Many Art students begin the year by brainstorming possible ideas, topics or themes for their Art projects. This article features 23 creative mind map examples and other visual brainstorming illustrations to inspire high school Art students.
Sometimes coming up with ideas for an Art project takes place within the classroom – an interactive discussion between students and teachers; on other occasions students formally document ideas within their sketchbooks. Humans have a tendency to think in a multi-dimensional way – that is, with lots of things occurring simultaneously, triggering further ideas. Rather than attempting to record thoughts in a sequential, linear fashion (i.e. writing these down in lists or paragraphs), students can find it helpful to collect, record and organise ideas graphically, using visual diagram such as a mind map. If this brainstorm is submitted as part of assessment material, it is essential that this is presented well.
What is a mind map?
Mind map creator Tony Buzan coined the term ‘mind map’ to refer to a diagram that has a branch or root-like structure radiating from a central image on the page, and which uses lines and colour to show relationships, groupings and connections betweens words, ideas and images. A mind map helps students think clearly and ensures that a range of possibilities are considered, encouraging thinking outside-the-box.
How to make a mind map
Tony Buzan sets out official guidelines for how to a draw a mind map upon the ThinkBuzan website. His recommendations include: using a landscape format; starting with a central image to represent your topic or theme; using curving lines to add main branches to the centre and then connecting these to smaller branches; using single words and images; and adding colours for aesthetic and organisational purposes.
Examples from the Tony Buzan mind map gallery:
It should be noted, however, that when your Art teacher asks you to begin creating a mind map, they are almost always happy with any visually pleasing representation of ideas – such as a tree diagram, spider diagram – or even just a splurge of thoughts on paper, as long as it documents a range of ideas and possibilities connected to a theme (or a set examination topic). The examples below, therefore, contain different visual brainstorming methods, not just those that are official mind maps.
Guidelines for Art Students
When brainstorming ideas for a high school Art project, remember that:
- Single words are unlikely to express an idea adequately. As you think though possibilities, it is likely that you will want to jot down whole phrases and brainstorm possible ways of beginning or approaching a subject. Intentions and possibilities should be clear to someone else who reads the mind map at a later date
- Images should be sourced first-hand (i.e. drawn or photographed yourself) or clearly referenced, and should be integrated within the mind map in a visually pleasing way
- The appearance of the mind map is crucially important. This is likely to be one of the first things an examiner sees when opening your sketchbook – first impressions count
Creative mind maps and visual brainstorming
Please note that although some of these presentation methods are more complex and time consuming than others, this not does mean they are better. Sometimes a quick, expressive splurge of ideas upon paper is all that is needed.
Take a beautiful photograph to place in the centre, as in this example of a mind map by Dave Tiedemann:
Use painted areas to contain text, as in these creative examples by artist Martha Rich:
Draw lots of small pictures to illustrate ideas visually, as inspired by this Curiocity map of London illustrated by Nicole Mollet:
Integrate a mind map with an ‘incomplete’ image that extends across the page, inspired by this digital illustration by Alex Plesovskich:
Collage torn images, textures and surfaces together, as in this example by Brittney:
Create mind maps from flowing painterly forms, as in this amazing example by artist Ward Shelley:
Draw over an abstract watercolour ground, as in this artist mind map by Roberta Faulhaber:
Create a simple mind map using text, with circles and dots for emphasis, as in these examples by Lia Perjovschi:
Brainstorm ideas using chalk on a blackboard and photograph it, creating a work similar to this mind map by IA Factory:
Make a mind map on small pieces of paper and cardboard, inspired by the road map created from multiple sketches by strangers, compiled by Nobutaka Aozaki:
Attach images and notes to a pinboard, as in the ‘Capturing Memory Mind Map’ by Red Biddy:
Hand write ideas over a photograph, as in this example by Stefan Sagmeister:
Create a mind map online using free mind map software, a mind map app or any other digital drawing tool, as in this bubble diagram by Leoni Wharton:
Produce a sprawling hand-drawn mind map, as in this example by Tlemermeyer:
Use illustrations and colours to communicate and emphasise ideas, as in these ‘sketchnotes’ by Eva-Lotta Lamm:
Organise ideas visually in a grid formation, as in this illustration of design studio tools by Grid London:
Get inspired by creative diagrams within the book Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information (affiliate link) by Manuel Lima:
Manual Lima has also published a great poster, which shows how the presentation of ideas can be organised and structured in creative and innovative ways:
Combine a mood board with a brainstorm, as in this analysis of ‘glitch art’ by Gareth Wrighton:
Used multiple coloured pens, as in this example by Cassandra Brown:
Once you have selected a presentation method for your brainstorming, the next step is to actually generate some ideas! Please read our guide to selecting a great Art project idea.