Map Your Mind: A Brainstorming Technique

By Savannah Austin

During my classes in art school, I learned a helpful tactic when it came to brainstorming for my graphic design projects known as “mind mapping”. There are different ways of doing it, but most include a main idea in the center with associated thoughts and ideas branching out, according to SimpleMind a cross platform mind mapping tool program.

When faced with an assignment with tight constraints, I would always feel overwhelmed with so many options, or just unsure of a solution to a problem. However, when I began to map out my thoughts, a solution would most always jump out at me.


Mind mapping is a practice that dates back centuries, according to The Mind Mapping Site. The earliest evidence is from philosopher Porphyry of Tyros dating back to the third century BC. Later on, Leonardo Da Vinci popularized the practice for note-taking, but it didn’t fully take off until the 1950s and ’60s thanks to the work of M. Ross Quillian, Alan Collins and British Psychologist Tony Buzan.

It works by first writing the topic in the center and writing down any thoughts that come to mind. For example, in one of my most recent projects, I looked for a solution to the misconceptions about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I wanted to figure out a way I could use design to meet that need, so I started with “OCD education and advocacy” in the middle and drew lines out to more keywords and then even further until I came up with several ideas that branched into even more specific solutions. The goal is to start big-picture and make associations, then build on top of those connections.
Mind maps can be messy or organized and done with pen and paper. However, there is also a variety of software that can be used to mind map, including several free platforms like Mind Mup, Wise Mapping or Novamind.

Beyond simple brainstorming activities for assignments or projects, mind mapping can be a helpful tool for planning, business and personal decisions. Try it out and tag us on social media with #MindIssueMapping.