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Mind Mapping

Visual Language


Rapid Prototyping



Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is an innovation tool used by designers to facilitate idea generation in a loose form structure. Mind mapping, even though used as a tool by more people than just designers, it is none-the-less a methodology for idea creation and categorization.


A mind map is a kind of diagram used to represent words and ideas, linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. By presenting ideas in a radial, graphical, non-linear manner, mind maps encourage a brainstorming approach to planning and ideating. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in problem solving and decision making during the beginning stages of the design process.


The elements of a given mind map are arranged intuitively according to the importance of the concepts, and are classified into groupings, branches, or areas, with the goal of representing semantic or other connections between portions of information. Major thoughts or ideas are referred to as a parent thought, a directly related thought as child thought, or more related child thoughts that share something in common with the parent as sibling thoughts, etc. There are also jump thoughts, which are unrelated new thoughts that are relevant to the overall brainstorming theme.


A mind map is often created around a single word, concept or thought, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts are added. A mind map can also be done in an opposite manner in which thought clusters can lead to discovering a central thought or concept.
Here is an example of a simple research project that uses mind mapping to reach a central idea.


A Mind Map based on exploring impressions about how to position a clothing line (click image to enlarge).

What’s fun and different about mind mapping is this: Though the branches of a mind map represent hierarchical tree structures, their free-form structure disrupts the implicit prioritization of concepts that comes from hierarchy or sequential arrangements. This orientation towards brainstorming encourages users to enumerate and connect concepts without a tendency to begin within a particular conceptual framework.


Visual Language
Visual Language is defined as any communication, which uses visual elements to communicate. All designers including architecture, fashion, industrial, and graphics use visual language as a means to develop and build their creations. In design, virtually every visual element has meaning and is meant to communicate a certain impression to the viewer. The images, overall context, metaphors, historical reference and even basic elements such as massing, line, texture, form, color and motif all convey a message or help build a concept and contribute to the visual language.


In an ideal application the actual message and the visual language used in designing a piece would work together in a coherent manner. For instance, in a poster design in which the subject matter was very serious, say, about a global economic crisis, and the designer used a hot pink color scheme and comic sans typography, the visual language would contradict the actual message. It would be a...well...interesting piece. But the visual language would communicate something quite different than the actual message.


Next time you look at a newly designed building or see a printed piece, look at it from the perspective of understanding its visual language. Deconstruct it to see if you can understand the designers thinking a little bit. Hey, if you get good at it, you could become the next design critic.


The word "ActionScript" may sound like a term used to refer to the screenplay of one of Bruce Willis's action-packed blockbusters. Although not entirely unrelated to the motion picture industry, the word "ActionScript" is actually the name of a scripting language used by new media designers to add actions and interactivity to their 2D vector animations made in Adobe Flash.


At its fundamental level, ActionScript can be used to attach a simple command, called an "action", to a button or a frame. For example, basic navigation controls with commands such as "play", "stop", "getURL", and "gotoAndPlay" can be scripted to add interactivity.

With the release of Flash 4 in 1999, this simple set of actions became a small scripting language. Scripting languages have their own rules of grammar and punctuation and the ActionScript language is no exception. For example:

In the English language, a period ends a sentence. In ActionScript, a semicolon ends a statement.

ActionScript is case sensitive, so the variables "name" and "Name" represent two very different things.

In ActionScript, dot syntax is used (.) to access properties belonging to an object or animation sequence. It is also used to identify the target path to a movie clip, variable, function, or object.

Click here for an example of an interactive flash animation that uses the "play" ActionScript command to play a short animation. The table below shows the ActionScript being used to control the animation along with a simple breakdown of what it means.


ActionScript Translation
play_btn.onPress = function(){
Stop the animation.
When the user presses the play button, start the animation sequence.


The ActionScript language has come a long way and can now execute extremely complicated tasks. Click here for an example of an interactive flash animation that incorporates complex ActionScript functions that allow laws of physics to be applied to objects to alter the way in which they animate.



Rapid Prototyping
Rapid prototyping is a technique used by designers to quickly create rough solutions to design problems, from industrial design to graphic design, fashion to architecture. Even if the prototypes are very rough, it is a great way to quickly develop several different ideas, without worrying about fine-tuning or details (that will happen later).


Rapid prototyping is essentially visual brainstorming. And the mantra with brainstorming is to get as many feasible ideas out there as possible. The same holds for rapid prototyping. The key is to not spend an excessive amount of time fine-tuning one idea at the expense of exploring others.


Rapid Prototyping is an innovation tool, which encourages lateral thinking by pushing new ways to look for solutions and outside-of-the-box ideas. The premise is to generate as many tangible ideas as possible so that one can assess each idea and choose the most valid ones to move to the next phase (fine-tuning, editing, etc).


There are many reasons to incorporate rapid prototyping into the design process:

  • To increase effective solutions. Rapid Prototyping is a great visual tool to explore rough ideas.
  • To decrease development time. The name of the game in rapid prototyping is speed.
  • To explore as many ideas as possible—it’s quantity not quality.
  • To uncover possible roadblocks and difficulties with certain ideas. By incorporating rapid prototyping into the design process one can find out where potential problems may occur.
  • To force lateral thinking. First ideas are sometimes good ideas, but how many different other ideas are there to explore. Rapid prototyping can uncover new directions.

Makes great sense, right? It’s surprising how many designers take the easy way out and settle for one or two solutions—why? Good question.

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