4 min read

How to unlock design insights faster by mapping ideas

Mind mapping in one of the efficient methods to organise different ideas in a formation and in a visually brain-friendly method. This is among the many design thinking methods that is widely used as a thinking tool. Designers can use them to organise ideas into an arrangement for clarity as well as untangle system complexity to make things more understandable. 
Design thinking ideas are great because when brainstorming a new product concept or evaluating a new feature idea during product design, note-taking can sometimes get extremely unmanageable. These pages and pages of note can often get more confusing than helpful. Mind maps are a great way to organise thoughts more productively.

What is a mind map?

Mind maps are also called spray diagrams and spider diagrams because of how they look. This method and the term “mind map” was popularised in 1974 by Tony Buzan, a British psychologist.

Because mind maps are two dimensional in structure, they can be helpful to see the shape of the subject, the relative importance of each point and how the facts relate to each other. Seeing all of this in one place, helps designers review information efficiently, remember it better and improve creative problem saving. 

Mind maps are extremely effective because they utilise the natural tendencies of our mind to think visually and understand an idea by linking different thoughts together and making associations. Even abstract thinkers understand ideas better when presented visually better than any other type of information. Mind maps are also very flexible in nature. They can convey lots of different types of information like a series of steps, information hierarchy and also random thoughts around a specific subject.

What does a mind map look like?

Mind maps always start from a central point, which is the main topic and branch out into sub components. Aside from hierarchal lines which are the main branches, mind maps can also have relationship lines. These can be shown as dotted lines that indicate relationships between elements that exist on different branches. Mind maps can also contain images or icons. There is no fixed or rigid structure to such maps. They can be as free-flowing as the person’s thought process.

When to use mind maps in the product design process?

Mind maps can be used anytime during the research phase in the product design process. In the design thinking process, mind mapping is a useful exercise to do during the first three stages: empathising, defining and ideating.

The first stage of kicking off a new product is usually when everyone on the product team has a fuzzy idea of what the project has to be. Mapping out the product idea will help everyone gain clarity so that when it comes to building the product design, everyone will have a clear idea of the kind of system they need to build. This includes things like what the main sections of the app are, what features it needs to have, how these features interact with the rest of the system and so on.

The mind mapping will help the team discover a lot of details and things they hadn’t thought through entirely or something that needs a decision. This is also a great time for designers to think about the problem to be solved and whether or not the system being designed solves the problem. Skipping the mapping stage and jumping straight in to wire framing and prototyping can often cause teams to get lost in the details, playing around with UI elements and text, trying to figure out the system architecture as they start to design.

Mind mapping techniques

Mind maps can be hand-drawn but you can also use software. Coggle, Miro and Whimsical are awesome tools that can be used to create mind maps. Mind mapping techniques include — Structure first; Center point start (hand-drawn only); Free form mind dump; Drilling down from central idea into subtopics. Depending on topic and available information, a mix and match of methods can work.

Advantages of mind mapping

Mind mapping has a lot of advantages. The mind mapping process can improve creativity, memory, and retention. Mind maps help to generate ideas, engage the mind, reduce complexity, structure ideas/concepts, broaden perspective, and identify relationships/connections between ideas, data, and information.

Disadvantages of mind mapping

There are more advantages to mind mapping than disadvantages. However if not structured properly, mind maps can lead to confusion.

Why does mind mapping work?

This type of design thinking works brilliantly because our brains automatically works with associations and connects ideas to several other different concepts. A mind map is a mirror of how the brain functions (in a radial, rather than linear manner) and “maps out” thoughts using associations, connections, and triggers to stimulate further ideas.

Mind mapping technique tips

  • Don’t make it too neat
  • Bring multiple maps onto the same canvas
  • Indicate hierarchy on the map
  • Let thoughts flow freely in the first iteration of the mind map and then refine and edit on the second iteration

Published by Anjini Khanna

UX Designer


Anjini Khanna UX Designer