Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mind Mapping

Since leaving Dragon*Con, I have been doing my best to keep track of all the ideas that I want to implement in my costume. In order to do that, I have been using a technique called Mind Mapping. It is a wonderful concept generation tool. If you have never tried it, then you should take a look at the Wikipedia entry, and Dr. Dobb's takes a look at the technique from a software development point of view.

The Process

Fig. 1: My Collapsed Mind Map
To outline the basics: you start with a central topic, then expand outward getting more and more detailed. As you can see in Figure 1, my central topic for this map is my Con costume. It then radiates out into the main parts of the costume. The map gets more-and-more specific about what will go into
each section, as your radiate further away from the central topic.

The Software

Fig. 2: SimpleMind Free version of my Con Costume mind map.
When I said that I have been working on this project since leaving the Con, I truly meant it. While my wife was at the wheel, I had my phone out creating the initial map. Figure 2 is a screenshot of the current (as of posting). I used SimpleMind Free for Android. It makes some very pretty mind maps, and the paid version can sync with Dropbox and export to the Freemind file format, which is kind of a universal format for mind maps. 

Once I got the initial map settled down, I went to work transcribing it into FreePlane, which is the successor of Freemind. I feel that FreePlane does not make as pretty of a mind map, as SimpleMind does, but it is opensource as well as usable on PC, Mac, and Linux. Below, in figure 3, is an example of what the FreePlane output looks like.
Fig. 3: FreePlane version of my Con Costume mind map.
Yes, I did obfuscate the further branches on both figure 2 and 3, but only to keep those subjects for later discussion.


Mind maps are wonderful to help document concept generation. I find myself prototyping ideas using mind maps all the time. I tend to think about all aspects of a project at once, so mind maps help me capture all of those thoughts in a coherent manner.

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