How to Create a Mind Map: 15 Steps (with Pictures)

Table of contents:

How to Create a Mind Map: 15 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Create a Mind Map: 15 Steps (with Pictures)

People have used visual methods to represent, organize, and understand information since ancient times. In the 1970s, researcher and educator Tony Buzan formally developed the mind map. Its colorful spider or tree shape branches out to show relationships, creatively solve problems, and help you remember what you learned. This article will guide you to design a mind map, create it by hand, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of many mind mapping software now on the market.


Part 1 of 3: Design Your Mind Map

Make a Mind Map Step 1
Make a Mind Map Step 1

Step 1. Imagine an airplane flying in the sky

When you visualize or see an airplane in the sky, the airplane is your central focus at that moment. But your brain doesn't end there. Right away, you also start making references, or associations, with the plane. These can include the color of the sky, different types of aircraft, how it flies, pilots, passengers, airports, etc. Since we think in pictures, not words, these associations often appear in visual form in our minds.

Your mind immediately begins to map, by creating links between associations, or concepts, like a mental rankings website

Make a Mind Map Step 2
Make a Mind Map Step 2

Step 2. Visualize a spider or tree full of branches right now

With a mind map, you take the concept of the airplane and write PLANES in the center (the body of a spider or the trunk of a tree) of a horizontally oriented white paper. Afterwards, what the plane radiates are different colored lines (three branches or spider legs). In these you write the associations you had with airplanes, such as PILOTS and AIRPORTS. From each of these, more associations emerge, which you write down on individual lines.

  • Together with the pilots, you could think about their pay or training. In this way, the map grows.
  • A mind map reflects how your brain actually processes and remembers information, dynamically and visually, not in a completely linear way as was once thought.
  • For example, mind maps have proven to be very effective for taking notes. Instead of writing down every word the teacher says as he said it (linear thinking), write the name of the class topic in the center of the paper. As subtopics, examples, dates, and other information are discussed, draw and label the corresponding branches.
  • The mind map is also used in place of the standard schematics in academic institutions to prepare essays, write research papers, study for exams, etc.
Make a Mind Map Step 3
Make a Mind Map Step 3

Step 3. Use your brain the way you think

Buzan called it radiant thinking. When our brain fixes on something like an idea, sound, image, emotion, etc., that "something" is at the center of our thought. What it radiates are countless things, ideas, other images, emotions, etc., that our brains associate with it.

A mind map helps you make connections between different data and concepts. Also, the more connections or associations our brain has with something, the more likely we are to remember it

Make a Mind Map Step 4
Make a Mind Map Step 4

Step 4. Create, capture, consume and communicate information

Making these connections allows you to make each of these quickly and effectively. You also do them naturally as you draw the map. The use of words, images, lines, color, symbols, numbers, among others, identifies and links concepts. Research shows that both writing and pictures improve your memory, creativity, and cognitive process. Also, color is a powerful memory enhancer. Together they create a mind map that feeds on many of our senses.

  • Mind maps are a tool for creating things and devising approaches to handling issues. Doing so requires brainstorming. For example, you could create a mind map for things like your wedding, new recipes, an ad campaign, suggesting a raise to your boss, etc. It also involves solving problems, such as managing your money better, a health diagnosis, an interpersonal conflict, among others; anything that can become a mind map.
  • They are also tools to capture information that is directly relevant to a topic, so that you can condense a lot of information. For example, they help determine what you really need to write down, record for meeting minutes, write in your autobiography, use in your resume, etc.
  • Mind maps help you consume information and then use it. So these can help you remember things better, such as the content of a book, conversations with others, your schedule, etc. You can also use them to analyze complex topics like stock trading, computer networks, engine mechanics, etc. Finally, these are useful in planning and executing things like vacations, your time, a delicate work project, etc.
  • They are also powerful tools for communication. You can create a mind map for presentations, group projects, intimate conversations, written materials, etc.
Make a Mind Map Step 5
Make a Mind Map Step 5

Step 5. Make them by hand or with a computer program

People have drawn mind maps for decades. With the advent of the mind mapping program, many people create them on their computers. The business world in particular is increasingly using this program for everything from recording meeting minutes to completing project management. The choice is personal and depends on the environment.

  • However, its supporters recommend that you find your own style and let it flow freely.
  • Don't be too rigorous when creating a mind map. By doing this, you are not using your left or right hemisphere as actively.
  • A mind map depends on the person using both hemispheres to create a network of associations; the right hemisphere for images, color, dimension, imagination, and "big picture" thinking, and the left for words, logic, analysis, numbers, and sequential thinking.

Part 2 of 3: Create a Mind Map by Hand

Make a Mind Map Step 6
Make a Mind Map Step 6

Step 1. Show the shape of the subject

A mind map should ultimately show the shape or architecture of the subject. It does this by visually showing the relative importance of various concepts to each other and in turn how they are related. You should watch it later and remember the information. However, you must first let it grow as ideas come to you and you see more connections.

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a great way to understand what your mind map should look like. It shows both the big picture and the details

Make a Mind Map Step 7
Make a Mind Map Step 7

Step 2. Come up with ideas for your topic

You can brainstorm ideas for your topic before you draw, particularly if you don't record information, such as notes from a class or meeting. This can be done individually or in groups. It just means writing down everything you can think of about something related to the topic. Use phrases or keywords instead of sentences or paragraphs.

  • Don't organize information at this point. Just let her out.
  • When brainstorming, ask yourself how the topic relates to what you already know and what sets it apart.
Make a Mind Map Step 8
Make a Mind Map Step 8

Step 3. Instead, go straight to making the map first

Many people prefer to go straight to drawing. However, first write your topic in the center of the page. Make sure you have your paper in a landscape orientation and in the middle write the name of the topic in 1 or 2 words. Draw a circle around it. Some recommend only using uppercase or lowercase words to reduce clutter and read faster. Play with coloring the word and circle.

  • Try to have a minimum of three colors on each map. These help to separate ideas and with memory.
  • Don't use lined paper. This can lead you to think linearly.
Make a Mind Map Step 9
Make a Mind Map Step 9

Step 4. Draw and label the first branches

Just draw a line for each main subcategory of the topic that extends from the circled topic and label it with a word, very short phrase, or image. Don't use abbreviations; for example, AIRPORTS and PILOTS. All lines or branches must be connected on a mind map and the first branch must be the thickest.

  • Each word or image used in a mind map must be on its own line.
  • Use pictures, photos, and drawings where possible.
  • For example, you could draw a stop sign next to a branch with a negative subcategory (usually airports) or a bright yellow plus sign for something positive (usually pilots).
  • Use arrows, other symbols, spaces, among others to connect the images and produce a "network with many images", which according to Buzan is the essence of a mind map.
Make a Mind Map Step 10
Make a Mind Map Step 10

Step 5. Move on to the next branches

These should be thinner than the first. Think about the things that relate to your first subcategories. What are the most important topics or events related to them? In our example, what do you associate with airports, delays, security, and expensive food?

  • So you could draw a line for each of these branches from the line for AIRPORTS. You would give it a name like SECURITY.
  • Again, use color and images.
Make a Mind Map Step 11
Make a Mind Map Step 11

Step 6. Continue branching

Continue in this way as necessary to complete your mind map. The lines will continue to get thinner as the subcategories will be made up of even more supporting details like facts or dates. You will also add branches to those you have already created. You could even add another main branch after discovering something you didn't know.

  • Some also suggest making hierarchical subcategories.
  • So if "delays", "security" and "expensive food" are all subcategories, you would draw three lines or branches, one for each subcategory. Then you would put what you consider to be the most important subcategory at the top or on the highest line.
Make a Mind Map Step 12
Make a Mind Map Step 12

Step 7. Add more or revise it as if it were the end

You can keep adding branches to it, modify it and discover new links. Or you can create a polished version. The latter allows you to check for consistency and errors in your logic. It also results in a neat mind map, as you don't want to mess up your mind maps. Too much clutter inhibits your ability to see both the big picture and the details.

Anyway, ask yourself what are you learning or have you learned? What larger schematics did you discover?

Part 3 of 3: Use the Mind Mapping Software and Apps

Make a Mind Map Step 13
Make a Mind Map Step 13

Step 1. Consider the downsides

The applications and the mind mapping program are expanding rapidly in their functions. There are even some that are free with high capacities. These facilitate real-time and virtual collaboration, brainstorming and discussion; the revision of the map by other users, a whiteboard to draw improvisedly during meetings or presentations, personal use on your cell phone, managing complex projects from scratch, scheduling, etc.

  • These range from simple to those that are likely to need training to realize the potential of the program.
  • A couple of top-notch programs are free. Others range from $ 4.99 per month to more depending on their features.
  • These are easy to modify, update, and have a neat appearance. You can often download your own images.
  • You can usually download them in PDF, if not, in various other formats.
Make a Mind Map Step 14
Make a Mind Map Step 14

Step 2. Evaluate the downsides

Their functions vary, which can limit the fluid nature of the mind map. For example, one program might allow you to insert an arrow from one subcategory to another, while another does not offer this option. The ability to make these types of visual links is very important in mind maps.

  • Most will not allow you to draw with anything other than the mouse.
  • Also, it can take a while to learn them and they are expensive. Also, writing by hand increases cognition and memory.
Make a Mind Map Step 15
Make a Mind Map Step 15

Step 3. Try the free program and read user reviews

Analyze the situation by creating mind maps in free software. These will give you a basic idea of its capabilities. They will also help you determine if you think they are useful enough to switch to more modern ones that are not free, but offer more features. Also, read online reviews to find out which shows people like for specific types of issues. A program or app might be great for collaborating with coworkers, but it's not very useful for tracking the progress of a project.


  • Don't get stuck in one part. Keep your ideas flowing. If a branch doesn't work, just start at the central idea and work from it.
  • Don't be afraid to bring out your inner artist. If the theme is music, make each branch a musical instrument.
  • Record what you think by saying it out loud.
  • Keep one branch of thought of one color and one of a different color.
  • When you feel stuck, ask a negative question in your mind like this: "Why can't I make sense of this?" So your brain will search for the answer. The same is true for asking questions for which you were hoping to get an answer, such as the following: "What happens now?"
  • Plus, sometimes you just have to take a step back and reflect, and pick it up later!
  • Make a draft and just put all your ideas on it, then you can decide what you need to put on your actual paper.

Popular by topic