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Understanding Mind Maps/



Michael is a software engineer and startup growth expert with 10+ years of software engineering and machine learning experience.

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Understanding Mind Maps
Understanding Mind Maps

Mind maps have become a popular thinking tool in various fields. They are useful for designers to organize ideas into a clear arrangement and untangle system complexity for better understanding. Mind maps are visual diagram that shows the shape of a subject, the relative importance of each point, and how the facts relate to each other. Being able to see all of this in one place helps to review information efficiently, remember it better, and improve creative problem-solving.

Anatomy of a Mind Map

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

When to Use Mind Maps in the Product Design Process

When to Use Mind Maps in the Product Design Process

Mind maps are a useful exercise in the product design process. When trying to understand a subject, mind maps can be used anytime during the research phase. In the design thinking process, mind mapping is a useful exercise to do during the first three stages: empathizing, defining, and ideating. It helps everyone on the product team gain clarity so that when it’s time to wireframe an app, the team has a clear picture of the system they need to build. Mind maps can help the team discover things that haven’t been thought through properly or that need a decision. It 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.

What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a type of diagram that represents information in a hierarchical and interconnected way. It allows one to organize information around a central theme, using branches to capture related ideas, keywords, or images. Mind maps are a visual thinking tool that is useful for note-taking, brainstorming, and problem-solving.

A Practical Mind Map Example

Mind maps are an effective way to organize ideas and plan complex systems. Let’s take the example of a startup founder who wants to create a mobile app for pet owners and caregivers. After conducting some research, the product team can use mind maps to break down the system into two types of accounts: pet owners and caregivers. Each account will have its own branches, such as available jobs, filters, sorting functions, a list of “favorite” jobs, a history of jobs they applied for, and ongoing jobs. The mind-mapping process continues until the entire system is mapped out, answering questions that arise during the meeting with the startup founder.

Apps for Mind Mapping

Apps for Mind Mapping

There are several mind-mapping apps available to help you visualize your ideas. Coggle, Miro, and Whimsical are some of the best tools available for drawing mind maps. Coggle has the most features, and saves maps to Google Drive, while Miro is a great all-rounder that can do much more than mind mapping, and Whimsical can do flowcharts, sticky notes, and wireframes in addition to mind maps.

Mind Mapping Technique Tips

When creating a mind map, it is important to not make it too neat and bring multiple maps onto the same canvas for complex systems. It is also important to indicate hierarchy on the map and highlight the most important branches using color, an icon, or text size. Finally, it is best to brain-dump all ideas and refine the mind map on the second pass when going through the mind mapping process.


In conclusion, mind maps are an effective tool that designers can use to organize ideas and untangle system complexities. They are visually appealing, and their hierarchical structure allows users to easily see the shape of the subject, the relative importance of each point, and how facts relate to each other. Mind maps leverage our natural tendency to think visually and make associations, making them flexible tools for conveying different types of information. Mind maps can be used in the research phase of the product design process, and they can be particularly useful during the first three stages of design thinking: empathizing, defining, and ideating. As demonstrated by a practical example of a startup founder building a mobile app for pet owners and caregivers, mind maps can be used to map out an entire system, including relationships between different elements that interact with each other. Finally, there are many apps available for creating mind maps, with Coggle, Miro, and Whimsical being three popular options. Designers should keep in mind that when creating mind maps, they should avoid making them too neat, bring multiple maps onto the same canvas, indicate hierarchy on the map, and braindump before refining.