How to use callouts to make your mind maps easier to understand

callouts in mind maps

#13 in the Effective Mind Maps blog post series

Callouts are comments that can be attached to mind map topics, and they can be used to add brief notes, instructions or to add context to them. In this role, they help to make your mind maps easier for others to understand.

When you create a mind map, you are able to combine what you see on screen with the underlying context in your mind. In other words, your mind map is eminently meaningful to you. But when you share your mind maps with others, they lack your context. All they can read and interpret is what they see in your visual diagram. As you would expect, that can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Callouts, when used sparingly, in mind maps, can help to solve this problem. They are also excellent tools to draw attention to some aspect of your mind map to which you want them to pay attention.

Here are some practical uses of callouts

  • Attach a “start here” indicator to the first-level topic that sits at the one o’clock position of your map, to help people who aren’t familiar with visual maps to understand where they should start reading it.
  • Provide instructions to the people with whom you’re sharing your mind map. This could take the form of a brief message, such as “I need your input here” or “Please give me feedback on this.”
  • Visually set a topic apart as the most important in a mind map. Such a callout could read something like, “Critical!” or “Don’t forget this!”

How shouldn’t you use callouts in your mind maps?

  • Don’t use them as just another topic. If you’re planning to add some content to your map, first ask yourself, “Is this of an informational nature?” If so, then it should be added as a conventional topic.
  • Don’t overdo it. I recommend including no more than two callouts in a single mind map. More than that is likely to cause confusion. Like boundaries or borders, callouts are designed to command attention. If you place too many of them in a mind map, your readers may get confused. Use them sparingly!
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