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What’s a Picture Worth?

“A picture says more than a thousand words, but which words are these?” – Ben Shneiderman

The other day, I discussed the secrets behind using color to enliven your maps. Today’s focus is on images.

Why use images in maps?  Images open up the mind to create associations, help focus your thoughts and result in better recall. Not to mention, if you pick you pictures wisely, you can eliminate the need for hundreds, if not thousands of words!

Images in MindManager: Across the different versions of MindManager (Windows, Web and Mac), there are quite a few ways to leverage images to augment the meaning and power of your maps. The versions offer slightly different capabilities but for the most part, you’ll be able to use images in the following ways:

  • Background images
  • Topics images
  • Icons

Background Images: Add images into map backgrounds, but take care not to distract the viewer! Map borrowed from Chris Blatnick’s

Topic Images: I add topic images to maps in the following ways:

  • Central topic – add an image into the central topic to represent the theme of your map. If you’re working on a construction project, it could be an image of a building. If it’s for a client, you could use your client’s logo. It’s up to you; the image helps you recall the information in the map.
  • Main topics – surrounding your central topic are the main topics. Add images to each branch of the map to represent visually what’s inside that branch. Use these images consistently to create a visual vocabulary across your maps. Consistent image use helps you and your team to navigate each map to get to the desired content quickly.
  • Notes – Topics can contain notes. Notes can contain images (Mac & Windows). Images in notes augment topic keywords with additional background and support.
  • Floating topics – Floating topics are not connected to your main topic. If you customize your floating topic to use colors that blend into your background, the images placed inside these topics will appear like background images. The advantage of this approach though is you can have more than one floating topic, you’re free to rearrange where they appear and they’ll adjust their positioning when you expand or contract the map’s branches.

Here’s an example of using topic images for your central & main topics:

Icons: Icons add contextual meaning to topics. They can denote status, priority, and other meanings to highlight and inform. Here’s an example of icon usage:

Some Useful Resources:

What are you picturing? How do you use images and what tools or tips do you have to share?

About the Author: Michael Deutch is Mindjet’s Chief Evangelist, content contributor for the Mindjet Blog and the Mindjet Connections newsletter. Get more from Michael on Twitter.

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