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Mind-map showing a wide range of nonhierarchic...

Mind-map showing a wide range of nonhierarchical relationships (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

September is almost over and I just found out it is National Mind Mapping Month. If you are not familiar with mind mapping it is a diagram used to visually outline information. Mind mapping was first popularized by psychology author Tony Buzan on his BBC TV series called Use Your Head.

I use Mind Mapping to take an idea and see what other ideas I can get from it or how I can expand it. Sometimes you can come up with a different solution than the one you had before you started.

Buzan suggests the following guidelines for creating mind maps:

  1. Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at least 3 colors.
  2. Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your mind map.
  3. Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
  4. Each word/image is best alone and sitting on its own line.
  5. The lines should be connected, starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic and thinner as they radiate out from the centre.
  6. Make the lines the same length as the word/image they support.
  7. Use multiple colors throughout the mind map, for visual stimulation and also to encode or group.
  8. Develop your own personal style of mind mapping.
  9. Use emphasis and show associations in your mind map.
  10. Keep the mind map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embrace your branches.
  11. This list is itself more concise than a prose version of the same information and the mind map of these guidelines is itself intended to be more memorable and quicker to scan than either the prose or the list.

I use mind maps in a couple of different ways. One way is for organization. If I am working on a website I start with the url as my main center image. From that I will draw to pages I think might be needed such as an About Us page. From that I could branch off to staff, then bios, then contact info, etc. Since this getting out of control I find that I can move content to other pages or create new pages. I can also see how these pages and subpages can work together. You can use an outline to do the same thing but for me I come up with ideas much faster and I am not so structured about it.

There are many tools you can mind map with. On the Mac I use Mindjet Mindmanager. Another option is NovaMind. There are plenty of options on the PC as well and online. You can also find mind manager tools on smart phones and the iPad. I mentioned that mind mapping and outlining can be used to do the same thing and most programs use opml so you can transfer your mind map into an outline form

The best way to create mind maps is using a whiteboard and a set of colored markers. This gives you the option to create quickly, moving ideas from you head out your arm and onto the board. I have always been a fan of the white board. I will usually take a picture of the final mind map to save for further reference or to move to Mindjet Mindmanager.

Happy Mind Mapping Month, I hope your month has been a productive one.

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Shawn Wright
Shawn Wright is a graphic designer and podcaster living in Birmingham, Alabama. You can find his design work at shawnwright.net. You can find his podcasts, Alabama Short Stories at alabamashortstories.com and the Shades Cahaba Oral History Project podcast at shadescahabahistory.com. His designs are for sale at TeePublic.com, Redbubble.com and Society6.com.
Shawn Wright
Shawn Wright

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