This article will explain the different elements of a mind map as well as different techniques and ways of putting one together. This will draw out some of the most basic ideas surrounding the purposes of mind maps and hopefully give you some idea on how to create your own mind maps in the future. The distinctions between mind maps and mind mapping will be made clear as well.

Elements of a Mind Map

The elements of a mind map are actually quite simple. There is always a core central node which depicts and image, a topic, or a central idea. Here it will be referred to as the ‘Central Topic’. Stemming from the central topic are usually various branches which lead to other nodes or topics. These branches are usually represented with ‘relationship arrows’ leading to the other topics. To make things simple to explain, the first tier of nodes coming off of the central topic will be referred herein as ‘main topics’ and each of the following groups of nodes will be referred to as ‘subtopics’. Each of these branches can lead into multiple main topics and subtopics. Furthermore, there is never more than one central topic, as this would call for the creation of another mind map.

There are relationships between the central topic and each of the main topics, just like there are relationships between each of the main topics and the following sub-topics. All of the main topics, in essence, should define the main topic. In other words, if you added them together, each of the main topics should describe the central topic in full. At the very least, the main topics should be put together in such a way that you would be able to tell what the central topic is just by reading the main topics. The same can be said about subtopics in relation to main topics.

mind mapping photo

Things that are closely related should be clustered together under a main topic. So, you might have multiple subtopics that make up a main topic. A very real-world example will be used to demonstrate this:

Walt Disney used a variety of mind maps to communicate his ideas to others. So, say for example that he was trying to communicate his vision for Disney. Therefore, ‘Disney’ would be the central topic, and the main topics branching out from there would be ‘Disneyland’, ‘Disney TV’, and ‘Merchandising’. Branched from the ‘Disneyland’ main topic would be a cluster of subtopics which would include ‘Frontier Land’, ‘Adventure Land’, and ‘Tomorrow Land’.

It is obvious how this would work great for planning purposes. This is how Walt was able to oversee everything from books, comic books, and other publications, to the rest of his merchandise, to the theme parks, to the licensing, to the music, to the movies, etc. By using mind maps he was able to oversee a very complex system in a much simpler manner, which allowed his business to become one of the most successful in the world.

Hand-Drawn vs. Computerized Mind Maps

You don’t need to use a sophisticated computer program to create a mind map. You can draw one out very quickly on a standard sheet of paper. Obviously, it is much quicker, easier, and cheaper to make your mind maps in this manner. On the other hand, there has been an explosion in the number of computerized mind mapping tools available because they have been found to be so useful.

Computerized mind maps offer more flexibility because you can drag and drop different topics and subtopics and reorganize them as much as you wish. They are also very easy to color code. This allows you to create more than one relationship between the topics and subtopics; this helps you to simplify very complex systems in a clear, easily recognizable manner.

Drawing is not a requirement of either type, but mind map programs make it easier to use pictures to symbolize different topics or points in the mind map. In fact, there is often a plethora of images, illustrations, and graphics that you can utilize. There are also different flowchart-type images that you can use in expressing the relationships between the topics clearly.

basic mind map

If you need a flow chart to carry around, you have the ability to print these out. Therefore, you have both the option of having a digital copy available or you can have a physical copy that you can store or keep on hand to use. That means that if you are on the run to somewhere and won’t have access to your computer, you can print your mind maps out and use them while you are gone. On the other hand, you have a digital copy that you can email to yourself and then you can access it from any computer anywhere.

Most likely, if you start to use mind maps, you will begin sketching them out on paper as you go through your day. However, as you begin using mind mapping software, you will probably gravitate towards your computer more and more since you can make much clearer and creative forms mind maps within this software. Of course, this all will have to do with how you are using your mind maps to begin with as well as what they are being created for.

Different Ways to Put Together Mind Maps

One reason mind maps are so great to use is that they are extremely flexible and you can use them in a great number of different ways. There are lots of different ways that you can put together a mind map. To get you started, there are three basic approaches that you can begin using immediately:

Open & Get Cracking — All you do to get started with this method is put your central topic on the paper, draw a few lines going out to main topics, and then start letting your ideas flow, using any tools that you have at your disposal to build onto it. This is a very basic method, where you begin with an idea and you start building from the ground up. This is one of the best ways to use a mind map to come up with ideas.

Take Notes & Then Mind Map — Another approach is to begin taking notes and gathering all the information that you need, and then formulate a mind map out of the information in the notes, categorizing the information as you do so. Obviously, this method is a little bit more advanced than the previous one as you are starting with a pool of information rather than just diving right in. This would work best for planning things out and communicating your ideas.

Different Levels of Involvement — This method involve the use and reuse of information. It is best to use when there are existing mind maps or requirements for different levels based on different needs. When you use this approach, you may use different templates that are available, or add to old mind maps. This will allow you to take the information that is already there and edit it and adjust it in various ways.

future mind map

The previous techniques allow you to learn the content better and reclassify the information based on new ideas and concepts. You may even have two or more mind maps open at the same time in order to add and combine the best information from the two. It is best to use a computerized program for this type of mind mapping, but you don’t have to.

The Difference between Mind Maps & Mind Mapping

There is a big difference between mind maps and mind mapping that is important to recognize. Mind maps are the actual output. They are the end result of the mind mapping process. Mind maps are generally made up of bits of content such as bits of codes, bits of concepts, or bits of data. These bits of content have been gathered up, organized, and arranged into a hierarchy within the mind map. These bits of content can be in the form of words, numbers, or images. Often, simple shapes or colors will be used to illustrate their relationship.

Not only do you get a better idea of what you are trying to put together by using a mind map, but others do too. With all of your information being broken up in this way, people are usually able to understand the entire concept in a few seconds or minutes. In other words, this is a tremendously effective way to communicate ideas.

Mind-mapping, on the other hand, is a creative process which can help you organize your thoughts and plan ahead. This process allows you to organize your thoughts or expand upon them better, because you are breaking your ideas apart in such a clear manner. It also makes it easier to understand the relationships between the various elements being recognized. The point of the mind-mapping process is to organize information and/or come up with ideas. You can create a mind map for your own personal use, or you can use it to share your ideas or existing data with others in a very simple way.

You can also use mind maps to collaborate with each other. For example, you might start a computerized mind map and email it to a business partner so that they can add to it and send it back to you. For complex systems, this can save a lot of time and energy because you don’t have to worry about discussing every point of what you are working on together. In fact, everything can be worked and re-worked without anyone having to say a word.

The act of mind mapping helps you to retain information. In other words, going through the process of mind mapping will help you to understand and take in the information more easily. Also, because the information is put together visually, and in little bits, it is easy to take it in. Finally, the chunking of the bits of information makes it easy to remember, since chunking is a mnemonic device.

how to create a mind map photo

Mind-mapping is one of the most effective ways to create and expand on your ideas. In other words, the mind mapping process helps new ideas to manifest. The process also helps you to work through your thoughts and emotions, making them tangible and useable. Putting a ‘pen to paper’ in this way not only helps you to retain the information in your memory, but documents it as well.

To reiterate, a mind map is the final output of this process and mind mapping is the actual act of creating and organizing ideas and data. So, one is the result and one is the activity that yields the result. This is an important distinction to understand before moving forward. They both have their purposes, and they both allow you to learn and create in unique ways.