Idea maps: A guide to visualizing your idea

Idea maps

What is an idea map?

An idea map is a visual representation of your thinking process. It’s a tool for planning and organizing your ideas visually that doesn’t rely on traditional note-taking. Traditional linear pages of notes can slow down the process of planning a project, but an idea map lays everything out in a clear way that’s easy for anyone to understand.

An idea map begins with a single idea or phrase written (or illustrated) at the center of the page. Subsequent related ideas, words, phrases, or images branch out from all sides, creating a structured sunburst shape. Idea maps are used during brainstorming sessions for designing a product or writing a novel. Idea maps are also helpful during project planning because they allow you to visualize the entirety of your project.

One of the key advantages of creating an idea map with a digital tool like MindManager is the immediate clarity it gives you. Idea maps are a perfect way to collaborate and communicate ideas with members of your team, whether you’re building a website, a company, or a project plan.

Start creating idea maps to help explain key concepts in an easily digestible format with MindManager. Get started with MindManager for free!

What is the difference between brainstorming and idea mapping?

Brainstorming is the process of generating as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time without regard for organization.

Afterward, a tool like an idea map is used to organize those thoughts and show the relationship between different ideas.

How can idea mapping help in the writing process?

An idea map is a great way to organize your thoughts and start organizing story ideas for writers.

A central idea or plot line can be branched out with further details and supporting topics that all relate to one another. This allows your story to follow a cohesive plot and minimizes any holes in the story that otherwise might have been an issue without an idea map that shows how all the plot elements are connected.

4 types of idea maps

Idea maps can have various types of visual layouts. However, there are some kinds of idea maps that are most popular.

1. Spider diagrams

Spider diagrams organize and display data in a logical, visual way. They help you make connections between ideas, explore possible solutions, and visualize ideas that may be difficult to understand.

If you’re interested in building a spider diagram, use MindManager’s radial map template.

Spider diagrams

2. Hierarchy charts

Hierarchy charts map out the concept of hierarchy, typically for organizing people. It’s most commonly used in companies when creating org charts.

If you’re structuring an org chart, use MindManager’s hierarchical org chart template to get started.

Hierarchy charts

3. Flowcharts

Flowchart diagrams showcase a step-by-step process visually. For example, if you’re prototyping a new product, use flowcharts to walk team members or stakeholders through the process.

To get started with a flowchart, use MindManager’s basic flowchart template.


4. Mind maps

Mind maps take your brainstorms to the next level and help make your thoughts and ideas come alive. See your plans take shape, track tasks and projects, and make better decisions along the way with mind mapping.

If you’re creating a mind map, use MindManager’s mind map template.

Mind maps

How to make an idea map with MindManager

Making an idea map is easy. All you need to start with is a single idea and a blank page.

  1. Sign in to your MindManager account.

    Make a web diagram - step 1
  2. Choose from one of the MindManager templates. For this example, we are choosing the concept map template. 

    Make a web diagram - step 2
  3. Start with one topic or idea. Begin with a single topic you want to explore at the center. For example, let’s say we’re building an idea map around the topic of “What’s in the ocean?”

  4. Branch out. Connect various branches to other concepts that are more specific, diving deeper into the topic. These branches allow you to go on tangents and side paths without getting confused in a sea of text. Using the example above, we could list the “Pacific Ocean” as a branch. 

    Make a web diagram - step 4
  5. Add images and colors. Use images to clarify notes and color code the branches to create a consistent visual style throughout the diagram.

    Make a web diagram - step 5

You don’t ever have to “finish” an idea map either.

You can keep coming back to it when you have additional ideas or want to explore a different avenue, eventually building up a large, organic picture of your project that stems from that one original idea.

Why use MindManager for your idea map

MindManager is an all-in-one project management software that lets you create shareable idea maps with just the click of a few buttons.

There are many benefits to idea maps when using MindManager.

Increasing the ease of recalling information

Mapping out your ideas makes it easier to recall information in the future. The visual nature of idea maps makes it even easier to trace back through your logic and remember your train of thought.

With MindManager’s file storage integration options with apps like Dropbox and OneDrive, you can easily reference multiple variations of your idea maps.

Facilitate learning new ideas

Mapping out new ideas can improve the learning process and help you build on existing knowledge more efficiently and effectively.

With MindManager's filters and topic styles, you can categorize your ideas and focus on one topic at a time.

Making complex topics easier to understand

Teaching or training through idea maps will help improve retention and comprehension– especially for visual learners.

With MindManager’s education program, you can increase productivity in the classroom and beyond.

Boost creativity and brainstorming effectiveness

When brainstorming, mapping out ideas (even if only a few of your initial thoughts will matter in the end) is an effective way to increase creativity and generate a larger volume of higher-quality ideas.

MindManager’s built-in templates and large image library of over 700 topic images give anyone the ability to create an idea map in minutes.

Instantly create idea maps in MindManage

Idea maps illustrate your ideas. You can clarify and explore different directions without wasting time and energy in one place.

An online tool like MindManager allows you to instantly create detailed idea maps at the click of a button, share project files and collaborate with others wherever they are in the world, creating detailed but easy-to-understand project notes.

Start creating idea maps to help explain key concepts in an easily digestible format with MindManager. Get started with MindManager for free!

Visualize more with MindManager

Creating idea maps in MindManager is easy and intuitive. Simply choose a pre-made template and follow our steps for making an idea map. To get started, try MindManager free for 30 days.

Try the full version of MindManager FREE for 30 days