Using the Design Map Template

If you're following along, I'm working in Lesson Files > Chapter_01 > MindMap_Template.pdf.

Looking at the mind map template, we can see there are two main types of elements:

  1. Design elements
    • objects, elements
    • type, fonts
    • people
    • colors
  2. Sources of inspiration
    1. media and pop culture
    2. magazines
    3. analogies, metaphors, antonyms
    4. related industries

Next we'll walk through each step. The key here is not to search for images or visuals at this point. We're only looking for words to answer the question:

What kinds of ___________ are found in the automotive industry?

Notice how we rolled-up tire-changing into a parent category? This makes starting out easier. Tire-changing is really just one area of auto repair.

If you're feeling ambitious, try and complete the map on your own and then compare with what we came up with. Please feel free to share your mind map in the forums so the community can build upon your work.

Elements & Objects

Here we want to identify the objects and elements associated with the auto industry.

Here are some ideas:

  • tires
  • car jacks
  • tire irons
  • roads
  • highways
  • road signs
  • license plate
  • expiration tags
  • gauges (speedometer, rpm, fluids)


Don't worry if you haven't worked much with fonts. We aren't even going to name fonts here. We just want to describe fonts.

So what comes to mind when you think "automotive"?

  • racing
  • heavy
  • slanted
  • fat
  • modern
  • edgy

Just for fun, let's try some more specific terms:

  • racing car
  • automotive
  • off-road


Who changes tires? Who gets flat tires?

  • mechanics
  • service advisor
  • families
  • commuters
  • kids
  • soccer mom
  • car pool

Media and Pop Culture

This one can vary a bit. I usually go after TV and movies here, but depending on your familiarity with a topic or industry, you might opt for something else. The idea here is go for something mainstream, not arty or esoteric. The reason being is pop culture reflects the largest common denominator.

For automotive, I might think of Pixar's Cars. Whether I like the movie or not isn't important. If I know it and it's pop culture, it will contain the most stereotypical elements.

  • Cars
  • Days of Thunder
  • Smokey and the Bandit (still a great movie)
  • The Fast and the Furious
  • Click and Clack from Cartalk on NPR

Metaphors, analogies and antonyms

"Analogies, it is true, decide nothing, but they can make one feel more at home." - Sigmund Freud.

The purpose of this section is to get you to think of your topic in different ways by stepping away from the topic. This section is also flexible. Sometimes a topic's opposite will help us Sometimes the best way to arrive at a look is by contrasting it with its opposite. So, the opposite of car might be something self-propelled, like a bicycle, skateboard or roller blades.

Analogies -

Analogies are a great way to connect the unfamiliar to the familiar. An easy way to think of analogies is to take your topic and compare it to something else using "is like".

"______ is like ______."

Changing a tire is like changing a dirty diaper: the longer you wait, the messier it gets. Now that's a visual! But it helps, right? The idea is to find the visual analogies that are most common to a topic.

Asking someone else to change your tire is like asking someone to Google for you.

Metaphors -

  • Pit crew - often described in corporate team building activities. Maybe a family with a flat tire becomes the "pit crew" who rally together to change the tire.
  • Rolls Royce - something that's the Rolls Royce of its industry is the best.
  • Lemon - a less than reliable car
  • The car drives itself
  • Racing - life is a race
  • He can go from 0-60 in seconds (quick temper)
  • Running out of gas = losing energy
  • Rotate the tires = health checkup, program re-design
  • Out of alignment = Back or hip is out of alignment (body); inflation is out of alignment
  • Around the track more than once- someone who's seen a lot


I like to separate magazines from pop culture for a couple reasons. Mostly because there's a magazine for any industry. While you may not know any movies or tv shows around a topic, you're guaranteed to find a magazine on the topic.

  • Road & Track
  • Car and Driver
  • Automobile
  • Motor Trend
  • Hot Rod

Related Industries

Another great way to identify the most common elements of an industry is to look to similar industries. Once again, we're not looking for literal crossover, just similar elements consistent across related industries.

  • Airline industry
  • Auto racing
  • 4-wheeling, off-road


Last but not least are colors. I deliberately put colors at the end.

  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • Red

Current Map

Here's our current map. Now that we have some specific terms associated with each element, we can begin searching image libraries such as iStockPhoto, or Google Images.

Adding Images

Now that we've identified the elements and source of inspiration associated with our topic, we can dive in and begin searching for different types of images.

There are a few things to keep in mind when searching for images:

  • The purpose is to search for images using the key words you listed in the mind map
  • Search Google Images, iStock, and other sites to get a variety of images.
  • Select 3D, clip art, illustrations, photos, silhouettes
  • You don't have to own the images. Your only concern right now is presenting your client or yourself a variety of visuals representative of the terms you identified above.

We now have a good collection of images, styles and colors we can use to design our custom theme.

Remember, the reason we design map our visuals is similar to a rough draft of a script--we need something tangible to respond to and show our clients.

What's Next?

If you want to practice design mapping your own topics, continue to the next lesson where you can submit your ideas for review. Otherwise, you can skip to the next chapter where we'll look at designing the course theme and elements.

David Anderson
David Anderson
Bruce Graham

It's interesting that Tony's "official" version (iMindMap) is actually one of the "less flexible" offerings in the market. He's a genius with words and concepts, but when translating it into a software package it always seems to lag behind other offerings. That said.... As I have said mentioned before, the intrinsic power of MindMapping comes from simplicity - all you need is colours and the ability to add images, (huge libraries required). The ability to move expand and collapse branches is fundamental, and seems to separate good from lesser packages. Tony always emphasizes "one word only" per branch, so you really do not need a huge amount of sophistication there either. XMind is one of the better ones IMHO, but reading Buzan's books first/in conjuntion with and use of software is fu... Expand

Marsha Rivera
Meg Bertapelle

@Marsha - I would suggest adding other genres of music, iTunes, popular TV shows & movies, clubs & interests that they might be involved in at school, or outside of school (sports, dance, art, band) - from the perspective of a true band geek, I would definitely call that part of my identity :) also, things that they might be going through at home - family issues, cultural identity icons... I don't have any teens (mine's only 3) but I do have a sister who is 19, and I would say she is all about texting, Facebook, music (& she's a band geek), her sorority service projects and thankfully doing well in school - but I certainly would not call her underprivileged either. There was a really good "Secret Millionaire" show a couple weeks ago where they went to a non-profit th... Expand