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Mar 23, 2014

Pictofigo: more than 7.000 freehand drawings for your mind maps

As Mind Mapping expert and blogger Chuck Frey wrote: Images add visual interest to your mind maps.  

Pictofigo is a webpage that provides more than 7.000 freehand drawings organized alphabetically and by tags. 

The amount of available images is growing fast and it would not be surprising to count more than 10.000 images on Pictofigo soon. 

This freehand drawings can add visual interest not only to your mind maps but also to your presentations, storyboards, blog posts.... 

The founders of Pictofigo, an India-based startup,  want to provide creative, clear and neutral drawings that can be used in various countries and contexts. 

Most of the drawings are in black and white but a growing number of new images have more colors like orange, red, green and blue (see example below). 

The benefits of using Pictofigo are multiple:

  • consistency of the visual style, very useful if you use various Pictofigo drawings within a map, document or  presentation.
  • clarity and simplicity  will help to make your maps or document easier to understand and to create better interest
  • A freehand Drawing Search Engine: you can find easily a drawing thanks to the search box, the alphabetical list or the tags.
  • Drawings about very specific topics such as Agile or Six Sigma

I highly recommend you to visit Pictofigo, you'll have an opportunity to discover amazing sets of elegant drawings that can really help you for improving your mind maps, presentations, texts and so on.

Feb 27, 2014

Biggerplate: 7 questions to Liam Hughes

click on the map to enlarge it
Last week, in London, I had the pleasure to meet Liam Hughes, co-founder of Biggerplate, the famous MindMap Library.  

I asked him 7 questions about Biggerplate, its beginnings, some key numbers, new projects, trends in mind mapping software and some advice for new mind mapping software users. Here is the complete interview. 

Liam, when did you start Biggerplate?

Biggerplate was started in my last year at University and that would be 2007, the first time of developing the idea. The first version of the website was launched in 2008.

Why did you decide to create Biggerplate?

The idea from Biggerplate came when I was studying at University and was struggling in my studies. I was introduced to mind mapping software by someone who thought it might be useful for somebody like me. And I used mapping and mapped out my all course, which helped me then passed my exams.

This gave me the idea to create an online resource for Students. So the original idea of Biggerplate was as a source where students can go and get academic information but in a mind map format where they could adapt and edit the information. That was the original idea.

Could you give us some key numbers about Biggerplate?

We have got about 6.000 mindmaps hosted on the site.
Some of the most popular maps on Biggerplate have been downloaded over 10.000 times
There is about 62.000 -63.000 registered members on the website. Mappers from all over the world are visiting our website.

Ultimately you launched French, Spanish and Italian version of Biggerplate. Why did you decide to translate Biggerplate into these 3 languages?

We get a lot of visitors to the website, and traffic from France in particular has really increased in the last couple of years.  There are a lot more French mindmaps and a lot more people visiting the website from France and we really want to make sure that people arriving on the website get an experience on the website that is easy as possible for them. So they can find useful content and move their way round the website and find useful content.

And in terms of Spanish, we think if we can get the site into Spanish, this will help us reach a very broad audience, obviously there is huge numbers of countries in South America as well as Spain itself. They might be able to engage more easily with Biggerplate if it’s in their language.

What are you main plans for the next months?

There are a lot of plans! The next big project really is the San Francisco Biggerplate Unplugged event to the end of March.  It’s probably one of the best agendas for speakers and sessions we had for our conference events. Details here:

Another big project is to help Biggerplate get integrated into different mind mapping software, so we are building an API. That will mean people can send maps to Biggerplate direct from their mind mapping software or search for maps and download maps from within the software straight from Biggerplate.
We also want to continue with the translation of the website into lot of different languages.

We are rebuilding for hand drawn mindmaps, which is more complicated than we originally thought but we are making progress, that‘s another big project for us for the next 3 months.

Do you see some relevant trends actually in the mind mapping software industry?

I think the most visible trend and perhaps one of the biggest focuses for some of the software companies is trying to keep up with a combination of cloud storage, cloud applications and synchronization with the mobile and the desktop.
Users now want a mindmap that opens in their laptop and then can open in their iPad or they can open in the cloud. This seems to be a key focus for developers, and for mind map users, as shown in our 2014 Annual Mind Map Survey  (details here:

Could you give some advice to users who are beginning to use a mind mapping software?

My advice is to find an easy situation to experiment. Rather than starting your mind mapping by trying to write your whole business plan or solving your most complicated problem, I suggest trying simple experiments where you can test what works and what doesn´t.

One of the easiest examples is to to turn your weekly to do list or planning into a mindmap prioritizing your tasks.

My second piece of advice is to by look at how other people are using mind mapping in different situations, for example by browsing mindmaps on Biggerplate.

Feb 2, 2014

Leadership Lessons from Star Wars

Browsing Slideshare I came accross an original presentation titled "Leadership Lessons from Star Wars".

A simple and visually impacting presentation created by Antonin Gaunand, a leadership expert.

Using metaphors and a movie as a reference really helps to make the message about leadership accessible to everyone and not limited to a small group of specialists. A very, very good idea.

Dec 31, 2013

WikiBrains: a Visual tool for Knowledge Discovery

Source: WikiBrains

Digital Serendipity

Wikibrains is a tool for exploring  visually how words, names, ideas and concepts are connected. This online tool is giving us access to a collective brain based on a growing database of semantically linked information and knowledge. 

Exploring connections with Wikibrains is also a creative process because you can modify the connections, provide your own, see how the tool  suggests connections between your ideas. 

Finally you get an interactive visual map as you can see above.

How it works 

"An idea, is a network of neurons firing inside your brain" said best-selling author Steven Johnson.  

Each time you confirm or add a connection , you are, like inside a human brain, strengthening a part of the neural network or creating a new path. 

When you type two subjects, Wikibrains instant search the "road" between them into the database. You can accept it or erase it. Your are connected to the Wisdom of Crowds

How you can use it 


In my opnion, the main use of Wikibrains is brainstorming, ideas and knowledge exploration. 

The mindmap approach is obvious and I'm sure that a lot of mind mappers will be interested in using this visual tool, especially when it will be possible to export a WikiBrains map as a mind mapping software file like MindManager, XMind, FreeMind.... 


Another main use of WikiBrains is Learning: it will help you to check out how concepts and ideas are connected. 

Finally, WikiBrains is a very promising visual thinking tool for Knowledge Workers, Students, Consultants, Designers, Advertisers etc..  

Dec 8, 2013

Why Flat Design is good for Mind Mapping

Image: Dribble

Flat Design is a minimalist approach to Design that emphasizes usability. Flat design techniques avoid embellishments such as embossing, drop shadows, gradients or artificial textures.   It has been one of the most talked about trends in web and user interface design during 2013. 

Microsoft: the biggest player

Microsoft  is the biggest player in Flat Design, and the first to bring it to the forefront.  In 2006, Microsoft launched the Zune music player. It was a first step in defining the rest of Microsoft’s design for years to come. Zune’s interface was minimalistic, with a focus on light and big typography, and an interface free of surplus details and elements.

Other products from Microsoft also influenced this style, such as the Xbox 360 dashboard,  Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7, a smaller, mobile version of Windows 8 interface.

During 2013, Apple moved away from glossy and beveled icons with strong drop shadows and embraced Flat Design with iOS7. 

In the Mind Mapping Software Industry , XMind launched recently its latest version, XMind 3.4 with a new logo and new markers, both inspired by flat design. 

Core Flat Design Principles for Mind Mapping

The key of Flat Design is Simplicity. Simple images and texts convey messages more quickly than details illustrations and long texts. 

Flat design uses short textswhite spaces, simple elements (simple shapes, simple icons, ...) and bright contrasting colors to guide the user's eyes.  

Another important part of flat design is Typography with strong, sans serif fonts that are easy to read. When creating a flat design mindmap, don't be afraid to pair fonts with extreme differences in size and weight to create visual order.    

On the map below, I tried to put the flat design principles into practice, using Mindjet Mindmanager 14

Flat design
Click on the map to enlarge it

A shared approach to information

Like most  Mind Mapping uses, Flat Design's purpose is to impart information efficiently, to enhance rapid and global vision. 

It's like a Visual Zen, an approach that helps to reduce the clutter, to simplify and to clarify complex information.

This approach is especially appropriate with Mind Mapping Software and is really useful for professional communication and  "to do mindmaps" where clarity and efficiency are more important than creativity and originality. 

Nov 29, 2013

How to build a Concept Map using XMind

Despite XMind is not a software exclusively dedicated to Concept Mapping like CmapTools, it can be very useful for building rapidly Concept Maps. Here are the 5 steps in recommend to follow in order to create a Concept Map using XMind.

1. First Step

In my opinion, the first step should consist in sketching manually a map or a list of the key ideas and concepts. This gives you the opportunity to organize your thoughts and explore various possibilities.

2. Second step

Open a new blank map on XMind and write the main concept of your map into the central topic.

3. Third step

Insert quickly new concepts and ideas using the "CTRL + L" shortcut. Once you have selected a topic and pressed "CTRL + L", just click in the white space and XMind will automatically create a new linked topic. You can also link two existing topics using the same shortcut: select a topic, press "CTRL+L" and click on the topic you want to link with it.
Tip: Ones  you have created linked topics, it is important to maintain the "Alt" button pressed in order to move them freely. 

4. Fourth step

It is important to add short phrases on the relationships arrows between the concepts and ideas. You just have to click on each arrow and write a short phrase. XMind will add it to the relationship.

5. Fifth step

Complete the Concept Map with all the concepts and their relationships. 
Tip: In order to balance your map, select various topics and use the alignment tool
(Modify-->Tool-->Alignment) to align them.

You may also improve the visual aspect of your map adding color. You can see the final map below (click  to enlarge it).