by Guest Blogger – 99designs

Mind maps are popular because they’re easy to understand. Not just for personal brainstorms, mind maps are charts you can use to present ideas visually to just about anyone—clients, bosses, followers, you name it.

illustration of team with mind maps floating above them
Illustration by OrangeCrush

You can find mind maps featured in a variety of places, including on social media, in blog posts, in presentations and in internal documents like pitch decks and reports. They’re also great for planning projects and mapping out brainstorming sessions.

But, it can be challenging to know how to make a mind map that’s truly organized and attractive—and as a result, effective.

In this article, we’ll show you how to create beautiful mind maps that effectively communicate your idea—whether you want to explain a concept, brainstorm an idea, plan a project, design a process or anything else, really.

What is mind mapping?

visual content marketing mind map
This mind map explains why visual content marketing is so effective.

mind map is a chart that visually organizes information by connecting ideas and expanding on central concepts. A mind map usually starts with a central idea and works outwards from there. Supporting ideas connect to the central idea. Additional ideas can branch out from these supporting points… and you get the picture.

How is a mind map different from an infographic?

  • An infographic usually has a collection of different charts, like pie charts and Venn diagrams, plus imagery and text to explain a concept. The format is top to bottom.
  • In contrast, a mind map always starts with a central point and builds outwards.

For example, here’s a plan for a project launch, formatted as a mind map:

product launch mind map
This mind map visually shows all the moving parts of a product launch.

In this mind map, the central idea is “product launch” with a list of “to dos” as secondary points. Bullet points further explain each secondary point. So for the product itself, the packaging, availability and pricing all need to be addressed before launch.

Mind maps are as varied as the rainbow and come in many formats, from simple (one set of nodes only) to more complex (secondary nodes with bullet points).

Here are four (very different!) examples:

Mind maps

How to make a mind map

You can create a mind map that’s both easy to understand and nice to look at if you follow a few principles of design, which we’ll explore below.

Looking to save time? You can also find a designer via 99designs to create your mind map for you. Use the tips below to write a brief that will get you what you want.

1. Pick a template

Using a mind map template or mind map maker can be a simple way to get started.

Choose a design based on your mind map’s purpose.

Creating a mind map for social media or a guest blog post? Use a colorful mind map with more decorative details like different shapes and different types of connecting lines.

Meanwhile, if you’re creating a mind map to show brainstorming sessions for SEO topic clusters or internal presentations, go with a design that is plainer with clean lines, simple shapes and neutral color schemes. Like this one:

marketing plan mind map
Use a marketing plan mind map to identify different strategies and ideas for each.

You should also pick your design based on:

  1. How much information you have to present.
  2. Your audience’s appetite for detail.

A rapidly-scrolling social media user, for example, isn’t going to want to peer at your elaborate mind map! But a team planning a detailed project launch will want that level of detail.

2. Start with your central idea and branch out

If you don’t know where to start, plunk your main idea in the center of the mind map and take it from there.

Perhaps you’re a career coach who wants to create a mind map that engages your audience on social media. Your topic is “time management.” You want to show your followers the different ways you can—you guessed it—manage your time.

Plot your tips for time management around the central idea and then explain these tips using bullet points:

time management mind map
Show thought leadership with a mind map that puts your expertise on display.

The results? A mind map that’s clean and organized. Bullet points help you explain your point without adding in extra nodes that will clutter up the space.

Mind mapping for logo design

Let’s say you want to design a logo for your small business. Hm, where to start? Your logo should make your customers feel a certain way. This is also known as a “brand personality.” A law firm probably wants its logo to say “trustworthy” while a yoga studio would prefer a “calm” vibe.

Here’s how you design your mind map:

  1. Write your business name in the center—this is your central idea.
  2. In the nodes connected to the central idea, write words that explain how you want customers to feel about your business, such as: inspired, safe, accepted etc.
  3. Add bullet points to each node explaining how the logo can achieve each feeling.
    • For example, for “safe” you could write: Use blue color scheme (in color psychology, blue is associated with trustworthiness).
    • For “accepted” you could write: Use illustration that’s inclusive as to gender/race.

This study on logo styles will give you a better idea of what formats and colors of logos consumers trust, by industry.

3. Choose a theme

Mind maps intended for clients or the public may benefit from supporting visuals that help explain your point (and give it that coveted “wow factor”).

Apply stock photography to the background to illustrate an idea, such as a sunrise to symbolize “hope.”

Or use an image as the central node instead of text, such as a lightbulb to symbolize “ideas,” or your company logo in place of your brand’s name.

You can also choose themed icons. For example, the icons in the mind map below mostly symbolize learning and growth:

creative mind map
This detailed mind map uses icons to help illustrate its ideas.

Your mind map’s color scheme should also pay attention to color psychology. Look at the example above again. Blue and purple often represent “competence,” “ambition” and “power”—all traditional qualities of inventors and company founders. Try using colors that consumers trust the most when it comes to your particular industry.

The study also found that respondents found grey and yellow color schemes most trustworthy when it came to the tech industry, for example, but they preferred blue and black for education and blue and gray for law firms.

This is probably because blue is a common brand color of top education companies and law firms.

It’s also because cool colors evoke feelings of trust, loyalty and stability—all qualities consumers favor when it comes to education and law.

4. Use color to organize information

Speaking of color, you can also use color in your mind map to draw the reader’s eye to certain information.

This trick is especially useful when you want your boss or client to focus on a specific point.

In the mind map below, the solid back central node draws the eye to the main concept and differentiates it from the rainbow-hued supporting nodes:

simple mind map
This simple format is perfect if you’re new to mind mapping.

Using different colored supporting ideas makes a mind map easier to scan. It also helps separate the ideas from each other.

You can also color code different categories of ideas to help organize your information. The below mind map uses color to categorize different marketing strategies:

marketing strategy mind map
Stay organized with a mind map format that moves left to right.

5. Create a visual hierarchy

A visual hierarchy is a fancy way of saying you can use design elements to stress to the reader what’s the most important information—and what isn’t.

You can do this by using different-sized nodes: larger nodes for important ideas and smaller nodes for less important ideas.

Or use double lines to connect the most important concepts and single lines to connect extra supporting information. Or use squares for key ideas and circles for supporting ideas.

In this example, larger circles signify higher-level ideas:

creative mind map
This mind map could be used to plan the “brand vibe” of a logo.

The takeaway: design your mind map based on your audience

When designing your mind map, always keep your audience in mind. It should only contain as much information as your readers need—no more.

An in-depth mind map may work for an internal team who needs lots of detail. But, it may not work for a social media post where your audience may not be as familiar with the topic.

Also, think of ways to make your mind map more engaging to your audience. You can achieve this by using different colors, shapes, icons, node sizes etc.

Don’t go overboard, though. Only use design tricks that help explain your idea, not complicate it.