Before becoming effective in using mind maps, you would need to set aside any preconceptions about mind mapping. Therefore, in order to create mind maps that can effectively communicate the message across, there are 5 laws (http://www.belfastmet.ac.uk/goal/Resources/MindMap/index_06.htm) of mind mapping that should be adhered to; to create mind maps that are attractive and functional.
By using these 5 laws, recall and review of a mind map's content will be more effective and rapid. Disadvantages of standard note taking, such as time being wasted on reading redundant words, or/and words which have no bearing on memory, can be eliminated as well. (Buzan 2007)
1) Use Emphasis
Every component in a mind map is important, so placing emphasis on images, keywords, colours, spacing, and branches helps to convey its importance. In addition, by having a variation in (creative) imagery and keywords by using colours and spacing, further accentuates the mind map's meaning.
As an image is often worth a thousand words', mind maps should always start with a central image. The central image allows us to be familiar with the main topic of the mind map.
In some cases, rather than keywords, (creative) imagery can also be used elsewhere in the mind map to communicate concepts to the reader. Using (creative) imagery in mind maps helps to stimulate creative thought, and at the same time significantly increases memory. (Buzan 2007)
Buzan (2007) mentions that we should not use more than one keyword per branch for mind mapping, and such keywords should be printed in uppercasing, as an extra form of emphasis. By linking keywords, which express descriptions or summary, with other related branches, the reader can get a better understanding of what each branch in the mind map is trying to communicate.
Colours are useful as a creative memory aid (enhances memory), and can be used to not only group related branches together, but also express concepts such as importance or priority. (Buzan 2007)
By using appropriate spacing in a mind map, how branches are spaced can indicate if they are closely or distantly related.
2) Use Association
All mind maps have concepts that are related, with each linked branch being associated with each other. By associating related concepts, readers can get a clearer picture of the mind map's meaning.
Arrows "can be used to show how concepts which appear on different parts or a pattern are connected", they "can be single or multi-headed and can show backward and forward directions" (Buzan 2007, p108). They help to connect concepts which are far apart on the mind map by indicating their association.
Colours are useful when associating concepts as well. They can be used "like, arrows, to show how concepts which appear on different parts of the pattern are connected" (Buzan 2007, p109).
They can also be used to define boundaries between major areas of a pattern in a mind map (Buzan 2007). For example, colouring related branches a certain colour indicates their association with each other.
Codes such as "asterisks, exclamation marks, crosses and question marks, as well as other indications can be used next to words to show connections or other dimensions'" (Buzan 2007, p108); indicating indicate the association of certain branches and ideas in the mind map.
3) Be Clear
Being clear consists of using single keywords per branch, printing all words, printing keywords on lines, connecting major branches to the central image and using thicker lines for the major branches.
To guarantee that the mind map has a basic structure, printed words should be on lines, and each of these lines should be connected to other lines (Buzan 2007). By drawing thicker lines for the major branches in a mind map, it helps to convey major ideas that come after the central image.
Using single keywords in a mind map "gives a more photographic, clear, legible and more comprehensive feedback" (Buzan 2007, p98); helping to reduce unnecessary clutter (too much information) in a mind map.
"The nature of the structure allows for easy addition of new information without messy scratching out or squeezing in, etc." (Buzan 2007, p96) According to Buzan (2007), by using hierarchy or numerical order in mind maps "links between the Key concepts will be immediately recognizable because of their proximity and connection" (p 96).
For example, geometrical shapes, such as circles, squares and oblongs, can be used to show the order of importance. Dimensions can even be added to such shapes, to make them "stand-off" the page. (Buzan 2007)
5) Developing a Personal Style
When constructing mind maps, developing a sense of personal style would help ease the process of remembering and understanding information being displayed. Having a personal style of mind mapping will make each map unique, effectively aiding in the recall process (Buzan 2007).
Hence, relentless effort must be taken to experiment, and adapt; developing and achieving your own personalized style (in the process).
In addition, regularly applying the techniques mentioned earlier such as emphasizing, association, clarity and layout of the mind map would facilitate the development of your own personalized style. The most important factors when developing a personal style are to think creatively out of the box and enjoy the whole mind mapping process.
1. Buzan, T 2007, Use your head, Ashford Colour Press, UK
2. A User Guide to Mind Mapping, viewed 27 February 2009, viewed on <http://www.belfastmet.ac.uk/goal/Resources/MindMap/index_06.htm>.