How To Make A Mind Map

Illumine Training - Parts of the brain

As well as the detailed information on this page about how to make a mind map, the sub-section includes the following:

The ‘Laws of Mind Mapping’ were originally devised by Tony Buzan when he codified the use of imagery, colour and association and coined the phrase ‘Mind Mapping’. In the intervening 30 plus years, there have been many variations on the original ‘Mind Map ‘ and the widespread usage of mapping software of various sorts, has dramatically changed what is possible.

>> Click here to go to a video that provides a rapid (99 second) overview of how to Mind Map.

(Note that you will be asked for your e-mail address so that you can view the video free of charge).

The summary below is based on Buzan’s structure (a ‘Mind Mapping, how to’ – details available in his many books) but we believe that whilst this structure is great for establishing well structured maps that can be used in many different ways, variations on these rules or ‘laws’ are often sensible and appropriate – as long as they are based on an understanding of why the laws exist and what they are trying to help the mind mapper to achieve.

The Mind Map above was produced using iMindMap.

1. Take a blank piece of paper, A4 or larger.Blank paper allows 360ยบ of freedom to express the full range of your cortical skills, whereas pre-drawn lines restrict the natural flow of your thoughts.
2. Use the paper in landscape orientation.Words and images have more space in the direction we write, so they donโ€™t bump into margins as quickly.
3. Start in the centre.Thoughts start in the centre of our mental world. The Mind Map page reflects this!
4. Make a central image that represents the topic about which you are writing/thinking:

  • Use at least three colours.
  • Keep the height and width of the central image to approx. 2โ€™โ€™ or 5 cm (proportionately larger for bigger paper).
  • Allow the image to create its own shape (do not use a frame).
A picture is worth a thousand words. It opens up associations, focuses the thoughts, is
fun and results in better recall:
  • Colours stimulate the right cortical activity of imagination as well as capturing and holding attention.
  • This size gives plenty of space for the rest of your Mind Map, while making it large enough to be the clear focus of the topic.
  • The unique shape makes it more memorable and enjoyable. A frame makes the centre a monotony of shape and disconnects the branches.

5. The main themes around the central image are like the chapter headings of a book:

  • Print this word in CAPITALS or draw an image.
  • Place on a line of the same length
  • The central lines are thick, curved and organic i.e. like your arm joining your body, or the branch of a tree to the trunk.

Mind Map Branch

  • Connect directly to the central image.

The main themes, connected to the central image on the main branches, allow their relative importance to be seen. These are the Basic Ordering Ideas (BOIs) and aggregate and focus the rest of the Mind Map:

  • Printing (versus cursive) allows the brain to photograph the image thus giving easier reading and more immediate recall.
  • Word length equals line length. An extra line disconnects thoughts, length accentuates the connection.
  • Curved lines give visual rhythm and variety and so are easier to remember, more pleasant to draw and less boring to look at. Thicker central lines show relative importance.
  • Connected to the image because the brain works by association not separated, disconnected lines.

6. Start to add a second level of thought. These words or images are linked to the main branch that triggered them. Remember:

  • Connecting lines are thinner.
  • Words are still printed but may be lower case.

Your initial words and images stimulate associations. Attach whatever word or image is triggered. Allow the random movement of your thought; you do not have to โ€˜finishโ€™ one branch before moving on:

  • Connected lines create relationships and a structure. They also demonstrate the level of importance, as from a branch to a twig.
  • The size and style of the letters provide additional data about the importance and meaning of the word/image.

7. Add a third or fourth level of data as thoughts come to you:

  • Use images as much as you can, instead of, or in addition to the words.
  • Allow your thoughts to come freely, meaning you โ€˜jump aboutโ€™ the Mind Map as the links and associations occur to you.

Your brain is like a multi-handed thought-ball catcher. The Mind Map allows you to catch and keep whatever โ€˜thought ballโ€™ is thrown by your brain.8. Add a new dimension to your Mind Map. Boxes add depth around the word or image.To make some important points stand out.

9. Sometimes enclose branches of a Mind Map with outlines in colour:

  • Enclose the shape of the branch and hug the shape tightly.
  • Use different colours and styles.

The outlines will create unique shapes as you find in clouds and will aid your memory:

  • These provide immediate visual linking. They can also encourage follow-up and remind you of action you need to take.
  • They can also show connection between branches by using the same colour outline.

10. Make each Mind Map a little more:


Your eyes and brain will be attracted to your Mind Map:

  • It will be easier to remember.
  • It will be more attractive to you
    (and to others as well).

11. Have fun!Add a little humour, exaggeration or absurdity wherever you can.Your brain will delight in getting the maximum use and enjoyment from this process and will therefore learn faster, recall more effectively and think more clearly.

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