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The second conceptual thinking method is Mind Mapping. Like Word Association, Mind Mapping starts with the central topic or theme. From there you just let your mind wander, making on the fly connections that are driven from the previous connection, as they branch out from the core topic. Sometimes they will be appropriate and sometimes they will be ludicrous, and that's where the unexpected connections come from. If you hit a dead-end then you go back to the core and start a new branch, or pick any other node and branch out from there.
There are no distinct rules, it's all about exploring not planning, so unexpected and ridiculous results should be expected, and welcomed. This may be better explained by example, so let me share a project I use Mind Mapping on. A Tropical Fish store hired me to design their logo. They wanted something fun and clever. When I thought of Tropical Fish, I thought about how exotic they were. Then that made me think of how unique they are, followed by how strange some of them are, discontinued until I had mapped out everything that came to mind, regarding Tropical Fish.
As I studied this, I decided to focus on these attributes I uncovered in my mind map: Unique, Strange, Culture, Fun, Humor, Guppy, and Samurai. This all distilled down and lead to my final design, which the client loved, Samurai Guppy. The mind is the absolute best tool for design and Mind Mapping is just one way to get access to its processing power. So, take your mind for a ride, and let it help you discover those unique ideas that will solve your client's design problems.
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