mymind is a new visual thinking tool with a difference. It enables you to simply and easily capture research, ideas and information in a bare-bones visual canvas. It then uses AI to automatically classify what you’ve curated for you. It acts as an extension of your brain.
I recently had an opportunity to interview mymind cofounders Tobias van Schneider and Jason Nelson to learn about the story behind it, what makes it unique and how users can benefit from it.
Chuck Frey: What inspired you to create mymind?
Tobias van Schneider: Like nearly everything I’ve built, it was something I wanted for myself.
My desktop was littered with screenshots and random images I’d saved for inspiration. My browser was so full of open tabs I’d saved to read later, I would give up and just close the whole thing every week or so, accepting the loss. I couldn’t even remember what I wanted to read later at that point anyway. My Camera Roll was also a screenshot graveyard, where I’d saved grabs of social posts, random pictures of products I wanted to research, you name it. That’s not to mention Evernote, Pinterest, my Notes app and about a dozen other places I’d stash things that were supposedly important to me.
The mental burden of the clutter, plus the pressure from all these tools & apps to organize my chaos, felt tiring. I tried every tool I could find before deciding to make my own.
Frey: What needs weren’t being met by existing visual thinking and note-taking tools that convinced you that you needed to create mymind?
van Schneider: Every existing tool asked too much from me:
It required me to categorize and organize what I’d saved, until I was so fed up with all the effort (or discouraged by my inability to keep up with it) that I gave up and abandoned the tool.
It required sacrificing my privacy. It wanted my personal information, my browsing data, my activity data, and who knows what else. Many apps even claimed ownership of my own content once I’d posted it there.
It required me to perform socially. To connect with friends, share what I was doing, follow what everyone else was doing and curate my things to please the masses.
It required me to learn its complicated, clunky systems just to use the tool.
It required me to navigate to the tool from whatever else I was doing, interrupting my focus and workflow.
I wanted one place to put things that mattered to me, and I wanted to be able to find those things later when I needed them. I didn’t want to worry about people or the tool itself watching and analyzing what I do. I didn’t find any app that came close to that, before creating mymind.
Frey: Who is your ideal user for mymind? What types of people can benefit the most from it?
Jason Nelson: We made it for the working, dreaming, visually minded person who moves too fast to waste time with their tools. It’s for someone who appreciates the little details, but doesn’t want to be bothered with them.
We made it for people who want to live and create, rather than spending time dealing with software.
Frey: Your mymind manifesto talks about upgrading your brain. Why is that necessary to do?
Nelson: Our brains are the most powerful, magical tools in existence. But sometimes, they fail us.
We may try to recall a quote while talking with a friend over lunch, and can’t remember or find it again. Or we’re struck by a great idea while falling asleep, and kick ourselves for not writing it down before it slipped away with our dreams. Or we saw a beautiful image that inspired us for a project, but can’t seem to find it – or even remember fully what the image was.
mymind is meant to catch the overflow, and the little bits and pieces that slip by in between.
It’s why we call it an extension of your brain. It’s there to support the magic your brain’s already doing, and make it better. For example, you might remember there was a bird in that image that inspired you. Or that the quote you couldn’t remember had the word “fearless” in it. That’s all you need to instantly find it in mymind. A keyword, a color, date, phrase – whatever you have to work with, and mymind will find it for you.
As we continue building it, and the AI continues learning, maybe you won’t even need those bits and pieces. Your mind will resurface and reveal the important things, perhaps connections and trends you weren’t even aware of, before your real brain gets to it.
van Schneider: Every time you put something in your mind, it’s analyzing it from several angles.
Say, you add an image of a blue car.
mymind looks over that image and picks out “blue” and “car.” Then it looks at the shape of the car and notes “sports car.” Then it sees the logo on the hood of the car, or even just the body of it, and recognizes it as a Porsche. It will also note the background, whether the image is an advertisement or photo, what year the car was made, perhaps who designed it, who that man is driving it, and a lot more we’d never think to catalogue ourselves.
Now think about all this information your mind has about this single image.
You might search “blue” while creating a mood board or color palette for a project, and the car image will appear.
Or you might search “advertisement” while searching for inspiration for an ad you’re writing.
Or you might search “car” while dreaming about your retirement.
Now that the car image is stored away neatly in your mind, you don’t have to think about it anymore. Your mind will show it to you whenever you need it later.
Frey: Are there any other ways you’re planning to use AI to enhance the functionality of mymind?
Nelson: We have so much in mind (pun intended – we use a lot of those) that it’s ridiculous.
Right now, we’re focused on making the foundation of mymind even stronger. But when that’s done, the possibilities are endless.
I mean, we don’t even know yet where AI will be in a few years. Imagine mymind reveals what you need before you even think of it. Or imagine that all you have to do is think of it, not even type anything, and mymind does the rest. I’m getting ahead of myself here, but it’s the way we’re thinking about the tool as we build it.
The beauty of AI is that it learns and improves, meaning mymind will only get better and better over time.
Frey: Is it possible to make connections between items in your mymind workspace, like in a mind map?
Nelson: Funny you mention it. We’re in the early exploration phase of a feature we’re calling Mindmap (the puns are really too easy). We’re also working on the more expected features like bi-directional linking.
It starts with the ability to simply link things in your mind yourself (research, for example), in a more advanced way. And eventually, mymind will reveal connections or patterns you weren’t aware of. It might tell you your favorite color is green. Or that you have an untapped interest in sociology. Or that you’re most productive on Tuesdays.
The more you have in your mind and the longer you use it, the more connections it will be able to make for you.
van Schneider: It depends what kind of work you do, or what projects you’re working on right now. You might use it differently now than you do later. But here are a few ways we see people using it now:
Designers are using mymind to create instant moodboards. Or to save and search colors and color palettes. Or just to save random visual references as they find them.
Writers use mymind for the minimal, distraction-free editor (which we’re currently working to make even better). They also use it as a living swipe-file, where they save highlights, research and inspiration.
Developers use it to keep records of to-dos, to save and easily recall code snippets, and collect resources and inspiration from the internet.
Researchers use it as their own private knowledge base, where they can compile research without worrying about organization. Text highlights and OCR text recognition are big ones for them. And soon, bi-directional linking will be too.
But we see people of all kinds using it in their own ways. To save recipes, articles they want to read, memes or social media posts that make them laugh. There are many uses for it, and our community is revealing ways we hadn’t even thought of ourselves.
For example, someone tweeted the other day that she uses mymind to save art from artists that inspire her. Then every week she blocks an hour on her calendar to write to those artists thanking them for their work and connecting with them.
There’s no one correct way to use mymind, and that’s the beauty of it.
Once you have collected a variety of information and ideas for a project, for example, what comes next? How can you organize and use it to create something of value?
It might be as simple as searching for a color and creating an instant mood board.
Or you might search for a specific tag, for example “wedding” or “new apartment” or “job hunt” and find all the research you gathered in one place.
Or you might simply browse your mind without any objective to see what you saved before, and how it might inspire you.
The idea is that you’re building a treasure trove of things that matter to you. It’s your own private search engine, your own little world, where everything is relevant to you.
Can users create different boards or collections for their various projects? Yes, it’s easy.
Save an image, color, photo or note. Search for a keyword or tag related to that image. You will instantly have a beautifully designed moodboard.
Eventually, we want to give you a way to save those special searches you return to often, so you can do it even faster.
Nelson: mymind automatically tags everything you save, so you only need to add tags if you want to refine your searches for a specific project.
For example: When we were researching and ideating for our recent Three Rooms project, I tagged all the reading material, imagery, videos, colors and more with “3rooms.” I could have also searched for keywords like “cosmos” or “astral projection” but with my own tags, every single thing related to the project came up in one place. It’s a bit like folders, but better.
You might do the same if you’re decorating your new apartment and saved furniture, colors, kitchen supplies and vintage shops to your mind.
Or if you want to be better at giving good gifts. Whenever someone mentions something they want or you think of something they would love, add it to your mind and tag it “gift.”
Frey: Why should people use a visual tool like mymind instead of a digital note-taking tool like Evernote, Notion or Roam? What advantages does your visual approach offer to them?
van Schneider: I don’t know about you, but complicated tree maps, folders within folders and piles of ugly text don’t motivate me, inspire me or calm me mentally.
If your work, your research, your writing, planning, thinking or cataloguing can be beautiful and seamless, why do it any other way?
Most tools ask me to organize and categorize things. They ask me to spend time in them, to become a “tool nerd”. But this is where we like to change things: The tool isn’t the end goal. The end goal is helping you write more, create more, live more and do more of what you wanted to do in the first place.
Frey: What’s next for mymind?
Nelson: In the immediate future, we are opening our new iOS app for public beta testing.
We are also working hard every day to make the foundation of mymind even stronger. Before we jump to our big dreamy items on the list, we want it to work beautifully at its main purpose: saving and remembering what matters to you, in a private place.
(Although we’re still experimenting with some of the more magical features in between.)
From there, we want to make it a true extension of your mind. A place that learns and understands how your own brain works. It should make your life easier and more pleasant. It should reveal connections you didn’t know existed. If we’re successful, it should be as natural to use as your real mind.