Mind Mapping: Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

Mind Maps are useful tools which allow you to create a scheme from fuzzy ideas, organize, and prioritize making visual connections. They may help the productivity in the creativity process giving an order to the chaos.

They are a graphical method of taking notes which involves a huge use of bright colors, symbols, icons and words. The shape is that of a tree with a main core idea and all around branches reporting visual representation of associate words.

Typical recognizable characteristics are:

  • use of colors to immediate separate different thinking paths.
  • use of colorful and evocative images to recall situations part of the culture.
  • use of keywords to sum up ideas and complex meanings.

With this article we will explore what exactly define a Mind Map, how it can help to improve your creativity process and provide better inspirations, how to construct an effective Mind Map structure.

What is in a Mind Map

Structure guidelines

The psychologist Tony Buzan has outlined ten golden rules on what he considers the mind mapping characteristics:

  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.

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

The Tree Shape

The key point of a mind map is the link, the relations between the center, the focal idea, and all its branches. Starting from the center you add main branches which represent the most important link with the focal idea, and continue to developing new smaller branches adding new elements related to the mains in a tree shape idea association.

The hierarchy is not based on a top-down model but, on the contrary is radial. The relationship between branches can be hierarchical from the center to the branches tip, where each node has only one antecedent, or by association, where nodes of different branches have additional relationship each other.

A mind map can be read globally or each main branch singularly together with its subsections nodes.

Mind Maps are not a model based on graphs but, as we said on idea associations. This kind of structure requires a large use of colors and images to help mnemonic and organizing visual linking. That’s why even globally the reader can easily recognize the subsections.

Mind Map VS Cognitive Map

Mind Maps are quite different from Cognitive Maps in their substance and in their use.

What they have in common is the “map” status, a thing that is designed to put order and globally visualize something that may be abstract. Mind Maps are more specifically creative and make a large use of colors and images to highlight concepts, they point to stimulate imagination. Cognitive Maps are more versed on searching relations within words more then let them coming up naturally.

By the way Mind Maps, even if based on concepts, are also quite different from a Semantic Network, where the link between words represents a semantic relation between concepts, and where the relations are not radial but on a net basis.

Color code, cultural elements, scratches, keywords and doodles are all part of this creative way of taking notes. They have not been necessarily neat. The relations have to come clear in your mind after having visualized them creatively. The Mind Map has to help you to understand them better.

Structure of the Productivity

Mind map contributes to give a structure to your projects and tasks by processing the fuzzy thoughts in a tangible form that can be easily decoded by its creator.

Mind maps, intended in their more creative use, are, in my opinion, very personal because they take force and sense from our culture and experience encoded in a visual way. We have the key to decode it completely even if it could be a good way to show, in a less deep way, our ideas to customers or co-workers. In this direction Mind Maps are very useful to summarize concepts and information to show in a glance.

That’s why even serious project manager have found them useful to show the structure of important projects and how they are proceeding, what has been done and what is still on the run without time wasting. Through mind maps they have managed the project idea allowing sharing the contents in an intuitive way.

Mind Map Creativity Use

One of the most recognized use for mind mapping is its employment during a brainstorming. Brainstorming is a creativity technique to generate a large number of ideas, generally in a group of people, to come to the solution of a problem. This could be a new product, a name. The solution does not have to be necessarily related to the problem. Mind mapping contribute to create recognizable patterns, creating order from the chaos of thoughts, refining information to best focusing the problem solution.

Exercise yourself in an everyday mind map of your to do list of the day. Prioritize the tasks according to the deadlines and your time availability. This will make you more receptive to the mind mapping creation making for you easy to create mind maps suitable for more big and important projects.

Mind Map Creation

Well, we have arrived here now with enough knowledge about what is a mind map and some example of when this tool can be applied.

It’s time to try by ourselves and create a mind map to see how it works in a practical way.

Start by choosing a topic you want to focus, a core word or idea to explore. It may come from readings, movies, environment, everyday life and so on and so far. Everything is ok, you have not set boundaries.

For example, to create a new website for a brand, start from the core business. What is the main meaning to communicate to the customers? This will be your focus idea to explode in different branches.

I want to show you how it works with an existent example. I’ll create a mind map about an Italian Worldwide famous coffee brand, Lavazza, and how all cultural and environment patterns have contributed to its institutional website developing.

A Practical Example: Lavazza Espresso Coffee Mind Map

Core business of the brand is spreading the Italian caffé espresso all around the world, representing modernity, Italian flair and positive perceptions by selling high quality coffee.

We can assume that the focus idea is “caffé espresso”.

We can now continue to branch out by association, exploding each topic into tangents.

As prescribed I’ve started in the center with an image of the topic, a coffee bean. I’ve created line branches starting from the central image using 5 colors in a radial hierarchy. The colors applied try to create and emphatic connection with their textual content. I’ve also used images to visually represent some cultural patterns. This brand that has a long history of well-developed and highly characterized advertising, to make it deeply plunged in the Italian. With this last idea in my mind I’ve found memories and stories of Lavazza’s famous advertising brand mascots, Caballero and Carmencita, main characters of Carosello, Italian TV spots dedicated time in the 60ies, or St. Peters, recent main characters of Lavazza’s TV spots.

This is what I get.

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

Let’s now check if those patterns which I’ve recognized in the tradition of the brand have real evidence and have been used from Lavazza to build the institutional website, their online identity.

Products Branch

Has you can see from the images below I’ve focused on the different products which Lavazza provides: coffee for home use, at office with automatic vending machines, in public places, and coffee shops. The same and even more are reported on their site under the Range of Products and Services menu.

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

Italian Branch

The Italian style comes up all around when they talk about design, Italian traditions, tips and tricks about how to prepare a good coffee with the mocha, how a good espresso should be.

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

Coffee Culture Branch

Which are the recognizable characteristics of a real well-done coffee cup? Here explained with some recipes of coffee traditions all round the world.

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

Quality Branch

How Lavazza prepare its coffee beans? Where they come from? What makes Lavazza coffee so unique? It’s quality and accurate controls of the products, plants and toasting procedure. All things which are strictly certificated as clearly highlighted on the web menu dedicated to Company and the quality.

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

Traditions Branch

Last but not least, even if because as we said mind maps following a radial hierarchy, the traditions, what add value and how the brand is view from the public. The double souls of this branch are the Company History, from the 1895 until now, and the Lavazza Image, a showcase of the numerous famous series of spots and advertising which have marked the history of Italian advertising.

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

instantShift - Mind Mapping Scheme to Improve the Creativity Process

Recognizable Patterns

As you have seen from my detailed example a huge list of patterns have been studied, listed, organized and applied to create a website which is on the same line of the Lavazza branding.

The same could be done in a various different field, both creative or not. Creating a logo, a new product or even a brand is a play where cultural patterns, competitor studies, strengths and weaknesses should be considered and what better of a good colored mind map to have all these elements linked together in a piece of information ready to look at in its totality.

A good Mind Map shows the relative importance of individual key points which comes out during its creation process.
More than this, it encourages creative ideas association showing then which link relates to one another in a format that your mind finds easy to remember and quick to review.

How to build your Mind Map Well

Here below five simple rules which are aimed to suggest actions to make your Mind Maps more effective.

  1. Start from a main idea and focus on it. This will be the main key point of the structure.
  2. Use single related words writing every idea that comes. Single key words or image creates its own associations and connections.
  3. Separate cluster of idea by coloring them differently. This will help to add vibrancy to your creative thought and will allow an immediate visualization for different areas.
  4. Add also images to help immediate visualization. This stimulates imagination and adds comprehension to the words.
  5. Add new associations between branches. Help brains to link together different concepts.

If you are not using software tool and you are drawing it in a piece of paper then start from the center of the paper so that you have space enough to expand your ideas. Have extra paper to continue your branches if you need.

Mind Map Software

As said mind maps are mainly a mnemonic method to take notes in your everyday life so they can easily be taken by hand sketching on a piece of paper. In the past they was exclusivity of creatives, much more well versed in graphic arts and in developing lateral think approach.

Nowadays, mind maps are applied to a larger number of fields and have collected users from virtually all managing sector. This has inspired many software architect and software house in creating dedicated packages to make easy drawing mind maps.

Here below a short list of free and commercial mind mapping software:


We have explored how mind maps are creating and how they practically work. In my example Lavazza is a worldwide famous brand but is evident how the same process can be applied to new born brands, logo, products or even immaterial things such as blog articles.

Sometimes they are used for study, planning projects, organizing information. Mind Mapping is just one of several methods of mapping information and ideas. There isn’t one way to use them or one better than another. They just are practical tools for creatively processing information. Which of them you are using, and how you are going to use it, is a creative process itself so everything is up to you.

Further Resources

Here below you can find a list of sites that has inspired this article and where you can read more about mind mapping topic.

Image Credits

Find Something Missing?

While writing this article, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great facts and tips. Feel free to share it with us.

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  1. I use XMind, great tool with lots of coloring/customizing options for mindmaps… and free as well.

  2. There is nothing like giving your mind some creative space, and to play with your thoughts on a blank paper.
    I find it very useful, and use it almost always to brainstorm ideas.
    “The Mind Map Book – by Tony Buzan”, is a great resource for learning this technique, and the way it affects our mind.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I’m a huge fan of mind-maps. I’ve found them very handy in planning software projects. The ability to edit your map quickly (as most editors allow you to do) means it’s trivial to not only plan your work ahead in great detail, but also modifying the plan as things start to unfold in your project.
    Rapid editing and the visual structure of data is really the key, I think, to having a good model of a project.
    That’s why I’m developing a mind-map like project planning tool called Gigantt ( gigantt.com ). Mind-map fans should _love_ it. It has all the benefits of mind-maps and it’s even collaborative (like MindMeister) but it has a twist: I use an infinite zoom engine to transform the map from a 2D thing into something that can collapse a great amount of detail into sub-nodes. This is actually critical for managing projects – you need to be able to have really large maps with complex relations between items, not just a tree structure. The zoom approach allows you to visualize maps with thousands of nodes without it looking like Spaghetti monster ( blog.gigantt.com/2010/10/gigantt-vs-spaghetti-monsters.html ).
    so, yea, mind maps rule!
    So, great into to Mind Maps! I think more people should be using them.

    • Assaf… what’s the latest with GiGantt? I visited the demo and added my name but all went very quiet. Certainly hope you get the service up and running soon. Sounds like a fantastic tool.

      • Thanks. Gigantt is in closed beta phase. Quite a lot of people have signed up, but only very few were actually registered at this point as we’re not yet scalable. I hope to be able to let more people in very soon when our next major version is released (probably a matter of weeks).
        Feel free to send me an email to continue discussing.

  4. Your post is surely going to help me. Keep us posted with similar information. Thanks

  5. Great post! I especially like the case study and use of visuals.

    One of the great attributes of mind maps is the ability to see the large picture and the connections, and yet not lose sight of details, which was nicely demonstrated with the Lavazza example. By having everything on one page, one can delete redundancies, identify gaps, and, often, create new ideas and associations, to get it all to fit together.

  6. Thanks in advance for your help

  7. Good post. Thanks for sharing. I love reading this post. Very helpful ideas for me. Nice job.

  8. Great post, full of useful guidance.

    Your readers may also be interested in the mind mapping library and community at http://www.Biggerplate.com which is free to use and hosts over 1,500 mind maps and templates to help people see the different contexts in which mind maps can be used.

    Keep up the great work!

    Liam Hughes

  9. Great work.
    Thanks a lot!

  10. Innovative. I believe this technique would help us get solutions to problems and I believe here the effect of creating it in a group is better than making it individually. As group work would have many brains working on the mind map.

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