Mind Map Basics – Words and Images

By: Ken Robert

Welcome to Part Two of Mind Mapping Basics. In the first installment, we talked about the three basic components of a mind map: central topics, main topics, and subtopics. Today we’re going to talk about the use of words and images in your maps. These are the things that topics are made of.Unlike traditional note taking, mind maps incorporate the use of single words or short phrases and images to represent the information you’re dealing with. Whether your brainstorming, taking notes, planning your book or screenplay, developing a business plan, or simply mapping for the fun of it (Yes, it really can be fun.), you’re going to use words and pictures to think about your project.

Selecting Words for Your Mind Maps

Let’s begin by looking at some guidelines to follow when selecting and using words for you mind map.

Think in Keywords

When selecting words for you mind map, think in terms of key words. Ask yourself what one word or short phrase best represents the concept you’re dealing with.

Returning to an example in the first installment of this course, let’s say you were planning a birthday party for someone. Your central topic of a birthday party could be represented by the word “birthday” or “party”. In either case, you would understand what the map is all about simply because you understand the purpose of your map.

Birthday Party

You don’t have to write “Idea’s for Party Celebrating Kevin’s 39th Birthday”. It’s unnecessary and will take up too much room on your map. One word will do. If you have to create more
than one map because you’re planning more than one birthday party, you could simply use the name of the person for whom each party is being thrown. One map could have “Kevin” as the central topic and the other might have “Susan”.

Walk the Line

Your maps will be easier to read and more appealing to the eye if you keep the length of your keyword and the length of the line on which it sits equal. You don’t want your keywords to extend past the end of the line or the line to extend beyond the end of the keyword. When creating maps by hand, I sometimes find it helpful to write the word first and then add the line.

Set Yourself Up for Free Association Success

The lovely, lovely, lovely thing about mind maps is the freedom they provide in adding new information to a category or topic. How many times have you taken notes and then later thought of something you wished to add to a previous section only to find there was little
or no room for it? You end up writing in the margins or between the lines, trying to find a space for your new material.

With a mind map, it’s very easy to add to a section by simply drawing another branch or line. As you create your map, try to choose your words wisely. Don’t stress over it, but when trying to decide which of two words should serve as the main topic, ask yourself which word gives you greater freedom. The one that does should serve as your main topic.

The branches of a mind map fan out. Selecting keywords that enhance this natural progression of thought sets you up for generating more ideas and solutions for any given project.

Let’s recap. Use single words or short phrases (keywords) for your topics, keep the length of the words and the lines on which they sit equal, and select words that generate lots of associations as your more central topics. Now, let’s look at images.

Using Images in Your Mind Maps

The use of images is the key to creating mind maps that have real impact on your ability to store and recall information. They also enhance the creative process as words often cannot express the nuances of an idea or project. The power of images is the reason why so many people watch movies. If images didn’t have impact, we’d still be listening to radio plays.

You Don’t Have to Be an Artist

Many people resist adding images to their mind maps because they feel inept at drawing. When I began mind mapping I could draw little more than stick figures and I’m eons away from being a skilled artist, but I’ve found that over time I’ve become more and more comfortable with drawing. I even believe I’ve improved a fair amount, but you don’t have to be a skilled artist to use images.

Keep it Simple

Draw as simply and as childlike as you wish. The importance of the images are what they do for you. You’re not going to have a showing of your maps at a gallery, so kiss those fears goodbye.

Mind Maps are for you. The images you create are for you. Simple stick figures and icons are all you need.

One of the practices I use to become comfortable with drawing images on my maps is to create maps that are comprised completely of images and use no words.

I like to pick a section from a book and take notes this way and then go back to see if I can explain the images and the information they represent. Here’s the funny thing. Quite often I have an easier time speaking from these kinds of maps then I do from one with lots of words.

The images trigger instant memories and associations.

Of course, with mind mapping software you can drop in digital images. But I believe you’ll find that the maps you create by hand will have the greatest impact on learning and recall.

Color Your World

We’ll be talking more about color in the next installment, but for now let me encourage you to use color when drawing images. In fact, it’s best if you can use a minimum of three colors, especially for your central topic.

Mind Mapping Choices – Words or Images?

It’s been said that a picture’s worth a thousand words, but sometimes it works in reverse. Sometimes only a word will do. So how do you decide?

It all depends on the purpose of your map.

For brainstorming and planning I use words almost exclusively. Creating branches and jotting down words is faster than drawing images and speed is of the essence when brainstorming.

I use lots of images when I’m mapping to learn and remember certain things. The images stay with me and I can call them to mind quite easily when I’m driving, taking a walk, or just brushing my teeth.

The deeper you need to go into the material, the more helpful images will prove to be.

Mainly, I like to use a combination. I like to write the keyword on the line and place an image on top of the keyword or to the right or left of it.

Let’s recap. You don’t have to be a skilled artists to use images in your mind maps, mind maps are for your benefit and thus don’t have to be “good enough” for anyone else, and using a minimum of three colors to create your images is a helpful practice if you really want your maps to burn a new pattern in your mind.

Your Homework Assignment:

Create three different maps on a project of your choice. Create one map using words only. Create another on the same topic using only images. Create one more map using a combination of words and images. Which one is more memorable? Which one has the greatest impact? When would you use one versus the others?

Have fun with it.

In the next installment of Mind Mapping Basics, we’ll explore ways to really make your mind maps pop by paying attention to such details as color, line, spacing and more. Until then, happy mapping!

Creatively Yours,

Ken Robert, Creativity Man

Source: Creativity Man