis, mind maps are a great tool to expand your knowledge of complex concepts and relationships. Hopefully, this guide was helpful, and if you want to learn more about other applications of online whiteboards, check out our recent post on the TryMyUI blog about online whiteboards and user experience.