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Mind Mapping…

Thinking Outside The Box graphic


Is a powerful creative brainstorming technique used to draw out and combine different streams of thought in order to find an “out of the box” creative concept before the design process ever begins. The mind mapping technique was pioneered in the 1960s by Tony Buzan, and is now used by millions of people to create, using their minds more effectively.

The Process

The process usually only requires a sheet of paper and something to write with. It involves drawing or writing your main idea or problem that you’re solving for in the center of the paper, then writing any ideas that the main idea brings to mind near the main idea on the paper, drawing lines to show the connection between the 2 ideas. Next, write another word or idea that you derive from the 2nd word and draw a line between those 2 words or ideas.

You continue this process until you decide to stop. Maybe you set a specific time limit, maybe you stop once you fill x-amount of square inches on the page, or maybe you just know it’s finished when you or your team have reached a certain word-count limit. The point is to let the ideas flow, writing down every different direction that your mind will allow. Don’t stick to any parameters or limit your output. This is time to be as different, silly, metaphoric, and “against the grain” as you can be. The result should be a web of ideas and possible directions to pull from when developing the final creative concept.

Here’s a good example from TonyBuzan.com
Mind Map example with colorful branches

There Are No Bad Ideas

When creating a mind map or working with a team to create one, there are a few basic rules to follow:

  • Do not shut down creative pathways by objecting to ideas. All ideas are good ideas. Write them all down.
  • Use colors when possible to further stimulate the brains creative center.
  • Do not micro-manage the creative process, instead, encourage involvement from all team members.
  • Have a goal. Set the stopping point, then stick to it. Review the results and if more mind mapping needs to be done, come back to it after a pre-determined break period.
  • Use emphasis and hierarchy to show the connections in your mind map.
  • Enjoy the journey!

After Mind Mapping

Once the mind map is complete, a good practice is to review it and see which ideas stand out the most as possible creative avenues. Write down the biggest stand outs on a separate sheet, and use that list to work out any concepts that may reveal themselves to you.

Check out this short video titled “How to Draw Mind Maps”:

Why Use Them?

When I was first introduced to this concept, I immediately wanted to practice it and share the technique with others. Before I knew it, my family and I were mind mapping to get ideas to come up with themes for family gatherings, to ideate for company branding for our relative’s small business start-ups, and even using them for snack and meal ideas when we felt like making the process more fun.

Mind maps really are a great and useful tool for getting the most out of your creative brainstorming sessions. I recommend giving them a try when you need to find your next concept or map your next big idea.