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Special - Spatial Planning and Energy for Communities in All Landscapes Town and Country Planning Association European Union

Knowledge Pool

Mind Mapping


Brainstorming, structuring ideas, visualization,  ramifications


A mind map is a visual representation of hierarchical information that includes a central idea surrounded by connected branches of associated topics.

It is a powerful graphic technique which provides a universal key to unlock the potential of the brain. It harnesses the full range of cortical skills – word, image, number, logic, rhythm, colour and spatial awareness – in a single, uniquely powerful manner. In so doing, it gives you the freedom to roam the infinite expanses of your brain. The Mind Map can be applied to every aspect of life where improved learning and clearer thinking will enhance human performance.

In a mind map, as opposed to traditional note taking or a linear text, information is structured in a way that resembles much more closely how your brain actually works. Since it is an activity that is both analytical and artistic, it engages the brain in a much richer way, helping in all its cognitive functions.


Suitable for

  • Note taking,
  • Brainstorming (individually or in groups),
  • Problem solving,
  • Studying and memorization,
  • Planning,
  • Researching and consolidating information from multiple sources,
  • Presenting information,
  • Gaining insight on complex subjects,
  • Jogging your creativity.

Benefits and Uses

  • Basically, mind mapping avoids dull, linear thinking, jogging your creativity and making note taking fun again.
  • Facilitate better understanding of relationships and connections between ideas and concepts.
  • Make it easy to communicate new ideas and thought processes.
  • Make it easy to organize ideas and concepts.
Expiry of the method

Steps to Making a Mind Map

  1. Start in the CENTRE of a blank page turned sideways. Why? Because starting in the centre gives your Brain freedom to spread out in all directions and to express itself more freely and naturally.
  2. Use an IMAGE or PICTURE for your central idea. Why? Because an image is worth a thousand words and helps you use your Imagination. A central image is more interesting, keeps you focussed, helps you concentrate, and gives your Brain more of a buzz!
  3. Use COLOURS throughout. Why? Because colours are as exciting to your Brain as are images. Colour adds extra vibrancy and life to your Mind Map, adds tremendous energy to your Creative Thinking, and is fun!
  4. CONNECT your MAIN BRANCHES to the central image and connect your second- and third-level branches to the first and second levels, etc. Why? Because your Brain works by association. It likes to link two (or three, or four) things together. If you connect the branches, you will understand and remember a lot more easily.
  5. Make your branches CURVED rather than straight-lined. Why? Because having nothing but straight lines is boring to your Brain.
  6. Use ONE KEY WORD PER LINE. Why Because single key words give your Mind Map more power and flexibility.
  7. Use IMAGES throughout. Why Because each image, like the central image, is also worth a thousand words. So if you have only 10 images in your Mind Map, it’s already the equal of 10,000 words of notes!

Figure 1: Mind map with main-branches and sub-branches.


Using Mind Maps Effectively

Once you understand how to take notes in Mind Map format, you can develop your own conventions for taking them further. The following suggestions can help you draw impactful Mind Maps:

  • Use Single Words or Simple Phrases – Many words in normal writing are padding, as they ensure that facts are conveyed in the correct context, and in a format that is pleasant to read.
  • In Mind Maps, single strong words and short, meaningful phrases can convey the same meaning more potently. Excess words just clutter the Mind Map.
  • Print Words – Joined up or indistinct writing is more difficult to read.
  • Use Color to Separate Different Ideas – This will help you to separate ideas where necessary. It also helps you to visualize the Mind Map for recall. Color can help to show the organization of the subject.
  • Use Symbols and Images – Pictures can help you to remember information more effectively than words, so, where a symbol or picture means something to you, use it. (You can use photo libraries like iStockPhoto to source images inexpensively.)
  • Using Cross-Linkages – Information in one part of a Mind Map may relate to another part. Here you can draw lines to show the cross-linkages. This helps you to see how one part of the subject affects another.

Between 10-60 minutes depending on the group size and on time needed for preparation and presentation as well as for the mind map’s scope.

  • In the plenary: 4 to max. 35 people
  • In small groups: 5 to 7 peolpe in each group
Prerequisite for success
  • Express the statements concisely.
  • Unobjective contributions and long-winded deviations cannot be taken into account.
Required materials
  • Blank unlined paper
  • Coloured pens and pencils
  • Mind maps can be created on paper but are more easily and fluidly created on a computer with mind mapping software.
Principles, relevant parameters to be considered
  • A mind map does not claim tob e complete.
  • Working in small groups requires adequate material.
  • The method assumes text reading.
  • Active cooperation is neccessary.
  • Mind maps can lead to misunderstandings if the connections are illustrated insufficiently and therefore become not comprehensible.